What Charlotte City Council members said in closed session after Trump threatened to pull the RNC
CHARLOTTE — On May 25, 2020, then President Donald Trump threatened to move the Republican National Convention out of Charlotte in a series of four tweets:
“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. Plans are being…. …made by many thousands of enthusiastic Republicans, and others, to head to beautiful North Carolina in August. They must be immediately given an answer by the Governor as to whether or not the space will be allowed to be fully occupied. If not, we will be reluctantly forced…to find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site. This is not something I want to do. Thank you, and I LOVE the people of North Carolina!”
The next day, the Charlotte City Council met in closed session. The reason given, at the time, was “attorney-client privilege.” On June 4, 2020, Channel 9 submitted a records request for the minutes from that meeting. This week, the request was fulfilled.
According to minutes from the closed session meeting, city manager Marcus Jones opened the meeting by stressing confidentiality.
“He stressed the importance of maintaining confidentiality as there will be a discussion about various scenarios under consideration because of Monday’s Twitter post by President Trump threatening to halt plans for the scheduled convention in Charlotte and move to another state, in spite of local and state COVID-19 precautions,” the minutes state.
City attorney Patrick Baker told the Charlotte City Council there is “no force majeure clause that removes the city’s liability for unavoidable catastrophes.” Baker told the city council that Charlotte is bound to follow Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order and phased-in approach to reopening, according to minutes.
Councilman Braxton Winston suggested that the city release a statement addressing “the city’s support of compliance with local and state stay-at-home orders.” Councilwoman Victoria Watlington asked how much has been spent on the convention to that point and was told $14 million. Councilman Malcolm Graham said “there has been no discussion of a safety plan to protect frontline workers,” according to the minutes.
The minutes state that Charlotte City Council members posed numerous questions and scenarios to the city attorney.
“In response to a question, Mr. Baker noted that President Trump is not a party to the contract, in spite of his tweet threatening to move the convention out of uptown Charlotte in August,” the minutes said. “Mr. Baker pointed out that detailed documentation would be required to pursue a mutual recession.”
According to the minutes, Councilman Ed Driggs said Charlotte needs, “to be guided by the opinions of those with whom the city has a contract.” Councilmember Tariq Bokhari said “there should be more transparency about how decisions about the convention are made,” the minutes state.
Mayor Vi Lyles said the city needed time to fine-tune a plan and that Charlotte “should honor its commitments.”
“She stressed the point she did not want to send a message of negativity and does not want the city to become the target of legal action,” the minutes state. “She stressed three things that council should protect for the city. 1) financially 2) reputation and 3) not to be part of a political travesty.” According to the minutes, she asked Charlotte City Council to allow the city attorney to begin work on a plan that keeps “Charlotte financially sound and protects the city’s reputation.” The Charlotte City Council then unanimously directed the city attorney to do that.
After weeks of back-and-forth and controversy involving the future of the RNC, a slimmed-down version was ultimately held in Charlotte and President Trump delivered a speech.
(Watch the video below: No COVID-19 cases were contracted from RNC in Charlotte, according to report)
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