WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump threatened Monday to move his August renomination convention for a second term in the White House from Charlotte, North Carolina if the state's Democratic governor doesn't give the Republican party an immediate assurance that it will be able to fully occupy a basketball arena in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
"Unfortunately, Democrat Governor, Roy Cooper is still in Shutdown mood & unable to guarantee that by August we will be allowed full attendance in the Arena," Trump said on Twitter.
"In other words, we would be spending millions of dollars building the Arena to a very high standard," Trump said, "without even knowing if the Democrat Governor would allow the Republican Party to fully occupy the space."
Trump demanded that Republicans "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."
Trump said moving the national party convention "is not something I want to do."
Vice President Mike Pence reiterated Trump's threat in an interview on Fox News.
Pence said that if North Carolina doesn't speed up the reopening of its economy shut down by the coronavirus pandemic Republicans could move the convention to a state "that is farther along on reopening and can say with confidence that, that we can gather there."
But Cooper gave Republicans no immediate assurances that the Spectrum Center would be fully available for their Aug. 24-27 convention.
"State health officials are working with the [Republican National Committee] and will review its plans as they make decisions about how to hold the convention in Charlotte," Cooper spokeswoman Dory MacMillan said. "North Carolina is relying on data and science to protect our state's public health and safety."
Cooper, like the other 49 U.S. state governors, has begun to ease coronavirus restrictions in his Atlantic coastal state. But restrictions remain and will be in effect yet for weeks.
Charlotte, North Carolina's biggest city, has had more confirmed coronavirus cases and more deaths from the virus than anywhere else in the state.
Cooper last Friday lifted his earlier stay-at-home order, but instituted a "Safer At Home" directive.
"Just because you can go more places, doesn't mean you should," Cooper said.
Restaurants were opened in time for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, as were public pools at 50% capacity.
National political conventions to nominate presidential candidates are a quadrennial tradition in the U.S. The national Democratic party is planning its convention in the midwestern city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin from Aug. 17-20, a week before the Republican conclave in Charlotte.
Democrats, however, are laying the groundwork for a possible virtual convention to give their presidential nod to their presumptive nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, with sharply scaled-back festivities in Milwaukee.
Trump, however, has voiced his determination for a full-blown, four-day Republican convention, with thousands of delegates in Charlotte's Spectrum Center cheering speeches attacking Biden and Democrats and culminating with the traditional drop of thousands of red, white and blue balloons from the arena rafters.