AP Explains: Is a Trump White House acceptance speech legal?

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

President Donald Trump speaks with members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md. and then on to Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump instantly ignited new controversy when he said recently that he may deliver his nomination acceptance speech during the Republican National Convention at the White House.

But using the Rose Garden, the Executive Mansion or even the Oval Office as the backdrop for his speech capping the Aug. 24-27 convention would mark an unprecedented use of federal property for partisan political purposes.

Critics allege it would violate ethics laws, such as the Hatch Act, which limits political activity by federal workers, although few have faced penalties.

Trump says the idea is well within the law. “It is legal. There is no Hatch Act because it doesn’t pertain to the president,” Trump said Wednesday.

While the president is exempt from the act, ethics experts said, presidential staffers working to pull off the event would be in jeopardy.

“The rule prohibiting political activity on government property still applies, regardless of the Hatch Act’s exception for the president,” according to Kedric Payne, ethics director at the Campaign Legal Center. “Any federal employee who helps facilitate the acceptance speech risks violating the Hatch Act.”

Here is an overview of the controversy: