Republicans have one month to pull off their convention in Florida, where the coronavirus has gotten so bad that some municipalities are starting to talk about shutting down again.
Politico reported Monday that the sheriff of Jacksonville, Florida is in a particularly difficult spot as the convention day approaches. He explained that the "lack of clear plans, adequate funding and enough law enforcement officers" means he can no longer provide security for the event.
“As we're talking today, we are still not close to having some kind of plan that we can work with that makes me comfortable that we're going to keep that event and the community safe,” said Duval County Sheriff Mike Williams. “It’s not my event to plan, but I can just tell you that what has been proposed in my opinion is not achievable right now ... from a law enforcement standpoint, from a security standpoint.”
President Donald Trump has demanded an in-person convention, and when North Carolina's governor refused to allow it, the president sought out his friend Gov. Ron DeSantis, who welcomed them with open COVID-19 arms.
"The controversy deals one of the biggest potential blows to Trump’s decision to hold an in-person nominating convention during a pandemic," Politico reported. "The proposal has already been beset by concerns over safety and reports of high-profile Republicans declining to attend."
Sheriff Williams is a Republican, but he places public safety first and he isn't willing to have his name on the security for an event that can't be secured. He explained that announcing the major event has given him and his team little time to prepare. So far, the RNC hasn't found where the convention event will be held other than the convention floor itself. There was supposed to be a $50 million grant, but that was cut back to $33 million and Williams said that there are a lot of strings attached, which makes it difficult for him to agree to security contracts.
By Feb. 2019, the RNC was outed still bankrolling Trump's former bodyguard, Keith Schiller, saying that he was coordinating the security for the convention. It's unclear how the $225,000 sum has helped the GOP manage their security problems when Sheriff Williams seems to be the one coordinating the security.
The Florida Sheriffs Association asked the state for 2,000 officers to help with the convention, but they were only able to get about 500. He turned to the Florida Police Chiefs Association, but he still can't get the numbers necessary to secure the area.
“But there's a lot of things that need to happen: an event schedule nailed down, and being able to sign contracts and spend money so that we can prepare for this event. And none of that has happened yet,” Williams said. “So here we are inside of 40 days, and I haven't really pulled the trigger on anything RNC-related when it comes to finances or contracts and so, you know, only related to security, mind you, nothing, nothing related to any of this.”
“It’s like a gunfight. I don’t think we should have gunfights. But if you have one, I’m coming,” said Martin County Sheriff Bill Snyder. “It will be a noxious brew of vitriol and emotion.”
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood told Politico that "Trump’s security detail already makes such big demands of local law enforcement that it makes it difficult to supply security for him." He explained that he saw what that was like firsthand when Trump visited Daytona Beach recently.
One of the biggest concerns for municipalities has been that Trump's campaign has refused to pay for additional security costs since the 2016 campaign.
In Oct. 2019, Albuquerque sent a $211,175.94 invoice to the president’s campaign for the security and barricades needed for a rally he did in the city. As of April, the campaign still hadn't paid the bill. There isn't much hope, however, as Trump's campaign has also ignored bills from Lebanon, Ohio, Mesa, Arizona and Erie, Pennsylvania, to name a few.
The Center for Public Integrity reported last year that Green Bay and Eau Claire, Wisconsin; Tucson, Arizona; Burlington, Vermont and Spokane, Washington — were also stiffed by Trump, but that was from before he was elected to the presidency and during the 2016 campaign.
As Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold pointed out, Trump also had Irish police protect him at his resort in Ireland. He charged them $100,000 in food and drink costs.
Sheriff Chitwood confessed that he's scared not to go along with Trump's demands.
“There’s a fear of telling him no because anyone who tells the president no, it’s like, off with their heads,” he told Politico.
"There are going to be tons of issues," he added. "This has something that has never ever happened before. And for some reason, commonsense is being thrown out the window.”