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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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.
What to watch for on Night 3
Republicans used the first night of their convention to paint a dark view of a world without President Donald Trump, then whipsawed on the second night to feel-good stories aimed at women, minorities and traditional Republican voters. So what will night three hold?
It will be Vice President Mike Pence’s big moment to make the case for why he and Trump deserve another four years in office. He’ll have the help of several other administration officials, like his onetime pollster Kellyanne Conway, who will be leaving her job as White House counselor at the end of the month, and members of Congress facing tough races of their own, like Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.
The evening will offer a bit of a change in scenery after two nights heavy on prerecorded speeches with the same camera angles from the same stage: Pence will give his speech from a former fort in Baltimore best known as the site where Francis Scott Key was inspired to to write “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the War of 1812.
'There was no violation of law': White House responds to Hatch Act criticisms of last night’s RNC
In response to criticisms about President Donald Trump hosting a naturalization ceremony and pardoning a convicted felon during Tuesday night’s RNC broadcast, a White House official said "there was no violation of law."
"The president held a naturalization ceremony and pardoned an individual, which were official White House events," the official said in a statement. "The White House publicized the content of both events on a public website (Tuesday) afternoon and the campaign decided to use the publicly available content for campaign purposes."
The Hatch Act bars federal employees besides the president from engaging in political activities in their official capacity. Critics charged that acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf's presiding over a pre-taped naturalization ceremony during the convention may have been a violation.
Violations of the act can result in disciplinary actions or removal from the government, though such a strong response has not taken place in light of high-profile instances. On Tuesday night, another potential violation occurred when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke in a taped speech from Jerusalem.
In an interview with Politico on Wednesday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Pompeo was "talking in his personal capacity and used no federal assets to do that."
"Can they campaign from their official office? Absolutely not. But we also know that those lines are blurred," Meadows said.
FIRST READ: Republicans seek to sell kinder, gentler Trump
WASHINGTON — On Monday night, it was (mostly) fire and brimstone. Last night at the GOP convention, there was more of an effort to soften President Trump’s image.
Trump oversaw a naturalization ceremony — to counter his policies and rhetoric towards immigrants.
He pardoned a Black man — to counter the perception that he’s a racist.
And his wife, First Lady Melania Trump, expressed sympathy with those killed by the coronavirus and talked about the racial unrest — to counter the reality that her husband has spent too little time on these subjects.
Call it the Donald J. Trump Image Restoration Project.
It’s unclear this effort will work, especially when the president takes center stage on Thursday and for the rest of the campaign.
But they’re trying.
ANALYSIS: Trump's 'alternate reality' TV convention tests his beliefs about people
As he asks voters for a second term, Donald Trump has turned the Republican National Convention into a fantasyland version of his presidency. In this carefully curated world, staged by federal officials in Washington and Jerusalem, Trump has defeated coronavirus, saved the economy, built a border wall, established peace in the Middle East, recalled U.S. forces from theaters of war, and even become a champion of immigrants at a time when he is sharply curtailing their access.
The distance between reality and Trump's presentation is both a glaring weakness for the president and a gap in which he sees strength heading into the November election.