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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Fact check: Pence, Lara Trump emphasize pre-pandemic job gains
Vice President Mike Pence and others talked up pre-pandemic data on the economy to make the case for President Trump's re-election on Wednesday night — numbers that no longer reflect the economic reality Americans are facing.
"When it came to the economy, President Trump kept his word and then some,” Pence said during his keynote address. “In our first three years businesses large and small created more than 7 million good-paying jobs.”
The U.S. added 6.5 million jobs in the Trump administration's first three years — a half-million more came during the final three months of Obama's administration after Trump's election, a period the White House likes to take credit for, too. It's a narrow slice of Trump's economic record, because the pandemic has wiped out all those job gains and more.
Pence also touted that “unemployment rates for African Americans and Hispanic Americans hit the lowest level ever recorded,” and joined Trump's daughter-in-law and senior campaign adviser Lara Trump in noting that the country had seen some of the lowest unemployment for women in more than half a century. All three data points were true, but thanks to the pandemic, are no longer anywhere close.
Pence faults Biden for not condemning violence last week. He condemned it 8 hours ago.
Addressing the RNC on Wednesday, Vice President Pence faulted Joe Biden for not condemning violence in American cities when he spoke at the Democratic convention: “Last week, Joe Biden didn’t say one word about the violence and chaos engulfing cities across this country. So let me be clear: the violence must stop.”
Pence did not mention that eight hours earlier, Biden posted a video on Twitter in which he unequivocally condemned the violence in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake on Sunday in Wisconsin.
“Protesting brutality is a right and absolutely necessary. But burning down communities is not protest, it's needless violence. Violence that endangers lives,” Biden said in the video. “That's wrong.”
Biden denounced violence after George Floyd’s death in similar terms in late May.
Pence offered a similar message as Biden during his speech on Wednesday: “President Donald Trump and I will always support the right of Americans to peaceful protest, but rioting and looting is not peaceful protest.”
Pence condemns violence at protests but does not mention police shootings that sparked protests
Mike Pence denounced acts of violence that have occurred during anti-racism protests across the country but did not mention the police shootings that sparked the unrest.
“Let me be clear: the violence must stop – whether in Minneapolis, Portland, or Kenosha,” Pence said. “Too many heroes have died defending our freedoms to see Americans strike each other down. We will have law and order on the streets of America.”
In Kenosha on Tuesday night, a pro-police teenager is alleged to have shot and killed multiple protesters in the aftermath of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Pence did not make mention of Blake, George Floyd or Breonna Taylor, nor did he reference the teenager, who is now charged with homicide.
"The American people know we don’t have to choose between supporting law enforcement and standing with African American neighbors to improve the quality of life in our cities and towns,” Pence said.
Officer Pence referred to was allegedly killed by 'Boogaloo' extremist
Hurricane Laura will not alter timing of Trump's acceptance speech, says campaign
President Trump’s campaign is pushing back at any suggestion that his Thursday acceptance speech could be adjusted due to Hurricane Laura’s impending landfall.
Multiple senior campaign officials tell NBC News there are no plans to delay the address, with one saying definitively: “The President’s acceptance speech will happen as scheduled Thursday night.”
An administration official tells us the same: the speech on the South lawn will go on, as originally planned. And White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who is at Fort McHenry tonight, previewed Thursday’s presidential remarks as “comprehensive and straightforward.”
Fact check: Pence credits Trump for Obama’s veterans choice program
At the RNC, Pence said: "After years of scandal that robbed our veterans of the care that you earned, in the uniform of the United States, President Trump kept his word again. We reformed the VA and veterans choice is now available for every veteran in America."
In fact, the veterans choice program was a bipartisan initiative enacted by President Barack Obama in 2014. It allowed the government to pay doctors outside the VA for veterans' care. It is misleading to imply that it only became available under President Trump.
Pence is right, however, that the Trump administration “reformed the VA” by signing the VA MISSION Act of 2018, which boosted funding for the choice program and expanded the eligibility criteria.
Pence touts Trump's pandemic response, promises vaccine by end of 2020
Mike Pence offered a vigorous defense of the administration’s response to COVID-19, despite routine criticism of its lackluster response to the pandemic.
He touted the administration’s efforts to get personal protective equipment to frontline workers, which health care professionals have said was insufficient given the severity of the virus, which has killed more than 180,000 people.
“What Joe [Biden] doesn’t seem to understand is that America is a nation of miracles and we’re on track to have the world’s first safe, effective coronavirus vaccine by the end of this year,” Pence said, referring to Operation Warp Speed, the program to develop an effective coronavirus treatment.
While scientists have made considerable progress in developing a safe and effective vaccine, it's far from assured that one will be ready to be delivered by the end of the year.
Grenell defends nationalism and 'America First'
Richard Grenell, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Germany and acting Director of National Intelligence, provided a staunch defense of President Trump's foreign policy record and of the idea of nationalism.
"The Washington elites want you to think this kind of foreign policy is immoral. And so they call it 'nationalist,'" Grenell said. "That tells you all you need to know. The D.C. crowd thinks when they call Donald Trump a nationalist, they’re insulting him. As if the American president isn’t supposed to base foreign policy on America’s national interests."
For decades, nationalism was considered a distasteful political platform for its association with the wars that destroyed significant parts of Europe. But Trump has embraced nationalism, at least in name, with his "America First" policies that have included aggressive actions on immigration and trade.
Lara Trump offers prayers to those in the path of Hurricane Laura
Lara Trump delivered the first significant mention of Hurricane Laura.
She offered prayers to the "Gulf states in the path of the hurricane."
The hurricane strengthened to a Category 4 storm Wednesday as it prepares to make landfall along the Texas and Louisiana border overnight. Public health emergencies were declared in Texas and Louisiana.
Lara Trump joins other speakers in saying you won’t be safe under Biden
Lara Trump joined a chorus of speakers at the Republican National Convention so far who have claimed America will no longer be safe under Joe Biden — nevermind that much of the violent imagery Americans are consuming through the media is taking place in the country Donald Trump is leading.
“In recent months, we have seen weak, spineless politicians cede control of our great American cities to violent mobs,” Lara Trump, Eric Trump’s wife and a top Trump campaign adviser, said. "Defund the police is the rallying cry for the new, radical Democrat Party."
“Joe Biden will not do what it takes to maintain order,” she continued. “To keep our children safe in our neighborhoods and in their schools. To restore our American way of life. We cannot dare to dream our biggest dreams — for ourselves or for our children — while consumed by worry about the safety of our families. President Trump is the law and order President -- from our borders to our backyards.”
It’s a theme we’ve heard echoed again and again and again — should Trump lose, no one is safe. This message comes against a backdrop of more than 175,000 people having died in a pandemic this year and social unrest that has led to widespread protesting in response to police shootings of Black men and women.