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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.

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading RNC news from this week.

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723d ago / 12:42 AM UTC

Pence expected to address race amid unrest in Wisconsin

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Mike Pence is set to deliver a “brighter vision" of Donald Trump’s second-term agenda and may touch broadly on issues of race and police shootings, a source familiar with the speech told NBC News.

The source said Pence will give a policy-heavy speech that draws contrasts with Joe Biden and will acknowledge that it’s a volatile time in the U.S., pointing to the pandemic and protests.

While Pence’s speech is set to highlight Trump’s second-term agenda, the president himself has at times struggled to articulate what he seeks to accomplish in his second term.

"I would strengthen what we’ve done and I would do new things,” Trump told Fox News in an interview that aired Sunday.

His campaign released bullet points ahead of the RNC outlining what the Trump second-term agenda is.

723d ago / 12:37 AM UTC

Kellyanne Conway says RNC speech will be 'positive'

Kellyanne Conway gave NBC News a brief preview of her remarks to the RNC this evening.

"I wrote them myself," she said, saying her goal is “Illustrating the "real people impact" of the President's policies. "It is positive and I am grateful."

Conway who is leaving the White House and federal employment says she is making this appearance in her personal capacity.  

723d ago / 12:34 AM UTC

RNC speakers with a past: Allegations of plagiarism, hostility to immigrants, QAnon and anti-Muslim bias

Critics are calling for one of Wednesday's RNC speakers to be removed from the lineup because of plagiarism allegations and QAnon ties — and he's not the only speaker with ties to the conspiracy theory and who has made controversial remarks.

Burgess Owens, a Republican congressional candidate in Utah, plagiarized numerous passages in his 2018 book "Why I Stand: From Freedom to the Killing Fields of Socialism," according to an analysis by Media Matters.

The Utah Democratic Party has called for his removal from the lineup, with chair Jeff Merchant saying, "People who cheat are not the type of leaders need or want." Conservative Trump critic Bill Kristol tweeted on Tuesday, "Will the RNC disinvite the plagiarist scheduled to speak tomorrow night?"

A Republican and former Utah lawmaker, Sheryl Atkins, also called for the RNC to boot Owens because of his ties to QAnon, a baseless conspiracy theory that idolizes President Donald Trump and talks about the arrest and execution of his enemies. Owens appeared on a YouTube show affiliated with the movement earlier this year.

Click here for the full story. 

723d ago / 12:20 AM UTC

Two of Trump's biggest impeachment defenders to speak Wednesday

Reps. Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin, both of New York, will speak at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday.

Both Zeldin and Stefanik boosted their profiles and caught Trump’s eye as two of his most vociferous defenders during his impeachment late last year and into the start of 2020.

Zeldin and Stefanik follow other Trump impeachment defenders like Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz. On Tuesday, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a member of Trump’s impeachment defense team, reprised her role, offering misleading attacks on Joe Biden’s family.

723d ago / 12:14 AM UTC

Trump to join Pence at Fort McHenry

President Trump will be joining Mike Pence at Fort McHenry on Wednesday to honor the invited guests in the audience, including Medal of Honor recipients, frontline workers, military veterans, firefighters, and police officers.

Trump is set to deliver his acceptance speech on Thursday, but he has appeared on camera during every night of the convention so far.

723d ago / 11:40 PM UTC
723d ago / 11:27 PM UTC

A brief explainer on Fort McHenry, site of Pence's RNC speech

Mike Pence will be speaking Wednesday from Fort McHenry in Baltimore, where he will deliver his keynote speech at the Republican National Convention.

The fort, a national historical site, was key in the War of 1812, specifically the battle of Baltimore, where it defended Baltimore Harbor from British attack. A flag that flew above the fort served as inspiration for "The Star Spangled Banner."

Earlier this week, a brick walkway at the historic site was damaged by crews setting up for Pence's speech.

723d ago / 11:07 PM UTC

Intelligence officials haven't seen anything to back up claims of foreign meddling in mail-in voting

Despite concerns expressed by President Trump and Attorney General Barr about voting by mail, including the possibility of printing counterfeit ballots, an intelligence official said Wednesday that no such effort has been detected.

"We have no information or intelligence that any nation state threat actor is engaging in any kind of activity to undermine any part of the mail-in vote or ballot," the official said.

A U.S. intelligence official said the only successful attacks seen so far have broadly targeted government computer networks, and "none have inhibited the ability for people to vote or the integrity of the process."

And in a major change from four years ago, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI now tell both local and state officials about any attempted hostile intrusions. In the past, such attempts sometimes went unreported because of concerns about sharing intelligence information.

States independently conduct their elections, and that lack of centralization turns out to be an asset.

"It's very difficult for an adversary to meddle with the actual vote count," an FBI official said.

As for concerns about domestic mail voter fraud, an FBI official said it would be "extraordinarily difficult to change a federal election outcome through this type of fraud alone, given the range of processes that would need to be compromised at the local level."

723d ago / 10:56 PM UTC

Legendary college football coach Lou Holtz to praise Trump at RNC

Legendary college football coach Lou Holtz, 83, will speak in praise of Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday.

"When a leader tells you something, you’ve got to be able to count on it. That’s President Trump," he will say. "He says what he means, he means what he says, and he’s done what he said he would do at every single turn."

Holtz, who endorsed Trump in 2016, apologized in 2008 for saying on ESPN that "Hitler was a great leader, too" when talking about another coach struggling initially at a new job.

Holtz also made headlines earlier this month when he compared playing college football this fall to World War II in an interview with Fox News, saying it's necessary regardless of the risk.

"People stormed Normandy," Holtz said. "They knew there was going to be casualties, they knew there was gonna be risk. ... It's our way of living, look at it from both points of view. The risk is always there. But you cannot just look at it from one side."

723d ago / 10:44 PM UTC

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.

723d ago / 10:24 PM UTC

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.

723d ago / 9:31 PM UTC

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.

723d ago / 9:27 PM UTC

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."

723d ago / 9:13 PM UTC

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.

723d ago / 8:03 PM UTC

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

723d ago / 6:40 PM UTC

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.”

723d ago / 6:04 PM UTC

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.

723d ago / 5:43 PM UTC

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

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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. 

723d ago / 5:06 PM UTC

'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. 

723d ago / 4:46 PM UTC

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

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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.

723d ago / 4:13 PM UTC

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.

Read more about what to watch for here.

723d ago / 4:12 PM UTC
723d ago / 3:06 PM UTC

'There was no violation of law': White House responds to Hatch Act criticisms of last night’s RNC

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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.

724d ago / 2:41 PM UTC
724d ago / 1:28 PM UTC

FIRST READ: Republicans seek to sell kinder, gentler Trump

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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.

Get the rest of First Read.

724d ago / 1:00 PM UTC

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.

Read more of Jonathan Allen’s analysis here.

724d ago / 12:22 PM UTC

6 highlights from the RNC, Night 2: Melania, the Trump family, did anyone say COVID?

WASHINGTON — The White House was the star of the second night of the Republican National Convention as President Donald Trump's campaign trampled norms against using "The People's House" for campaign politics to cast it as the backdrop for first lady Melania Trump's keynote address.

Three of Trump's relatives spoke at the convention, which highlighted Trump's work on criminal justice reform, in contrast with his frequent warnings about crime, while largely ignoring the coronavirus crisis.

Here are six takeaways from Tuesday night.

724d ago / 10:35 AM UTC

'An alternate reality': Biden campaign calls RNC a cover-up for Trump's COVID failures

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden's campaign said the second night of the Republican convention Tuesday was an attempt to create an "alternate reality" to cover up for President Donald Trump's failures.

Biden's deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, accused the GOP of papering over the continuing deaths and economic suffering in the United States due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"President Trump's RNC is an alternate reality," Bedingfield said. "Donald Trump’s continual refusal to take this virus seriously has given the United States the worst outbreak in the world, and his convention's refusal to come to grips with reality or acknowledge the magnitude of the loss is a stark reminder to Americans of his complete failure to lead."

The evening offered "no plan for overcoming the pandemic," she said.

Read more on the Biden campaign's response.