Tensions between Minneapolis city leaders and President Donald Trump’s campaign escalated Monday when the campaign threatened to sue the city for trying to force it to pay $530,000 for security during this week’s rally.
Trump’s campaign team said in a news release late Monday night that Mayor Jacob Frey is “abusing the power of his office” by “conjuring a phony and outlandish bill for security” to cover those costs for Thursday’s campaign rally.
City officials told the Target Center, which is managed by AEG, that it would be responsible for paying the costs. The center then allegedly tried to pass the bill on to Trump’s team and told them they would not be able to use the arena unless they agreed to the charges.
“This is an outrageous abuse of power by a liberal mayor trying to deny the rights of his own city’s residents just because he hates the President,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. “People want to hear from their President, and no mayor looking to beef up his résumé for a run for higher office should stand in the way.”
The city said it reached the $530,000 estimate based on the methodology it used to determine the costs of past major events, like the 2018 Super Bowl and Final Four. The public safety expenses are expected to be around $400,000 and the other $130,000 would be the result of lane closure fees, traffic control and various other costs, Minneapolis spokesman Casper Hill said in an e-mail Tuesday.
The Trump campaign said in the statement that if the city does not agree to honor the contract by 11 a.m. Tuesday that they would go to court.
“The Trump campaign informed the Target Center that the U.S. Secret Service is solely responsible for coordinating security and that withholding the use of the arena would be viewed as a breach of contract and result in court action,” the statement said.
Trump’s announcement in late September that he’d be coming to Minneapolis generated widespread criticism among Minneapolis-based activists. And Frey weighed in, saying he could not stop the visit but that Trump’s “message of hatred will never be welcome in Minneapolis.” He called Trump’s actions “reprehensible.”
The visit has been a lightning rod for the Minneapolis police as well. On Monday, the police union started selling “Cops for Trump” T-shirts, just days after the Police Department banned officers from wearing their uniforms in support of candidates at political events or in ads.
Lt. Bob Kroll, the head of the union, accused the Police Department last week of instituting its new policy just before Trump’s visit. He said he was told about the ban Sept. 27, one day after Trump announced Thursday’s rally at Target Center, and after Frey’s statement that Trump was unwelcome in the city.
Costs widely debated
The battle between Trump and Minneapolis officials comes just three days before his campaign rally. The president’s campaign has faced criticism for not paying back cities for security and other resources needed to accommodate his rallies.
Mark Ruff, the acting city coordinator for Minneapolis, said in a Saturday e-mail to a concerned resident that Minneapolis does not have a contract with the Trump campaign. The city was in talks with AEG to figure out who will be responsible for various expenses, according to the e-mail, which was obtained by the Star Tribune.
There is no requirement that campaign committees must pay for the costs that municipalities incur during rallies, though they are allowed to use campaign funds to do so, said Judith Ingram with the Federal Election Commission.
In an interview Monday, Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal said “it’s not fair” for residents to shoulder such costs, whether they are for political or sporting events. She said the city has been having conversations with organizations including the Twins, the Vikings and the Minnesota Ballpark Authority about sharing the costs of additional event expenses during games. She said these discussions have been going on since before the Super Bowl in 2018.
Segal said the city plans to be more proactive in the future with AEG about how these costs are handled.
“It’s an unfunded expense and it should be borne by those who are putting on the event or at least the venue operators, it’s an expense that should be accounted for,” Segal said. “It doesn’t matter who the candidate is or what the event is, if it’s anticipated that there will be a need for additional response … a source of revenue for that needs to be found.”
Asked if Minneapolis would have to shoulder the cost for Trump’s visit, Segal said “we’re optimistic that we will be able to recover much of the costs.” She declined to elaborate on how the city will get reimbursed.
Robin McPherson, Minneapolis Police Department’s finance director, said in a Sept. 26 e-mail to city officials that the agency has not sought reimbursement for campaign rallies because it was “to ensure public safety not security for the candidate and any costs have been nominal.” But she said Trump’s rally “will be significantly more expensive and extensive.”
Trump’s rally in Rochester last October cost the city government $93,000, according to city data. Staff from a range of departments, including public works, information technology, parks and recreation, fire and police, spent hundreds of hours on the president’s visit. The city did not get reimbursed for any of those costs, spokeswoman Jenna Bowman said.
However, the president’s campaign did rent what was then a city-owned facility for the event. Rochester received $111,000 from the use of Mayo Civic Center, Bowman said.
Trump’s visit to Duluth last year cost the city more than $69,000. City staff did not send the Trump campaign an invoice because they did not want to expend more staff time requesting a reimbursement they knew they would not receive, Duluth spokeswoman Kate Van Daele said.
“We just don’t hear back historically,” Van Daele said. “So that’s why we, regardless of party, we just have chosen not to invoice because traditionally that’s been our experience, and the experience of a lot of other municipalities.”
Staff writer Eric Roper contributed to this report.