ALGOP Chair Wahl: Battleship Commission slow-walked approval to avoid hosting Trump rally; ‘Disappointed’ in organization’s lack of communication, honesty
As more details are being made available about what exactly had happened regarding the USS Alabama Battleship Commission and a proposed rally featuring former President Donald Trump for the Fourth of July weekend at the Battleship Park, some are suggesting the commission handled it in a way to avoid formally denying the use of the venue but to drag out the process as to make the logistics of holding the event impossible to pull off.
That was the insinuation from the Alabama Attorney General’s office according to a statement earlier in the week, and it is the belief held by Alabama Republican Party chairman John Wahl, who spearheaded the effort to organize the proposed event.
During an appearance on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Wahl explained the timeline and how he concluded the Battleship Park was an appropriate venue for such an event.
“This process started back right after I was elected, end of February,” he said. “And I immediately, you know, having been campaigning for chairman, had been talking to a lot of party members, a lot of Republican primary voters around the state. By far, their first choice of someone to, you know, have something to say was Donald Trump. So, after I was elected, I started that conversation with the Trump team. And have been working on it since. I kind of got serious and got the ball rolling towards the end of April. At that point, we were looking for the right venue. We were looking at a Fourth of July timeframe. We wanted something patriotic, and looking throughout Mobile, we, the Republican Party, chose the Battleship Park because it is a great venue that really speaks to Alabama’s history, and it is a great symbol of patriotism for the state of Alabama.”
“So, that’s why we chose the Battleship Park,” Wahl continued. “We reached out — initially contact to just feel them out for availability, whether the event would be open the date we were looking at. It was. So, got in an official request to the Battleship Commission who rents the venue.”
Wahl said prior to making an official request, the Alabama Republican Party had done its research to be “mindful” of a venue’s rules and regulations.
“We only considered the Battleship Park because they had hosted other political events there — Rick Santorum in 2012, the National Young Republican Federation in 2013. In 2018, they had Bill Hightower. And as recently as 2020, they had an event there for Jeff Sessions with members of the Battleship Commission in attendance,” he stated.” So, we were looking at this as definitely a venue that had been used for political events, both public and private. We looked at that as a great venue for this event — patriotic. It was a non-candidate event. Donald Trump is not a candidate. This event was not designed to endorse any candidate. It was simply a patriotic event to celebrate our nation’s freedom and our values, as well as to honor veterans and their sacrifice for our country.”
He argued the Battleship Commission slow-walked the process by delaying an inquiry to the Attorney General’s office and by determining that a formal resolution should be required as to whether or not the park should host the event.
“That is kind of where we were coming from as the Republican Party,” Wahl said. “We requested to book the venue and received a very ambiguous answer that was basically ‘we don’t want to rent it to you.’ But it also wasn’t an outright no. At that point, we were informed that the commission would vote at their May 14 meeting on whether to hold the event or not. What came out of their May 14 meeting was actually a unanimous vote to ask the Attorney General whether they could have the event, which we were fine with. At that point, I spoke with Chairman [Bill] Tunnell and asked him a timeline when they thought we could have an answer. He said we’ll get the letter out this week.”
“I later learned that letter was not even drafted until May 26, at which time the Battleship Commission tried to submit the letter, decided that instead of just wanting to have a vote, they wanted to have or needed to have a resolution,” he continued. “[They] did not attempt to call a special meeting or expedite the process in any way. They came back on June 11 for the regular meeting in June to vote on a resolution. That was kind of the point — when we heard they were not going give us a decision whether they wanted to hold it or not until not just June 11, but until the Attorney General had time to respond to them, that’s when we kind of realized that didn’t want to have this event. The timeline wouldn’t make it possible. And they were not interested in speeding up the process in any way to be able to have this event.”
Wahl said the Alabama Republican Party would have been OK with being told no but said he was disappointed in the lack of communication from the USS Alabama Battleship Commission and what he said was a situation in which the commission was “not honest” about the process. However, given the commission’s delay tactics, ALGOP was not afforded enough time to plan an event at an alternate venue.
Earlier on Thursday, a Trump aide told Yellowhammer News to expect an announcement on a future event in Mobile. Wahl said he anticipated another event would be scheduled but was not sure where in Alabama it would take place.
“Throughout this process, Donald Trump wants to come to Alabama,” Wahl added. “He’s excited about getting to speak to the people of Alabama. And he has been very supportive of the Alabama Republican Party, as we are very supportive towards him. I do think another event is going to happen. With the controversy around this, I don’t know what timeframe we’re looking at. And I don’t know what venue or area of the state. I think everything goes back to the drawing board with the events that have unfolded for this planned rally.”
@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.