Trump is under fire for using the Marine Band at an ostensibly non-political event that devolved into campaigning

  • President Donald Trump has been criticized for using the White House and the Marine Band for an event with all the hallmarks of a political rally, according to The Washington Post. 
  • The president made a speech as part of the "Peaceful Protest for Law and Order," an event organized by the White House.
  • By convention, neither the White House itself nor the military are supposed to be used as part of election campaign events.
  • At the event, Trump immediately told the crowd to "vote these people [Democrats] into oblivion" — one of several explicit references to the election.
  • Rep. Don Beyer (D) said the event contravened the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees from using their positions in political campaigning. 
  • A spokesperson for the White House told The Post that the event did not violate the act.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump has been criticized for using the US Marine Band at a White House event that closely resembled a political rally on Saturday, according to The Washington Post. 

In his first public event since his COVID-19 diagnosis, Trump addressed the crowd from the South Portico balcony of the White House at the "Peaceful Protest for Law and Order" on Saturday.

According to The Post, the Marine Band played show tunes such as "America" from "West Side Story" to the arriving supporters. Their involvement drew criticism from a Democratic lawmaker and an expert on the military.

The event was ostensibly non-partisan, but Trump addressed electoral politics from the start. "We got to vote these people into oblivion," he said in his opening remarks.

The US Marine Band — dubbed "The President's Own" — is usually used when the president is discharging his duties of state. 

But Alice Hunt Friend, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Post that the use of the band was a "big violation" of the norms established between the military and politics. 

"Americans who see uniformed military personnel at partisan political functions may assume the military has a partisan identity," Friend said.

"Presidents running for reelection always have to take extra care to keep their military aides out of their campaign activities."

In using the US military for a partisan event, the White House risks violating the Hatch Act. The act forbids federal employees for using their positions for political activity, and also bars the president — who is otherwise exempt from the act — from compelling them to do so. 

The use of the White House for political campaign events has also been criticized as a violation of the act. 

White House spokesman Judd Deere told The Post: "The event yesterday was an official White House event and was conducted in compliance with the Hatch Act."

Rep. Don Beyer, a Virginia Democrat, criticized the use of the White House in a tweet, saying: "As Trump again uses the White House for a campaign speech, doubtless with the illegal use of taxpayer resources and funds, the Republican National Convention remains under investigation for Hatch Act violations."

Trump aides are said to have delighted in the violation of these norms multiple times, including Trump's use of the White House for his Republican National Convention speech in August. 

At the "Peaceful Protest for Law and Order" event on Saturday, Trump praised law enforcement and emphasized the impact that widespread protests have had on Black and minority ethnic communities. 

Much of his speech was also devoted to references to the election and recent televised debates. He encouraged the crowd to vote against his political opponent Joe Biden.

"Sleepy Joe Biden has betrayed black and Latino Americans," he said, to widespread boos. "If you think he can run this country, you're wrong."

Later, he added: "If the left gains power, they'll launch a nationwide crusade against law enforcement." 

At times, the chant "Four more years!" broke out from the crowd.

The event was organized by the Blexit Foundation, a conservative movement founded by Black right-wing activist Candace Owens. "Blexit," a play on "Brexit," the term for the UK's unexpected decision to leave the European Union, encourages Black and minority ethnic people to abandon support for the left and embrace conservative politics.

Attendees at the event were told to wear "Blexit" t-shirts, according to ABC News. Trump remarked on the shirts his address, saying he wished he could wear one instead of what he had on. 

Business Insider has contacted the White House, the Trump campaign, and the US Marine Band for comment, but did not immediately receive a reply. 

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