A week after President Trump stuck his nose into negotiations between the national Republicans and North Carolina officials over the Republican National Convention, it looks like the Charlotte event, planned for late August, may not take place. 

In a letter to GOP officials today, Governor Cooper said he would not guarantee that the state would allow Republicans to have a fully packed arena as Trump had demanded, nor would they guarantee that attendees would not have to wear face coverings or that Charlotte restaurants and bars would be at full capacity. 

“The people of North Carolina do not know what the status of COVID-19 will be in August, so planning for a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing, and face coverings is necessary,” Cooper wrote. “We are happy to continue talking with you about what a scaled-down convention would look like, and we await your proposed plan for that. We also await answers to the safety questions posed by our state Health and Human Services Secretary, specifically regarding social distancing and face coverings.”

Immediately, RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Republicans would begin exploring other options: “We have an obligation to our delegates and nominee to begin visiting the multiple cities and states who have reached out in recent days about hosting an historic event to show that America is open for business.”

Last Monday, in a surprise to the GOP officials who were actively negotiating with the state, Trump tweeted that Governor Cooper was standing in the way of the convention he wanted: “I love the Great State of North Carolina, so much so that I insisted on having the Republican National Convention in Charlotte at the end of August. Unfortunately, Democrat Governor, @RoyCooperNC is still in Shutdown mood & unable to guarantee that by August we will be allowed full attendance in the Arena. In other words, we would be spending millions of dollars building the Arena to a very high standard without even knowing if the Democrat Governor would allow the Republican Party to fully occupy the space.”

It’s worth pointing out that Trump was lying. He didn’t pick Charlotte because he loves North Carolina. He picked Charlotte because it was literally the only city in the United States that bid to have the convention—and its city council only agreed to submit a bid by one vote. 

From there, negotiations quickly devolved. Republicans locked into a position of having a convention with full attendance, while the state asked the GOP to submit its safety plans for the event, which it’s requiring of all major events in the state. Instead, on Thursday, Republicans sent Cooper a letter, suggesting “health questionnaires for attendees, thermal scans before boarding ‘sanitized’ prearranged transportation, widely available hand sanitizer, and a requirement that attendees pass a health screening before entering the event.” 

The letter gave Cooper until June 3—tomorrow—to agree. 

Cooper’s letter today indicates that he will not. 

According to The New York Times, in a call with state officials last week, McDaniel said that Trump “didn’t favor the televised optics of masks and social distancing at a convention.” While positioning himself to blame Cooper for the RNC bailing on Charlotte, the Times reported, Trump has also “mused to aides about whether the event could be held in a hotel ballroom in Florida.” 

Huh. Wonder if he has anywhere specific in mind. 

Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at jbillman@indyweek.com. 

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