Joe Biden Will No Longer Accept Nomination In Milwaukee As Coronavirus Forces Further Changes To Democratic Convention Plans

Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event on Tuesday. Patrick Semansky/AP

Plans for Joe Biden to accept the Democratic nomination in Milwaukee have been scrapped, as the coronavirus has forced further changes to the plans for the convention.

No other speakers will travel to the city, leaving the convention an all-virtual event.

Biden instead will deliver a speech from Delaware, his home state, with exact details to be announced.

The Democratic National Convention Committee said that they altered their plans after consulting with public health officials.

Even though the convention already had been scaled back significantly — with media outlets planning to send just a fraction of their political teams to Milwaukee — there still was to be a presence of several hundred people at the Wisconsin Center in anticipation of Biden and other speakers appearing there. Plans were being made for participants to go through an extensive list of protocols, including testing, before attending. Now there may be no need at all to go, as plans already were announced for state delegates to cast their ballots virtually, the most important piece of official business.

Democrats are still planning four nights of programming, two hours each night, starting on August 17, with pre-recorded segments and live broadcasts from around the country. They have been billing it as a “convention across America.”

“While we wish we could move forward with welcoming the world to beautiful Milwaukee in two weeks, we recognize protecting the health of our host community and everyone involved with this convention must be paramount,” Joe Solmonese, the CEO of the convention, said in a statement.

Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said, “From the very beginning of this pandemic, we put the health and safety of the American people first. We followed the science, listened to doctors and public health experts, and we continued making adjustments to our plans in order to protect lives.”

The latest changes will further scramble network plans for coverage of the convention, which in cycles past has been a kind of “Super Bowl” for political journalists and a signature week for anchors, reporters and pundits. Now it looks as is if much of the coverage will take place from network home bases, including New York and Washington, while Democrats are plotting for press coverage of different events around the country via a pool.

Last month, President Donald Trump scrapped plans to deliver his acceptance speech before a large scale event in Jacksonville. On Wednesday, he said in an interview with Fox & Friends that they are thinking about a plan in which he would deliver the speech from the White House lawn.

“It would be the easiest from the standpoint of security,” Trump said. “You know, they move with a lot of people, it’s very expensive operation militarily and law enforcement wise. The Secret Service is fantastic, but you know, it’s a big deal, and we are thinking about doing it from the White House because there’s no movement.”

That option may face legal hurdles, as it would mean using public resources for a private political event.

Kedric Payne, general counsel and senior director of ethics at the Campaign Legal Center, said via email that the “rule prohibiting political activity on government property still applies, regardless of the Hatch Act’s exception for the president.”

“If Trump does deliver his acceptance speech on White House grounds, this decision will violate more than ethics norms, it ignores the important reason behind ethics laws in the first place: public service is a public trust, it needs to be separate from campaign activity,” Payne said. “Trump’s White House staff can be held accountable for this.”

The GOP is still planning for a share of the delegates to be present in the original convention host city, Charlotte, NC, on the first night, August 24, for the roll call vote to make Trump’s renomination official.

“We’re going to let the press go in and watch it, but socially distanced and lots of things are happening,” Trump said. “The state is in a lockdown. States are — we had no choice. We went to Jacksonville, a place that we’re very good, but after we announced, all of a sudden Florida got hit, and now Florida’s recovering.”

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