Donald Trump and Mike Pence
Donald Trump and Mike Pence at the 2020 Republican National Convention

White House Chief of Staff Mark Mead­ows has brushed off com­plains the Trump cam­paign is vio­lat­ing the Hatch Act with brazen use of pub­lic trea­sures, like the White House and Bal­ti­more’s Fort McHen­ry, to give a 2020 Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion boost to a belea­guered incumbent.

“Nobody out­side the Belt­way real­ly cares,” said Meadows.

Mead­ows might be right, in that the coun­try has wit­nessed three and a half years of brazen flout­ing of polit­i­cal norms, often in vio­la­tion of the law.

As cit­i­zens, how­ev­er, we need face facts: We are being used and the public’s hous­es, mon­u­ments and his­toric places are being exploited.

I care, thanks to a day back in the spring­time of the George H.W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion. I took part in an inter­view with Bar­bara Bush, who referred to her fam­i­ly as the “lat­est ten­ants” at 1600 Penn­syl­va­nia Avenue.

Mrs. Bush took us through rooms where his­to­ry was made, occa­sion­al­ly tak­ing a dig at Nan­cy and Mau­reen Rea­gan. We were giv­en a quick look at the Rose Gar­den, as designed by Rachel “Bun­ny” Mel­lon and Jack­ie Kennedy.

The crabap­ple trees were in full bloom, and afford­ed shade on a warm day. The gar­den was ablaze with col­ors, which is the way John F. Kennedy had want­ed it.

The trees are gone, removed as part of Mela­nia Trump’s redo of the Rose Gar­den. The trees have been moved to an “off­site loca­tion” and will be replant­ed later.

The new Rose Gar­den was used Tues­day night when Mela­nia Trump deliv­ered a Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion speech there, before a care­ful­ly picked par­ti­san audi­ence that did not prac­tice phys­i­cal distancing.

The White House had already been uti­lized for two 2020 Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion events. Trump used the premis­es to par­don an Ari­zona bank rob­ber who has become active in reha­bil­i­ta­tion work. And the incum­bent, whose poli­cies have split apart fam­i­lies, swore in five new Amer­i­can citizens.

Con­sid­er the brazen­ness of this act. Thou­sands are wait­ing to be sworn in so they can vote in the Novem­ber elec­tion. Trump has famous­ly referred to African nations, El Sal­vador and Haiti as “[exple­tive] coun­tries” and asked why the Unit­ed States can’t wel­come more immi­grants from Norway.

Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, with ambi­tions for 2024, inter­rupt­ed an offi­cial trip to Israel to speak to the Con­ven­tion from the roof of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Sure, the cam­era crews were on the Repub­li­can payroll.

But Pom­peo was flown to Israel in a plane bear­ing “Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca” insignia, and stayed at the King David at gov­ern­ment expense.

Pom­peo deliv­ered a speech to the Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion despite a recent direc­tive to employ­ees of his own depart­ment: “Sen­ate-con­firmed polit­i­cal employ­ees may not even attend a polit­i­cal convention.”

Mean­while, Fort McHen­ry in Mary­land, of Star Span­gled Ban­ner fame, has been closed to the pub­lic due to the pandemic.

Nev­er mind the exclu­sion of ordi­nary peo­ple… Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence deliv­ered his accep­tance speech on the premis­es tonight.

Think for a moment. The one hun­dred and four year-old Nation­al Park Ser­vice is the least polit­i­cal of agen­cies. Yet, the pres­ence of Pence sug­gests that the NPS sup­ports his renom­i­na­tion and the 2020 Repub­li­can ticket.

Trump has twice used Park Ser­vice grounds — the pub­lic’s parks — for polit­i­cal pur­pos­es: a Fourth of July inter­view with FNC at the Lin­coln Memo­r­i­al and his cam­paign-style speech at the Mount Rush­more Nation­al Monument.

Under the Hatch Act, and rules set down by the Spe­cial Coun­sel, park employ­ees can­not engage in any “activ­i­ty direct­ed at the suc­cess or fail­ure of a polit­i­cal par­ty, par­ti­san polit­i­cal group, or can­di­date for par­ti­san polit­i­cal office.”

The forty-fifth pres­i­dent has made inquiries about get­ting his vis­age on Mount Rush­more. In the mean­time, the Nation­al Park Ser­vice has gone with­out a Sen­ate-con­firmed direc­tor for the entire­ty of Trump’s presidency.

Trump has vir­tu­al­ly wiped out the lines between gov­ern­ing and cam­paign. Oth­er pres­i­dents observed infor­mal rules. For instance, H.W. Bush banned cam­paign strat­e­gy ses­sions from the West Wing, insist­ing they be held at the residence.

In Trump’s case, he has held forth, using the Rose Gar­den for a fifty-four-minute July mon­logue denounc­ing Joe Biden and the Democ­rats. He will deliv­er his accep­tance speech on Thurs­day night at 1600 Penn­syl­va­nia Avenue.

Trump appears to see no dis­tinc­tion between the gov­ern­ment and his person.

The Hatch Act can be ignored: It has no enforce­ment mechanism.

Nobody in high posi­tion has dared raise objec­tion to use of the White House.

The rule in this admin­is­tra­tion: Do what the chief does.

And praise him at every turn.

Trump’s accep­tance speech will be fol­lowed by one more appro­pri­a­tion of pub­lic prop­er­ty and an endur­ing nation­al sym­bol: There will be a fire­works dis­play over the Wash­ing­ton Mon­u­ment, the tallest build­ing in D.C.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Adjacent posts

2 replies on “RNC is proof that Trump sees no distinction between the federal government and himself”

  1. Well, no one seemed to care about Water­gate when it first hap­pened. I’m hop­ing that Biden wins, but if not, his­tor­i­cal­ly, in pre­vi­ous admin­is­tra­tion’s sec­ond term is when “the chick­ens come home to roost”.

  2. Let’s plan on replant­i­ng the crabap­ple trees right back where they came from once the cur­rent occu­pants have been removed.

Comments are closed.