Election 2020

After day of legal threats, Trump campaign says Target Center rally is ‘fully approved’

President Trump speaks
President Trump speaks after a signing ceremony for a trade agreement with Japan in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Monday. His campaign manager said Tuesday Trump's rally at Target Center would go on as planned.
Evan Vucci | AP Photo file

Updated: 5:04 p.m.

After threats of legal action and a full day of back-and-forth on social media, President Trump’s campaign said Tuesday afternoon that a planned campaign rally at the Target Center Thursday is going ahead as planned.

The campaign backed off a threat Monday night to sue the city after being told it would have to prepay more than $500,000 for security and other event-related costs in order to secure the venue in downtown Minneapolis.

In a statement posted to Twitter, Trump’s campaign manager said the campaign didn’t agree to pay any additional funds and they have clearance to use the venue.

The tweet capped a day full of twists and turns on the president’s rally, including sparing between the president himself and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Twitter. Trump and his campaign blamed Frey, a Democrat, for trying to force them to pay fees in advance of the rally because he’s politically opposed to the president.

The city of Minneapolis owns the Target Center, but it is run by a private company, AEG Worldwide.

In a press conference, Frey said the city’s contract with AEG requires them to cover all operating expenses related to the venue.

“My position with respect to the operating costs remains unchanged: In keeping with our contract with AEG, taxpayers should be reimbursed for city-incurred costs resulting from the president’s visit,” Frey said in a statement following the Trump campaign’s announcement. “In the days ahead, I will be meeting with city leadership and my council colleagues to decide upon the appropriate path forward.”

Frey said more than $400,000 of the extra costs came from the Minneapolis Police Department’s estimate for extra security, and the remainder were for other costs to the city associated with the event, including setting up security barriers. He didn’t give a detailed breakdown of those extra costs.

“It’s not extortion to expect that someone will pay their bills, even if that person really hates paying their bills,” Frey said. “At a time when federal funding for local government is at a historic low, it is unfair for our taxpayers to foot the bill for the operating costs of an event like this with secret service and other major security demands.”

Some Trump supporters noted that President Barack Obama held a Target Center rally in 2009 when the costs for extra security was estimated at $20,000.

The two events are not comparable, Frey said.

"President Barack Obama was coming here on behalf of the Office of the President of the United States, not as a campaign event,” Frey said. “He was coming here to champion a specific policy. And in that case, it was health care. Here, President Trump is coming to Minneapolis as a campaign rally."

Earlier in the day Trump tweeted that 72,000 people had already asked for free tickets to the Thursday rally. Target Center’s capacity is 20,000. Thousands of protesters are also expected in downtown Minneapolis on the day of the event.

Many cities have sent invoices to the Trump campaign after his rallies are over, asking for reimbursement for tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses for such things as staff overtime, traffic control, and extra law enforcement.

But at least nine cities are still waiting on payments from the campaign, according to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity. That includes El Paso, Texas, where officials are still trying to get the campaign to pay them back more than a half million dollars for a rally near the Mexico border earlier this year.

In his response to the president, Frey welcomed him to Minneapolis, “where we pay our bills.”

Legally, the Trump campaign doesn’t have to cover the costs. The Federal Election Commission doesn’t require federal candidates to reimburse cities for extra costs associated with campaign rallies.

MPR News reporter Brandt Williams contributed to this story.

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