Republican National Committee prepares for a convention Trump may not attend

Donald Trump is preparing for a scenario in which he will be unable to attend the Republican National Convention, a decision influenced in part by the possibility that he could be sentenced to home confinement after his historic conviction late last month. 

Preparations are being made at both Mar-a-Lago, his home in Florida, and in Milwaukee, the host city for the convention next month, should Trump either choose to make appearances from afar or be unable to attend, according to two sources familiar with the planning.

“The campaign in conjunction with the RNC is planning an amazing convention program that will highlight the party and officially designate President Trump’s nomination,” senior adviser Brian Hughes said in a statement to NBC News. “President Trump will be featured as an active part of this official event and celebration of our pathway to victory in November.”

After the story published on Thursday, Hughes sent an additional statement, saying, “At no time has convention planning involved any option than President Trump in person to accept his formal nomination as president.”

A New York jury found Trump guilty on 34 counts of falsifying business records tied to a hush money payment to an adult film star during the 2016 campaign. His sentencing is set for July 11, just four days before the Republican convention. He faces a fine, probation or up to four years in prison per count; legal experts have mixed views about what punishment he is likely to receive, but home confinement remains an option.

Trump has said he is “OK” with the idea that he could face jail time or house arrest.

In case of potential house arrest, the Republican National Committee is already setting up convention-themed staging at Mar-a-Lago, along with a massive screen at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, where most convention activities will take place.

“If you look at what has been released about the stage at our convention, it’s going to be the highest-tech stage ever,” a Republican operative who has toured the convention site said. “It will allow the campaign to utilize people not in Milwaukee to be projected into the hall.

“This will give President Trump an opportunity to participate in more days of the convention if he chooses to,” the person continued.

The RNC has put its stage construction front and center, holding a news conference at which Chair Michael Whatley called it “the centerpiece of a word-class production and a historic experience.”

“Synthesizing technological innovation and artistic vision, our dynamic stage design will be at the center of a historic Republican National Convention,” Whatley said in a release last week.

The Republican operative who viewed the convention site said that the idea of Trump’s being under house arrest was not discussed during tours in Milwaukee and that people were told there is a chance Trump could just choose to hold convention-related events from Mar-a-Lago.

A Trump campaign official, though, confirmed to NBC News that the idea that he could be under house arrest for the convention is part of the planning process. 

Asked for comment, Hughes said: “As with every convention there are components involving the nominee outside the convention hall and inside the convention hall. This convention will undoubtedly include these components for President Trump.”

Trump has repeatedly said he is waiting until next month to announce his vice presidential running mate, saying as recently as last week that he plans to do it at the convention. His campaign declined to comment on how being remote for some, or all, of the big event would affect the timing and planning. 

While Trump will be sentenced the week before the convention, legal experts have told NBC News that he is likely to request that the sentence be suspended while he appeals. If the trial judge or an appellate judge grants the request, Trump would most likely be able to continue to move freely, as he did while he was awaiting trial.

If the sentence does affect his ability to attend the convention, he would be the first major-party nominee in recent memory not to have attended the party’s convention, an event that features the formal acceptance of the nomination by the candidate and an accompanying speech.  

“Friends, delegates and fellow Americans: I humbly and gratefully accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States,” Trump said opening his remarks in Cleveland in 2016.

Trump also gave an in-person speech in 2020 during a shortened Republican convention in Jacksonville, Florida, a gathering that came together after Republicans pushed for an in-person convention amid the coronavirus pandemic. The convention had originally been scheduled to take place in North Carolina, but it was moved after Roy Cooper, the Democratic governor, refused to allow a fully attended convention.