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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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889d ago / 1:55 AM UTC

Lou Holtz attacks Biden as 'Catholic in Name Only'

Former football coach Lou Holtz gave a speech on Wednesday night hoping to boost the religious case for Trump's re-election, a common thread in several of the convention’s speeches.

"One of the important reasons he has my trust is because nobody has been a stronger advocate for the unborn than President Trump," he said. "The Biden-Harris ticket is the most radically pro-abortion campaign in history. They and other politicians are 'Catholics in Name Only' and abandon innocent lives. President Trump protects those lives. I trust President Trump."

Biden's Roman Catholic faith has been a central part of his life and political career spanning decades.

The GOP convention has received criticism for its overt themes of castigating those who are not pro-life. The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, tweeted Wednesday night, "Pro life means pro all lives, not pro some lives.”

"Pro life means reverencing not just the unborn child, but the Black person whose life is endangered, the inmate on death row, the starving homeless person, the migrant family,” he said. 

889d ago / 1:49 AM UTC

McEnany and Conway seek to fix Trump’s 'caring' deficit

On the third night of the RNC, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and departing counselor Kellyanne Conway focused their speeches on describing President Trump as a caring person, an issue on which he struggles in polls.

McEnany spoke of how he called to care for her while she underwent a preventative mastectomy. "The same way President Trump has supported me, he supports you," she said. "I see it every day."

Conway said she has "seen firsthand, many times, the president comforting and encouraging a child who has lost a parent, a parent who has lost a child, a worker who lost his job, an adolescent who lost her way to drugs. Don’t lose hope, he has told them."

Trump trails Biden by 11 points in a recent CNN poll testing the often-important question of which candidate "cares about people like you." A recent YouGov poll found Trump was nine points underwater on whether he "cares about people like you,” while Joe Biden was six points in positive territory on the same question.

889d ago / 1:47 AM UTC

Fact check: Would Biden's plan raise taxes by $4 trillion? Yes, but it targets top earners.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., said that the Democratic nominee Joe Biden wants to levy “$4 trillion in new taxes” on  “American workers, entrepreneurs and small businesses.”

It’s true that Biden’s tax proposals are estimated to raise taxes by approximately $4 trillion over 10 years, but Stefanik’s claim that Biden wants to tax middle class workers and small businesses is false.

Biden’s tax plan, aimed at making the ultra-wealthy and major corporations pay more, would raise taxes on high earners and includes proposals to tax capital gains at the same rate as ordinary income for people making more than $1 million a year and roll back President Trump’s tax cuts for people making more than $400,000. He also wants to raise the corporate tax rate and create tax minimums for corporate profits and corporations’ foreign earnings.  

In a recent interview, Biden said Americans making less than $400,000 a year and “Mom and Pop businesses that employ less than 50 people” wouldn’t see a tax increase. The Tax Foundation and the Tax Policy Center have both reviewed the proposals and found that the top 5 percent of taxpayers would be most affected. 

889d ago / 1:46 AM UTC

Madison Cawthorn, who could be youngest congressman in centuries, speaks at RNC

Madison Cawthorn, a 25-year-old Republican congressional candidate in North Carolina, spoke at the Republican National Convention Wednesday as President Trump sought to highlight one of the party’s younger voices.

“To liberals, let’s have a conversation. Be a true liberal, listen to other ideas and let the best ones prevail,” Cawthorn said. “To conservatives, let’s define what we support and win the argument in areas like health care and the environment.”

Cawthorn, who has used a wheelchair after an accident when he was 18, stood up at the end of his address, telling supporters to "be a radical for our republic. For which I stand."

A rising star in the party, Cawthorn was caught in a social media firestorm earlier this month after an old Instagram post in which referred to Hitler as "the Fuhrer" resurfaced. 

Cawthorn wins his election in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, a seat formerly held by Mark Meadows, he will be the youngest member of Congress in at least 200 years.

889d ago / 1:37 AM UTC

Fact check: The 19th Amendment didn’t given all women the right to vote

Second lady Karen Pence, presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway and Lara Trump, a senior adviser to Trump's campaign, celebrated the passage of the 19th Amendment in their remarks on the third night of the RNC, something first lady Melania Trump touched on during her speech Tuesday, too.

“One hundred years ago today, the 19th amendment was adopted into the United States Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote. Because of heroes like Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone women today, like our daughters, Audrey and Charlotte, and future generations will have their voices heard and their votes count,” Pence said.

Lara Trump claimed that, "One hundred years ago today, the 19th Amendment was ratified granting the right to vote to every American woman."

But all the women Wednesday night failed to acknowledge a crucial reality of the 19th Amendment: It enfranchised white women, while many Black women remained disenfranchised. The amendment outlawed keeping women from voting based on their gender, but Black women who attempted to vote in 1920 were often still subject to the poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses that disenfranchised Black men in many states.

Even prior to the 19th Amendment’s ratification, as women across the country organized, marched, and lobbied for enfranchisement, Black women took on their share of the work only to be shunned or excluded by the wider, white suffrage movement. Anthony herself grew hostile to the idea that a Black man would have the right to vote before white women. Black suffragists like Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Adella Hunt Logan constantly fought to be included in marches and were subjected to segregated or limited inclusion.

889d ago / 1:31 AM UTC

Kellyanne Conway’s RNC speech is a signal to suburban women

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, who managed President Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, gave a speech Wednesday night that both tried to humanize the president and signal to women in America’s suburbs — a crucial voting bloc for the campaign. 

“This has been a century worth celebrating, but also a reminder that our democracy is young and fragile. A woman in a leadership role still can seem novel. Not so for President Trump,” she said. “For decades, he has elevated women to senior positions in business and in government. He confides in and consults us, respects our opinions, and insists that we are on equal footing with the men.” 

Conway, one of the president's longest-serving advisers, is leaving her post at the end of the month.

889d ago / 1:27 AM UTC

Fact check: Kayleigh McEnany misleads on Trump and pre-existing conditions

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told a compelling story about her battle with a BRCAII genetic mutation, a pre-existing condition.

She said President Trump personally reached out to check on her and care for her as she sought a preventative mastectomy. “I know him well,” McEnany said. “And I can tell you that this president stands by Americans with pre-existing conditions.”

Trump’s policy record on pre-existing conditions, however, tells a different story.

He has fought for legislation that would undo the Affordable Care Act and weaken those protections. He’s currently supporting a lawsuit that would wipe out current safeguards for pre-existing conditions, without offering a replacement plan. The president has also used his executive authority to expand the use of short-term health plans, which are less expensive but not required to cover pre-existing medical conditions.

889d ago / 1:20 AM UTC

Fact check: Does Biden want to defund police, ICE and the military? No, no and no.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, in her RNC speech Wednesday, accused Democrats — singling out Joe Biden and Kamala Harris by name — of wanting to defund the police, the military and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“As hard as Democrats try, they can't cancel our heroes, they can't contest their bravery and they can't dismiss the powerful sense of service that lives deep in their souls. So they tried to defund them. Our military, our police, even ICE, to take away their tools to keep us safe,” Blackburn said. “Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and their radical allies tried to destroy these heroes because if there are no heroes to inspire us, government can control us.”

All of her claims are not true.

As NBC News pointed out on both the first and second nights of the RNC (following similar claims from other Republicans), Biden does not support calls from some on the left to defund the police. He has explicitly said so on multiple occasions. In addition, the official Democratic Party platform, approved last week, includes no references to defunding the police.

Biden also has not called to abolish ICE. He has explicitly said he doesn’t want to abolish the agency, and has instead called for reforms, particularly regarding how it deals with undocumented immigrants who have not committed any crimes.

Biden has not made any pledges to defund the military, either, and has even faced calls from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party over not making a more overt commitment to slashing defense spending.

Blackburn, for her part, went further, saying Democrats “don't recognize” heroes like police officers “because they don't fit into their narrative.”

That’s also not true.

Biden, at the Democratic National Convention last week, said, “Most cops are good.” He added, “but the fact is, the bad ones need to be identified and prosecuted.”

889d ago / 1:16 AM UTC

McEnany opens about about health scare, but misses key fact

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany spoke at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday to talk about how President Trump supported her while she underwent a preventative mastectomy.

“It was my doctor, informing me that I had tested positive for the BRCAII genetic mutation— a mutation that put my chances of breast cancer at 84 percent,” she said, adding, “In my family, eight women were diagnosed with breast cancer — several in their 20s. I now faced the same prospect. For nearly a decade, I was routinely at my cancer hospital, getting MRIs and ultrasounds and participating in necessary surveillance.”

She said Trump called to check on her shortly after the procedure.

“Choosing to have a preventative mastectomy was the hardest decision I have made,” she said. “But supporting President Trump, who will protect my daughter and our children’s future, was the easiest.”

What McEnany didn’t say is the Affordable Care Act, one of President Obama's signature policy achievements, made insurance coverage for BRCA gene testing mandatory for women who meet certain criteria, not only those who can afford to pay for testing out of pocket. Trump and Republicans have tried repeatedly to repeal and replace the landmark health care law. 

889d ago / 1:08 AM UTC

Fact check: South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem distorts recent protests

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, in her Republican National Convention speech Wednesday, accused Democrats — and only Democrats — of running cities that have been taken over by “violent mobs.”

"From Seattle and Portland, to Washington and New York, Democrat-run cities across this country are being overrun by violent mobs. The violence is rampant. There’s looting, chaos, destruction and murder."

This is a substantial distortion and exaggeration of the facts.

Outrage over the death of George Floyd, who died in May after the white Minneapolis police officer arresting him knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, sparked protests against police brutality and in support of racial justice all over the country, in cities and states run by both Democrats and Republicans.

While the cities Noem listed all have Democratic mayors, and are all in states with Democratic governors (with the exception of Washington, D.C.) , protests have taken place in at least 450 cities across the U.S. Those included large ones in Miami, whose mayor is a registered Republican. Protests also arose in smaller cities and towns in regions supportive of Trump.

Furthermore, Noem’s claim that the cities she spoke of were “overrun by violent mobs,” is outright false.

The protests across the U.S. in recent months were largely peaceful. Violent incidents did occur, but many were initiated by outside groups with political agendas. Violence during recent protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which formed after a Black man, Jacob Blake, was shot seven times in the back by a police officer, appears to be following a similar pattern as protesters are met by armed pro-police counter activists. Read more here.

889d ago / 1:06 AM UTC

Rep. Dan Crenshaw honors front-line workers in RNC speech

Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL and a rising star in the party, kicked off Night 3 of the RNC by honoring those who have served in battle in the U.S. armed forces and also those who have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Since 9/11, I’ve seen America’s heroes up close. Some of them saved my life. Some of them saved many other’s lives. Many of them never made it home,” he said. “But America’s heroism is not relegated to the battlefield.”

He added: "Every single day we see them… if you just know where to look. It’s the nurse who volunteers for back to back shifts caring for COVID patients because she feels that’s her duty. It’s the parent who will re-learn algebra because there’s no way they’re letting their kid fall behind while schools are closed."

There have been nearly 6 million confirmed cases and more than 180,000 deaths in U.S., according to an NBC News tally. The administration has been routinely criticized for its lackluster response to the pandemic.

889d ago / 1:02 AM UTC

Kellyanne Conway on virus precautions and crowd size for Trump's speech tomorrow

Asked about the crowd of attendees for President Trump’s acceptance speech tomorrow on the South Lawn, Conway said she’s not sure about how large the crowd will be.

But they will all “absolutely” receive COVID-19 tests in order to attend the speech as “you can’t be here without it” Conway said, adding that she has “no idea” if they’ll be wearing masks, but again stressed that “they’re all Covid tested or they can’t be there.”

889d ago / 12:58 AM UTC

South Dakota’s governor rails against U.S. cities, but her comments don't add up

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem claimed cities across the country "are being overrun by violent mobs" in her convention speech, which came hours after a pro-police 17-year-old allegedly shot and killed multiple people at a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

“From Seattle and Portland to Washington and New York, Democrat-run cities across this country are being overrun by violent mobs,” Noem said. “The violence is rampant. There’s looting, chaos, destruction, and murder.”

“People that can afford to flee have fled. But the people that can’t — good, hard-working Americans — are left to fend for themselves.”

But critics hit back at the remarks online, saying her characterization of what’s going on in American cities is inaccurate. In fact, the places she cited have been adding population. Seattle is up 23.8 percent since 2010, the Census Bureau reports. DC is up 17.3 percent. Portland has added 12.2 percent to its population. And New York, which doesn’t have a lot of extra space, is 2 percent more crowded.

Her comments also ignore that the exodus from U.S. cities into the suburbs began with the pandemic, which has allowed more people to work remotely.

889d ago / 12:51 AM UTC

Fact check: Dan Crenshaw says ISIS is defeated. The U.S. military says it is not.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, a rising star in the party, said Wednesday: “The defeat of ISIS was the result of America believing in our heroes, our president having their backs and rebuilding our military so we'd have what we needed to finish the mission.”

But the United States military says ISIS hasn’t been defeated. Although it is true that the violent extremist group last year lost the last of its territory in Iraq and Syria, and that its leader was killed in a U.S-led air strike, the Pentagon warns that the group has since found safe havens in the region and is seeking to build a caliphate.

“While ISIS no longer has the ability to hold ground, the terrorist organization isn't completely defeated,” reads an article published two weeks ago by the U.S. Department of Defense, which quoted Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. saying that defeating the group will require a plan for displaced Syrian refugees and for local forces to be able to combat ISIS on their own.

Crenshaw’s depiction mirrors Trump’s rhetoric, which some of his own allies have rejected. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a frequent golfing partner of the president, said last October on Fox News: “The biggest lie being told by the administration is that ISIS has been defeated.”

889d ago / 12:46 AM UTC

RNC crowded out on social and search by a busy news day

The third night of the RNC has some tough competition: numerous major news events. 

Hurricane Laura, the NBA boycott and Tuesday night's shooting in Kenosha have rendered the convention an also-ran on Twitter and in Google's search engine. As of Wednesday night, no RNC-related topics showed up in Twitter's trending tab or in Google's real-time search trends.

889d ago / 12:42 AM UTC

Pence expected to address race amid unrest in Wisconsin


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.

889d 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.  

890d 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. 

890d 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.

890d 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.

890d ago / 11:40 PM UTC
890d 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.

890d 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."

890d 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."

890d 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.

890d 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.

890d 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.

890d 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."

890d 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.

890d ago / 8:03 PM UTC

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

890d 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.”

890d 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.

890d 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. 

890d 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. 

890d ago / 4:46 PM UTC

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.

890d 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.

890d ago / 4:12 PM UTC
890d ago / 3:06 PM UTC

'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.

890d ago / 2:41 PM UTC
890d 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.

890d 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.

890d 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.

890d 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.