(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump said his presidential nomination acceptance speech will be held at either the White House or the Gettysburg battlefield, site of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle and one of President Abraham Lincoln’s most famous speeches.
“We have narrowed the Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speech, to be delivered on the final night of the Convention (Thursday), to two locations – The Great Battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and the White House, Washington, D.C. We will announce the decision soon!” the president said in a tweet.
Both the White House and Gettysburg are federal property, which is usually reserved for official events rather than campaigning, though the president is exempt from any laws barring its use for politics.
Trump has favorably compared himself to Lincoln, saying he has “possibly” done more for Black people, and is treated worse, than the 16th president. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation ordering that slaves be freed in 1863 and was assassinated in 1865.
The battle of Gettysburg was a victory for the Union and is considered a turning point in the war. In the aftermath of protests and riots that followed the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Trump defended people’s rights to display the Confederate flag and said he opposed changing the names of military bases named for Confederate officers.
“When people proudly had their Confederate flags they’re not talking about racism,” he said on Fox News Sunday in July. “They love their flag, it represents the South. They like the South … I say it’s freedom of many things, but it’s freedom of speech.”
Trump spoke at Gettysburg as a candidate in October 2016. He said then that the system had been rigged against him, cast doubt on the legitimacy of the upcoming election — like some of his recent rhetoric — but promised to “heal the divisions” of the time.
The Republican National Convention is slated to be held the last week of August. The ultimate location for the speech will be the third site announced after both Charlotte, North Carolina and Jacksonville, Florida, were scrapped over coronavirus precautions.
Wherever the location, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said it will be an opportunity for Trump to highlight his many accomplishments.
“He has a strong record of achievement that he’ll be touting on that day,” McEnany said Monday of Trump’s acceptance speech.
Official RNC business, such as nominating Trump, will still be conducted in Charlotte, the original site.
Trump floated the idea of holding the speech on the White House South Lawn last week. He quickly faced backlash from people, including within his own party, over the legality of the move. Legal experts said White House staff would violate the federal Hatch Act by planning or participating in such an event. The Hatch Act bars U.S. government employees from conducting any political activities during work hours, while in a government building or while wearing a government uniform.
As a national park, Gettysburg National Military Park is also government property. Several presidents have spoken there, but almost always on Memorial Day, not as part of a campaign event.
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