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White House lawn, Rose Garden being re-sodded after damage from GOP convention

A view of the South Lawn of the White House after the Republican National Convention celebration held there last month. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

President Trump’s reelection campaign is paying to replace sod on the White House South Lawn and in the Rose Garden after damage to the greenery late last month from large crowds and heavy equipment used for Republican National Convention festivities, White House and campaign officials said Tuesday.

Trump’s unprecedented decision to stage overtly political events on public property — which drew complaints that the Trumps were using “the people’s house” for personal gain — continues to reverberate nearly two weeks later, as work crews re-sod the lawn and make other repairs.

On Aug. 27, Trump delivered his address formally accepting the Republican nomination on the South Lawn before an estimated 1,500 supporters seated on chairs. The president spoke from an enormous stage built in front of the South Portico of the White House. It was flanked by massive television screens and illuminated by scores of hulking spotlights — all particularly heavy equipment to position on grass.

Two nights earlier, first lady Melania Trump delivered her convention address in the newly reconstructed Rose Garden, with dozens of supporters seated in chairs. Turf was laid atop the grass as a protective measure, according to one White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because aides were not authorized to discuss some details.

“The sod is being replaced at no cost to taxpayers,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere. “Additionally, there has been other planned infrastructure work taking place on the south grounds.”

A Trump campaign official confirmed that the sod replacement was being paid for with campaign funds.

Katie Liming, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service Capital Region, confirmed that the repairs are being paid for with political funds, as required under the convention’s agreement for holding the event.

President Trump repeatedly flouted norms and raised legal questions on Aug. 25 as official duties were performed during a political convention. (Video: The Washington Post)

“Turf restoration is underway on the South Lawn,” Liming said. “The National Park Service is using cost recovery funds from the RNC to pay for the work. Cost recovery was a condition of the permit for the event and federal funds were not used.”

The construction underway includes other repairs and improvements that were already in the planning stages or under consideration, said a White House official.

CNN first reported some aspects of the Rose Garden work.

The work has been ongoing for several days and has interrupted the regular rhythms at the White House. The president has been transported to Joint Base Andrews for recent flights via motorcade rather than by helicopter because Marine One cannot land on the South Lawn during the construction and repairs.

In addition, White House staff members have kept journalists covering events there from seeing the work underway in the Rose Garden and on the South Lawn by using alternative venues. The president typically holds outdoor news conferences in the Rose Garden, but he held Monday’s gathering with reporters instead in the North Portico of the White House. It was the first time in recent memory that the president staged a news conference on the front steps of the residence facing Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Trump campaign and Melania Trump’s office declined to comment on the record.

Officials did not detail how much the repairs would cost.

A White House official said that it was not uncommon in this administration, as well as previous ones, to undertake repairs to the South Lawn after large events, such as the annual Easter Egg Roll or Fourth of July fireworks.

But the current construction highlights the blatant manner in which Trump used the trappings of the presidency for purely political purposes in staging part of the Republican convention at the White House — a move that outraged government ethics experts as well as many Democrats.

In August, Melania Trump unveiled the redesigned Rose Garden. The first lady took on the Rose Garden renovation as a personal project, along with revamping the White House tennis pavilion.

Lisa Rein contributed to this report.