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Trump: Convention speech locale is White House or Gettysburg

President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up to members of the media as he walks across the South Lawn as he arrives at the White House in Washington, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020, after returning from Morristown, N.J. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up to members of the media as he walks across the South Lawn as he arrives at the White House in Washington, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020, after returning from Morristown, N.J. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Monday that his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination will be held at either the White House or the Gettysburg battlefield, as he searches for a symbolic substitute for his virus-scuttled plans for an arena celebration.

The president's initial hopes for the event to be a four-day infomercial for his reelection bid have been steadily constrained by the coronavirus pandemic, culminating in his decision last month to cancel nearly all of the in-person proceeding. In recent weeks, Trump and his aides have looked for alternatives that would allow him to recreate at least some of the pomp of the event.

“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.,” Trump tweeted Monday.

He added that a decision on the location of the Aug. 27 speech will be made soon.

Both sites are federal property, raising legal and ethical issues for their use in a political event. The president is not covered by the Hatch Act, which prohibits political activity by nearly all federal employees, though White House and other federal officials supporting the event are.

The Civil War battlefield in Pennsylvania could also resurface the president’s repeated defense of monuments to heroes of the Confederacy.

Trump has previously turned to national parks and monuments to hold politically tinged events, including a July 4 event on the National Mall in 2019 and one at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota just last month. In May, he gave an interview to Fox News inside the Lincoln Memorial, a move that required special dispensation from his appointed secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt.

Staging a convention speech at Gettysburg, though, would go a step further, and raise questions about politicizing the site of the deadliest battle of the Civil War.