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President Donald Trump staged a norm-busting show on the second night of the Republican National Convention, pardoning a convicted bank robber, hosting a naturalization ceremony, and providing a primetime platform to Americans with a history of incendiary social media posts.
Trump also blurred the line between the presidency and electoral politics. First lady Melania Trump delivered her speech from the Rose Garden, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered a taped message from Jerusalem, an unusually partisan move for the nation’s top diplomat.
Here are key moments from the second night of the convention.
Convention speaker bumped after retweeting anti-Semitic rant
An RNC speaker retweeted an anti-Semitic screed on Tuesday morning, the same day she was slated to take the stage to praise President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies.
A person familiar with the matter confirmed to POLITICO on Tuesday evening that Mary Ann Mendoza was no longer speaking at the RNC.
Mendoza, who was teed up to talk about her police officer son who was killed in a car crash, shared the Twitter messages, writing, “Do yourself a favor and read this thread.” The thread portrays a Jewish cabal set on taking over American government. It includes a link to “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” an infamous fabrication from Tsarist Russia that was popular in Nazi Germany.
On Tuesday evening, an hour before the televised portion of the convention was to begin, the tweet disappeared from Mendoza’s Twitter account. She later wrote on Twitter that she retweeted the thread without reading "every post within the thread."
"My apologies for not paying attention to the intent of the whole message," she wrote. "That does not reflect my feelings or personal thoughts whatsoever."
Trump opens second night of RNC by pardoning bank robber
Trump opened the second night of the Republican National Convention by pardoning Jon Ponder, a bank robber who founded a non-profit organization upon his release from prison focused on preparing former inmates to reenter the workforce.
“We believe that each person is made by God for a purpose,” Trump said in a prerecorded video filmed inside the White House. “I will continue to give all Americans, including former inmates, the best chance to build a new life and achieve their own American dream. And a great American dream it is.”
In an unusual bit of staging, the president then invited Ponder and Richard Beasley — the FBI agent who arrested Ponder 15 years ago — to stand alongside him as the three men stared directly into the camera.
Ponder described himself as a “proud American citizen who has been given a second chance,” while Beasley echoed Trump’s defenses of police officers and other law enforcement. “There is nothing worse than knowing you’re being second-guessed when you're doing your job,” he said.
Ponder’s wife then joined the group as Trump sat at a desk to sign the pardon document with his signature oversized black Sharpie.
Rand Paul: Trump’s a 'down-to-earth' guy
Sen. Rand Paul lauded Trump as a philanthropic, anti-war president during the RNC, presenting him as a peaceful contrast to Joe Biden.
“If you hate war like I hate war,” Paul said, “you need to support President Trump for another term!”
Paul has famously protested against American intervention is foreign conflicts and called on voters to pull out of nation-building projects and focus on developing the United States. He portrayed Trump as a “down-to-earth” person who “seemed like just a normal guy” willing to help with humanitarian missions. Paul said Trump supported his medical mission to Guatemala and a mission trip to Haiti where he performed hundreds of surgeries. Paul practiced as an ophthalmologist.
Paul, meanwhile, portrayed Biden as a candidate bent on expanding military conflicts abroad, citing his support for intervention in Serbia, Syria and Libya.
“Joe Biden will continue to spill our blood and treasure,” Paul said.
Kudlow: Economy will return to 'dark days' under Biden
Trump will be able to turn around the severe economic downturn driven by the coronavirus pandemic, White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow promised on the second night of the convention.
“Everyone was better off. A rising tide lifted all boats,” Kudlow said of the economy before the coronavirus swept across the U.S. early this year. “Then came a once-in-100-year pandemic. It was awful. Hardship and heartbreak were everywhere. But presidential leadership came swiftly and effectively.”
Kudlow also slammed Biden’s plans to raise taxes on the highest-earning households by about $4 trillion over 10 years.
“Coming out of the deep pandemic, who in their right mind would pick the pockets of taxpayers and drain money from their wallets and purses?” Kudlow asked.
“Our economic choice is very clear. Do you want economic health, prosperity, opportunity and optimism? Or do you want to turn back to the dark days of stagnation, recession and pessimism?” Kudlow said. “I believe there can't be better economic policies than we've had in recent years. So I say, stay with him.”
Billy Graham's granddaughter calls Trump a 'fierce advocate' of faith
Cissie Graham Lynch, American evangelist Billy Graham’s granddaughter, accused Democrats of forcing faith and adoption organizations to “violate their deeply held beliefs” and pressuring schools to allow boys to compete in girls' sports and use girls' locker rooms.
“The Biden/Harris vision for America leaves no room for people of faith. Whether you're a baker, a florist or a football coach, they will force the choice between being obedient to God or to Caesar, because the radical left's God is government power,” Lynch said.
Instead, Lynch said Trump was the fierce advocate in the White House that people of faith needed.
“He appointed judges who respect the First Amendment. He supported religious beliefs in court. He ensured religious ministries would not be forced to violate their beliefs. He withdrew the policies that placed our little girls at risk,” Lynch said.
RNC airs remarks from controversial anti-abortion activist
In the first hour of their Tuesday night convention programming, Republicans featured graphic remarks from a former Planned Parenthood employee who previously compared abortion to the Holocaust.
Abby Johnson, founder of the anti-abortion group And Then There Were None, made explosive claims about her time working at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas and cast the November election as “a choice between two radical anti-life activists and the most pro-life president we have ever had.”
Johnson has generated controversy for her past statements and social media posts. In 2017, she tweeted that she had “a hard time understanding how people can’t see the connection between abortion and the Jewish holocaust,” adding that “[b]oth occurred because of the systemic dehumanization of an entire group of people.”
And in the hours before her convention address Tuesday, Vice reported Johnson said in a June video posted to YouTube that it would be “smart” for police to racially profile her son. “Statistically, my brown son is more likely to commit a violent offense over my white sons,” she reportedly said.
Covington Catholic student slams media in convention speech
No one has been treated more unfairly by the media than Trump, according to Nicholas Sandmann, the Covington Catholic High School student who had a confrontation with protesters near the Lincoln Memorial.
Sandmann was at the March for Life rally in January 2019 when he came face-to-face with a Native American elder, Nathan Phillips. Pictures of the encounter originally made it seem as if Sandmann was antagonizing the elder, but video revealed that Phillips had actually approached Sandmann and other students. Sandmann filed a lawsuit against major media outlets, who he said never asked for his side of the story, and won.
“The truth was not important,” Sandmann said on Tuesday. “Advancing their anti-Christian, anti-conservative, anti-Donald Trump narrative was all that mattered. If advancing their narrative ruined the reputation of a teenager from Kentucky, so be it.”
“I look forward to the day that the media returns to providing balanced, responsible and accountable news coverage. I know President Trump hopes for that too,” he continued. “I know you'll agree with me when I say no one in this country has been a victim of unfair media coverage more than President Donald Trump.”
Pam Bondi, center of donation controversy, pushes Biden nepotism claims
Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi pushed a number of accusations that Trump has levied against the Biden family as corrupt and nepotistic — story lines that are likely to become common lines of attack as the two candidates face off ahead of Election Day.
Bondi touted a number of accusations against the Biden children of abusing their father’s vice presidency to land advantageous business deals. In particular, she went after Hunter Biden, who has become a common Republican punching bag. Hunter Biden was featured in a Trump ad campaign that portrayed him as corrupt and his father as cozy with China.
The Biden family has repeatedly denied the allegations of corruption levied against them.
Bondi was at the center of her own controversy before Trump took office after Trump violated campaign finance law with a donation from his foundation to Bondi’s election committee in 2013. Bondi later opted not to pursue an investigation into the failed Trump University, prompting accusations that Trump had bought off Bondi.
Bondi has denied any wrongdoing in the donation controversy.
Pence gets personal with everyday Americans at Lincoln’s home
Vice President Mike Pence listened to everyday Americans talk about how they benefited from Trump policies in a cinematic bit that compared the president to Abraham Lincoln.
Pence spoke with a range of people, including the mother of a child who used school vouchers to attend a specialized school and an Ohio truck driver who praised Trump as caring for everyday Americans’ needs.
They spoke of how policies such as the paycheck protection program helped them weather the coronavirus economic crisis and how they saw Trump’s trade wars as fighting for American workers. The anecdotes illustrated the night’s theme of Trump as protector of the American dream.
With golden-hour lighting and nostalgic orchestral music, Pence stood at Lincoln’s childhood home and said “a young man would grow up to be the first Republican president of the United States. And today, another Republican president is fighting to preserve that same noble legacy of freedom.”
Trump’s female aides call him a ‘champion for women’
A collection of Trump’s top female aides cast him as a “champion for women” in a video segment.
The video highlighted Trump’s selection of Kellyanne Conway to head up his 2016 White House bid — an appointment that resulted in Conway’s becoming the first female manager of a winning presidential campaign.
And Katrina Pierson, Trump’s 2016 national spokesperson, said her hiring more than four years ago made her the “first Black woman to represent a Republican presidential campaign, winning presidential campaign, in United States history.”
The video also focused on the fact that the president’s three most recent press secretaries — Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Stephanie Grisham and Kayleigh McEnany — are all mothers.
“With these capable women placed in positions of powerful, influence and authority,” a voiceover said, “President Trump has proven that when the stakes are highest, he is proud to entrust many of our nation’s most crucial jobs to women.”
After the conclusion of the video, Trump’s younger daughter, Tiffany, addressed the convention, remarking that her father has “demonstrated his faith in his uncompromising heart and actions.”
Trump holds surprise naturalization ceremony in the White House
At the top of the second hour of the convention’s televised portion, five people stood in the White House and recited the naturalization oath of allegiance to the United States of America under the lead of acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, with Trump looking on.
“Today, America rejoices as we welcome five absolutely incredible people into our great American family,” ]Trump said after the ceremony. “You are now fellow citizens of the greatest nation on the face of God’s Earth. Congratulations. Great going. You followed the rules, you obeyed the laws. You learned your history, embraced our values and proved yourselves to be men and women of the highest integrity.”
Trump read short bios of the immigrants from Bolivia, Lebanon, India, Sudan and Ghana, who spoke multiple languages and held various academic degrees.
“With the rights and freedoms that you each enjoy, there’s no dream beyond your wildest reach because Americans can do anything,” Trump said.
Eric Trump to his father: ‘I love you very much’
Eric Trump hailed his father’s efforts to “Make America Great Again” in a convention speech that sought at times to humanize the president.
Eric, the Trump Organization’s executive vice president, said his father launched his 2016 White House bid “not because he needed the job, but because he knew hard-working people across this great country were being left behind.”
As a result, “our family lost friends,” he said. “But it only pushed us to fight harder.”
Eric closed his primetime address with a series of remarks directed at his father. “I miss working alongside you every single day, but I’m damn proud to be on the front lines of this fight,” he said, adding that he was “proud to show my children what their grandfather is fighting for.”
Eric also referenced the death earlier this month of Trump’s brother Robert, whom the president held a White House funeral for last Friday. “Dad, let’s make Uncle Robert very proud this week,” he said. “Let’s go get another four years. I love you very much.”
Pompeo pumps up Trump's America First message
Trump’s America First policy has had a positive benefit around the world, from holding China accountable for its role in the coronavirus pandemic to defeating the Islamic State, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed in a taped address.
Pompeo, who delivered his speech against the backdrop of Jerusalem‘s Old City, highlighted several of Trump’s notable efforts, including strengthening NATO, providing defensive weapons to Ukraine, killing top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in an airstrike, and trying to defeat the Islamic State.
Trump’s America First policy “may not have made him popular in every foreign capital, but it’s worked,” Pompeo said.
His presence in Jerusalem also called attention to Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Pompeo’s decision to deliver remarks at the convention drew criticism from diplomats and Democrats in Congress, who announced ahead of the speech that they will investigate if the appearance at a political event is legal.
Melania Trump goes where other Republicans won't
First Lady Melania Trump was willing to broach topics others at the Republican National Convention didn't — the coronavirus' death toll, her own lengthy immigration story, and racial unrest.
Delivering the keynote address at the second night of the convention, Melania Trump reflected on a number of her own experiences as first lady, thanked front line workers of coronavirus and acknowledged the racial unrest that has rocked the country for the past few months.
She made a call for civility and peace both at home and abroad, evoking her childhood dreams of America in communist Yugoslav Slovenia.
It wasn't until deep into her speech, however, that Melania Trump spoke about her husband.
She briefly touched on Trump's investment in historically Black colleges and universities and his administration's prioritization of religious freedom.
But the majority of her address was both an appeal to the country's morality and her own experience as first lady. She spoke aspirationally about her own next four years as first lady if her husband is reelected.
It was a stark contrast from the bombastic and adulating addresses by other members of the Trump family who spoke at the convention. And a divergence from the strong, supporting roles that speakers and Biden family members played at the Democratic National Convention.