Updates and analysis from Day 3 of the Republican National Convention

Wednesday's speakers included Mike and Karen Pence, Kellyanne Conway, Sen. Joni Ernst, Gov. Kristi Noem and Lara Trump.
Image: Vice President Mike Pence will be the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night.
Vice President Mike Pence will be the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

The Republican National Convention continued Wednesday with speeches from Vice President Mike Pence, his wife, Karen Pence, and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.

Pence delivered the evening's keynote address from Baltimore's Fort McHenry, whose defense of the city's harbor from the British in the War of 1812 inspired the writing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," and he's expected to lean heavily on patriotic themes as he makes the case for a second term and draws a contrast with former Vice President Joe Biden.

Conway had one of her most highest-profile moments just days before she leaves the White House. The senior adviser, who managed the president's campaign in the final months of the 2016 election, has announced she will leave the administration at the end of the month to focus more on her family.

Other featured speakers included White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany; Sens. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Joni Ernst of Iowa; South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem; the president's daughter-in-law and campaign adviser Lara Trump; and the former acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell.

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RNC to dig in on law and order as Jacob Blake shooting fuels fresh protests

Driving President Trump's "law and order" message, the third night of the Republican convention Wednesday is expected to emphasize police and the military against the backdrop of protests sparked by a police officer shooting a Black man in Wisconsin.

"The violence we are seeing in these and other cities isn’t happening by chance; it’s the direct result of elected leaders refusing to allow law enforcement to protect our communities," Michael McHale, a veteran of the Sarasota police department, is expected to say, according to excerpts shared by the Trump campaign.

Sam Vigil, whose wife was shot and killed in her car in their garage, will thank the president for “Operation Legend,” the federal law enforcement program Trump initiated in the wake of the George Floyd protests, according to the campaign.

“The police were overwhelmed. They needed help. Help arrived when President Trump launched Operation Legend in July of this year,” Vigil is expected to say.

The end of the third night of programming will feature Vice President Mike Pence accepting his party's nomination to again serve as Trump's running mate.

Read more about the RNC's 'law and order" program here.

As Richard Grenell addresses RNC, GOP platform still opposes gay marriage

Former U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell is scheduled to speak to the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night, becoming only the third openly gay man to address the Grand Old Party’s quadrennial event.

Grenell, who served as acting director of national intelligence for several months earlier this year and thus became the first openly gay Cabinet official, recently appeared in a video produced by the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay conservative group, in which he called Trump “the most pro-gay president” in history.

But while Trump is the first Republican president to verbalize his support for same-sex marriage (before he was elected in 2016, he told Bill O’Reilly he opposed it), the party he helms still officially opposes gay unions — five years after they became legal across the United States.

Read more here.

Harris says Pence speech will be 'nothing but lies'

In a campaign text to supporters, Kamala Harris said that Mike Pence's keynote speech Wednesday before the Republican National Convention will contain "nothing but lies."

"Mike Pence is speaking tonight at the RNC, but I'm not worried about what he's going to say — I know it will be nothing but lies," she said.

The Biden campaign has blasted the president's renomination convention on similar grounds. On Tuesday, the campaign said the first night of the RNC contained "too many lies to count" and amounted to "total malarkey." 

Pence is set to speak from Fort McHenry in Baltimore later Wednesday. He is expected to fill his address with patriotic themes while hitting on the culture war controversy over standing during the national anthem, as an administration official told NBC News.

Trump calls for drug test before debate with Biden. He used the same baseless attack on Clinton.

President Trump called for Joe Biden to take a drug test before their highly-anticipated fall debate, a familiar half-baked attack he used against Hillary Clinton in 2016 during their debates. 

"Nobody thought that he was even going to win," Trump told The Washington Examiner in an interview published Wednesday. "Because his debate performances were so bad. Frankly, his best performance was against Bernie. We're going to call for a drug test, by the way, because his best performance was against Bernie. It wasn't that he was Winston Churchill, because he wasn't, but it was a normal, boring debate. You know, nothing amazing happened. And we are going to call for a drug test, because there's no way — you can't do that."

Biden participated in 11 Democratic primary debates in a crowded field of candidates. He earned praise for his debate performance in South Carolina before his decisive victory in the primary, but also received some criticism for rambling answers in others.

Trump used the same baseless attack against Clinton in 2016. He claimed that drugs actually depleted her energy during the debates, saying "she was all pumped up at the beginning, and at the end it was like, 'Oh, take me down.' She could barely reach her car."

Two House Democrats ask for probe into possible Hatch Act violations

Two congressional Democrats are asking the U.S. Office of Special Council to investigate whether acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and “other senior members of the Trump administration” violated the Hatch Act during the Republican National Convention on Tuesday evening, according to a letter provided to NBC.

The Hatch Act of 1939 prohibits federal employees from engaging in most political activity inside federal buildings or while working for the federal government.

“They coordinated a citizenship ceremony and a pardon as elements in the convention’s nationally-televised programming,” wrote Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois and Don Beyer of Virginia. “These officials mixed official government business with political activities as part of one of the largest political campaign events of the year,” the two wrote. Krishnamoorthi sits on the House Oversight Committee.

Read more here.

What to expect from Pence's speech at Fort McHenry tonight

Trump sends federal law enforcement and National Guard to Kenosha

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that he is sending federal law enforcement and the National Guard to Kenosha, Wisconsin, to "restore law and order" amid protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man.

"We will NOT stand for looting, arson, violence, and lawlessness on American streets," Trump said in a series of tweets. "My team just got off the phone with Governor Evers who agreed to accept federal assistance." 

The announcement comes after Tuesday night's protests in Kenosha where two people were killed and one was injured. An investigation is underway and the victims' identities have not yet been released, the city police department said. A 17-year-old has been taken into custody and faces charges of intentional homicide, authorities said.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced on Wednesday that he was sending 500 National Guard members to Kenosha tonight.

Trump added that Portland, Oregon, should follow in Kenosha's footsteps and accept federal assistance after a riot at city hall where 23 protestors were arrested.

Meanwhile, Trump’s opponent Joe Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, said Wednesday they had spoken with Blake’s family to offer their support. In a video posted to his Twitter account, Biden said he told them that “justice must and will be done.”

“What I saw that video makes me sick,” Biden says. He also condemned violence and looting in Kenosha, saying that, “protesting brutality is a right and absolutely necessary. But burning down communities is not protest. It’s needless violence.”

Harris, appearing at a virtual event with Michigan community leaders a short while later, saying that she, too, spoke with Blake’s family and offered her thoughts on the shooting.

“What happened there is so tragic and still represents the two systems of justice in America. There are still two systems of justice in America,” she said. “We need to fight again for that ideal that  all people are supposed to be treated equally, which is still not happening.”

GOP gov says Trump shouldn't treat the coronavirus like an 'afterthought' in messaging

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday that President Donald Trump should not treat the pandemic like an "afterthought" in his messaging if he wants to change the opinions of voters amid criticisms of the administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“When it comes to coronavirus, whenever he speaks to the public, he needs to address it," Hutchinson told The Washington Post on Wednesday. "It needs to not be an afterthought in his messaging. He needs to lead in that."

"I would’ve liked to see his call to wear a mask earlier, but he’s recognized that," the Republican governor added.

Hutchinson's comments come after the first two nights of the Republican convention did not make the ongoing fight against COVID-19 a major focus despite voters saying the pandemic is the most important issue facing the country.

Hutchinson added that the message needs to be extended beyond his home state of Arkansas, which has seen more than 57,00 COVID-19 cases and more than 700 deaths. "We need it in the nation, as well,” he said.

Dozens of attendees at Melania Trump speech weren't tested for coronavirus

Not all attendees at first lady Melania Trump’s Rose Garden address were tested for coronavirus ahead of her remarks Tuesday night, according to White House and campaign officials.

Guests who were in the first few rows for her speech and who interacted with her, as well as the president, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, were screened for the virus before the remarks, but dozens of others in the audience were not. 

The same health and safety protocols, which have been in place at the White House for the last several months of the pandemic, are expected to be applied to President Trump’s acceptance speech  tomorrow night on the South Lawn, according to the Trump campaign, which referred NBC News to the White House for more details. The White House, in turn, referred NBC News back to the campaign. 

“We have contracted with coronavirus experts, a firm that is advising us on those, and all appropriate precautions are being taken for all of the events of the convention that have live audiences,” Trump 2020 communications director Tim Murtaugh said on a call with reporters Wednesday afternoon, declining to offer more specifics. 

NBC News has asked whether the campaign or White House did the actual testing and who covered the costs incurred but has not yet gotten a response. There are expected to be more than 1,000 people on the White House South Lawn on Thursday evening, made up in large part of GOP lawmakers. 

It’s unclear whether all the attendees at Fort McHenry in Baltimore will be tested before arriving tonight for Vice President Mike Pence’s speech. There will be about 140 people in the audience,  many of them veterans. The chairs are slightly apart but not a full 6 feet, similar to what was seen in the Rose Garden on Tuesday night. 

'A stain on his record forever': Top Dems slam Pence over coronavirus response before RNC speech

Democratic leaders slammed Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday before his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention over what they described as a failure to properly deal with the coronavirus pandemic. 

"He's head of the coronavirus task force. I wouldn't be proud of that if I were him," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said on a call with reporters hosted by the Democratic National Committee and Joe Biden's presidential campaign. "Look how poorly we've done. So clearly, the response of the administration, and if Pence was leading it, it's a severe indictment of him that will be a stain on his record forever, no matter what he does afterwards."

Schumer added: "When Trump just lies and misstates things to the detriment of the country, Pence is quiet as a little mouse. That's another indictment of him."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said Pence had "pulled his punch on the fight against the virus" and was "slow in anticipation ... and reacting to what was happening out there."

"In terms of the spread of the virus, he sort of became a — I don't know what — just a figure in the background for a while, and then I don't think he ever emerged, and maybe until tonight," she said. 

Fencing being installed near the White House, though its purpose is unclear

Fencing was seen being installed near the White House on Wednesday, though it is unclear what it's for specifically.

The National Park Service said in a public notice that public areas around the White House would be closed on certain days this week "to provide security and ensure public safety for Republican National Convention events on the White House South Lawn."

Asked about the fencing going up around the White House complex, a White House official would not address security issues, but said there’s “no concern the protests will step on the president’s message.” 

President Donald Trump is set to deliver his nomination acceptance speech from the White House on Thursday night, the final night of the Republican National Convention. A fireworks display over the National Mall is planned as well, which reportedly could also draw protesters, and a rally to commemorate the 1963 march on Washington is scheduled for Friday.