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Updates and analysis from Day 4 of the Republican National Convention

The convention concluded with President Donald Trump's acceptance speech.
Image: President Donald Trump and his daughter, Ivanka Trump, will be the keynote speakers on the last night of the Republican National Convention on Thursday.
President Trump and his daughter Ivanka will be the keynote speakers on the last night of the Republican National Convention on Thursday.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

The final day of the Republican National Convention took place on Thursday, culminating in President Donald Trump's speech accepting the Republican nomination for president.

Other speakers on Thursday included Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and senior adviser, and Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer.

Trump delivered his speech at the White House, a decision that critics have said could be a violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in certain political activities. The president and vice president are exempt from the law but other White House employees are not.

COVID tests, masks not required for Trump speech

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Thursday that "a number of" GOP convention guests at the White House tonight will have been tested for COVID-19 but that "you make choices individually." 

"I think it's a pretty safe environment, given the circumstances," Meadows said. "I'm not worried about that based on the protocols that we have in place."

Chairs set up on the lawn ahead of the speech were well under 6 feet apart, flouting local social distancing guidelines. With a crowd of more than 1,000 people, tonight's speech appears to be the largest non-socially-distanced White House event in the COVID era. The crowd is made up of a mix of GOP lawmakers, delegates, friends, family and donors from all over the country — some of whom have flown in. 

Masks were not required.

White House or Trump rally?

The crowded scene on the White House's South Lawn for Trump's speech

The setup ahead of President Donald Trumps speech on the final day of the Republican National Convention on the South Lawn of the White House on Aug. 27, 2020
The setup ahead of President Donald Trumps speech on the final day of the Republican National Convention on the South Lawn of the White House on Aug. 27, 2020NBC News

 

Biden says he's returning to the physical campaign trail

Joe Biden said Thursday that he plans on returning to the real-life campaign trail after Labor Day.

At a virtual fundraiser with Illinois attorneys, Biden was asked if he planned to resume physical campaigning in battleground states.

Biden said he plans to do so, but "without jeopardizing or violating state rules about how many people can in fact assemble. One of the things we’re thinking about is I’m going to be going up into Wisconsin, and Minnesota, spending time in Pennsylvania, out in Arizona."

"We’re going to do it in a way that is totally consistent with being responsible, unlike what this guy’s doing," he said, referring to the president's handling of the coronavirus. "He’s totally irresponsible."

He added that he's missed being on the trail — and acknowledged he has to make changes to his style. 

“I’m a tactile politician. I really miss being able to, you know, grab hands, shake hands. You can’t do that now," he said.

Setting the stage for a speech topic?

Demonstrators rally to protest Trump's speech

Image: US-POLITICS-VOTE-REPUBLICANS-PROTEST
Demonstrators rally to protest President Donald Trump's acceptance of the Republican National Convention nomination at Black Lives Matter plaza across from the White House on Aug. 27, 2020 in Washington, DC.Olivier Douliery / AFP - Getty Images

Some in White House audience for Trump's speech already waiting to get in

 

TV viewership dips on RNC's Night 3

About 17.3 million people tuned in for Night 3 of the RNC, a decline compared to the second night of the convention and about the same as the first night, according to data released by media measurement company Nielsen.

Night 3 of the Democratic convention drew about 22.8 million viewers. 

The downtick happened during a busy news day — an NBA player walkout, a hurricane barreling toward Louisiana, and the ongoing unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin — that partially drowned out the convention, which Vice President Mike Pence headlined.

The Nielsen data does not take into account people who watched some or all of the convention online. Most major broadcast networks and many other media companies have livestreamed the conventions on various platforms.

But the viewership is still a significant drop off compared to 2016, when Night 3 drew 23.4 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

Kamala Harris, citing 'sickening' Blake shooting, pledges to tackle police reform

A Joe Biden administration would address systemic racism and tackle police reform, Sen. Kamala Harris said Thursday, invoking the “sickening” shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin as further evidence of the need to address racial injustice in the U.S.

“The reality is that the life of a Black person in America has never been treated as fully human. And we have yet to fulfill that promise of equal justice under the law,” Harris said. “We will only achieve that when we finally come together to pass meaningful police reform and broader criminal justice reform and acknowledge, yes, acknowledge, systemic racism.”

Harris spoke hours before President Trump is set to formally accept his party's nomination for re-election at the final night of the Republican National Convention, pre-emptively criticizing the president for his response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Instead of rising to meet the most difficult moment of his presidency, he froze. He was scared. He was petty and vindictive,” Harris said.

Read more here.

Notre Dame disavows former coach's attacks on Biden's religion

The president of the University of Notre Dame disavowed attacks on Joe Biden made by the school's former football coach, Lou Holtz, at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday.

"While Coach Lou Holtz is a former coach at Notre Dame, his use of the university’s name at the Republican National Convention must not be taken to imply that the university endorses his views, any candidate or any political party," Rev. John I. Jenkins said in a statement.

"Moreover, we Catholics should remind ourselves that while we may judge the objective moral quality of another’s actions, we must never question the sincerity of another’s faith, which is due to the mysterious working of grace in that person’s heart," he continued. "In this fractious time, let us remember that our highest calling is to love."

In his speech at the convention, Holtz praised President Trump and called Biden a "Catholic in name only."

Asked about the remarks on Thursday in an interview with CNN, Biden asked, “When’s the last time [Trump] darkened the doorway of a church?"

5 things to watch for on Night 4 of the RNC

President Trump has had nearly four years in office to sell his performance to the American people. So far, polls suggest he has yet to make the sale: A majority of Americans disapprove of the job he's done, and he has consistently trailed Joe Biden in general election surveys this year.

So what can he say on the final night of the Republican National Convention to change those attitudes and convince Americans he deserves four more years in office? Republican strategists say they are looking for him to give a vision of what he would do in a second term — an area he has struggled to define — and how that would contrast with a Biden presidency.

Whatever message Trump delivers on the final night of the gathering, he will be competing for attention with a Category 4 hurricane that made landfall Thursday morning.

Here’s what to watch for on the RNC's fourth and final night.

Trump to attack Biden as 'extreme' in RNC speech

President Trump will focus his Republican National Convention speech Thursday on attacking Joe Biden, according to excerpts of his address.

“At no time before have voters faced a clearer choice between two parties, two visions, two philosophies, or two agendas," Trump will say, according to excerpts of the speech from his campaign.

“We have spent the last four years reversing the damage Joe Biden inflicted over the last 47 years. At the Democrat convention, you barely heard a word about their agenda. But that's not because they don't have one. It's because their agenda is the most extreme set of proposals ever put forward by a major party nominee."

Read more about Trump's speech tonight here.

Biden says Trump is ‘rooting for more violence, not less’

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden said Thursday that President Donald Trump is "rooting for more violence, not less" because he thinks it benefits him politically.

In an interview on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee reacted to Vice President Mike Pence’s speech at the Republican National Convention Wednesday night in which he said that people “won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”

Biden added about Trump, “He views this as a political benefit to him, you know. He's rooting for more violence, not less, and it's clear about that. And what's he doing, he's kept pouring gasoline on the fire.”

Read what else Biden said about Trump.

Pelosi says Biden shouldn't debate Trump: 'I wouldn't legitimize a conversation with him'

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that she doesn’t think Joe Biden should debate President Donald Trump in the three scheduled this fall ahead of the election because she said Trump will “probably act in a way that is beneath the dignity of the presidency.”

Pelosi volunteered her opinion at a weekly news conference at the Capitol during which she also said that if Biden wins the White House and Democrats retain control of the House, they will have the ability to expose Trump’s tax returns that he has refused for years to release.

“Don't tell anybody who told you this — especially don't tell Joe Biden — I don't think that there should be any debates,” she said. “I do not think that the president of the United States has comported himself in a way that anybody has any association with truth, evidence, data and facts. I wouldn't legitimize a conversation with him, nor a debate in terms of the presidency of the United States.”

Read more on what Pelosi said.

Hundreds of former aides to George W. Bush, John McCain endorse Biden for president

WASHINGTON — Several hundred former aides to President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain announced Thursday that they are endorsing Joe Biden for president.

The statements of support for the Democratic nominee come as President Donald Trump prepares to accept his party's nomination on the final night of the Republican National Convention.

A political action committee, 43 Alumni for Biden, that launched last month posted a list of nearly 300 members of the Bush administration or campaigns who are publicly backing Biden. The names range from members of the Cabinet, including former Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez and former Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, to ambassadors, to White House and advance staffers.

Meanwhile, more than 100 former staff of McCain's congressional offices and campaigns also endorsed Biden for president.

Read more on the endorsements.

Harris speech will 'prosecute the case against Trump,' aide says

Just hours before Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech tonight, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, Sen. Kamala Harris, is expected to unleash her harshest criticism yet of the president and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“She will prosecute the case against Trump,” one Harris aide told NBC News.

Harris will speak at 3 p.m. in Washington “on President Trump's failures to contain COVID-19 and protect working families from the economic fallout” and the “Biden-Harris plan to contain COVID-19 and build a different path forward in America,” according to a press release.

 

Harris has done some virtual campaign events but this will be her first public appearance since the Democratic convention. The campaign is framing this as a response to the RNC and a prebuttal of the president. She isn’t taking questions afterward and neither she nor Biden have traveled anywhere since she was named his running mate in contrast to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who have crisscrossed the country over the same period.

The Democrats had previewed a robust counterprogramming effort this week, and while some top surrogates have held phone calls and briefings with reporters, so far their efforts have failed to break through, particularly against the backdrop of another Black man being shot and killed by police, this time in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Hurricane Laura. Harris will “address Kenosha with emphasis,” an aide said.

Harris is also expected to focus on Biden’s plan for fighting COVID-19 by increasing rapid tests and imposing a mask mandate, and to excoriate Trump for his handling of the pandemic.

ANALYSIS: Pence is afraid that Biden doesn't scare voters

WASHINGTON — The only things Americans have to fear, Vice President Mike Pence suggested Wednesday, are their neighbors and his out-of-power predecessor.

"Joe Biden would double down on the very policies that are leading to unsafe streets and violence in America's cities," Pence said on the third night of the Republican National Convention. "The hard truth is, you won't be safe in Joe Biden's America."

Pence's tack reflects a larger Republican strategy for the convention and the broader Trump re-election campaign that tries to focus voters on a generic fear of the unknown rather than problems at hand. It is, of course, Trump and Pence who have presided over the coronavirus crisis and its devastating impact on the economy, the civil unrest in the wake of police killings of Black men, women and children, and the emboldening of white supremacist militia groups.

Read more of Jonathan Allen’s analysis of Day 3 of the RNC here.

FIRST READ: Real world chaos undercuts Trump's convention message

WASHINGTON — For most of this year, the events of 2020 have overshadowed the actual presidential campaign. And it’s happening again — as the Republican convention concludes and with 68 days until Election Day.

A powerful hurricane has slammed into the Louisiana-Texas Gulf Coast. The shooting of Jacob Blake by police has resulted in unrest, further violence and the arrest of a 17-year-old charged with murder during the protests. Also because of the Blake shooting, professional athletes — from the NBA and WNBA, to Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and tennis star Naomi Osaka — walked off their respective courts and playing fields.

Two things can be true at the same time. One, this presidential election is so consequential, as Democrats and Republicans continue to remind us. And two, the actual campaigns — whether it’s the conventions or the limited campaign activity — seem so small compared with everything else.

Read more of Thursday's First Take here.

5 takeaways from the RNC, Night 3

On the third night of their national convention, Republicans warned "you won't be safe in Joe Biden's America" while largely ignoring that more than 1,000 people are dying every day on average of the coronavirus pandemic.

Vice President Mike Pence joined other speakers in suggesting Trump is the only thing standing between good, peaceable citizens and violent mobs, rampant abortion and the end of America as we know it.

RNC highlights from Night 3

Aug. 27, 202004:47

"Keep America America," said Lara Trump, the president's daughter-in-law. "Make America Great Again — again," Pence added.

Here are five takeaways from the third night of the RNC.

Fact check: Night 3 of the Republican National Convention

Night 3 of the Republican National Convention featured a number of elected officials, second lady Karen Pence and others who made the case for President Donald Trump's re-election during a program focused on "law and order" as protests grow over the police shooting of a Black man in Wisconsin.

Vice President Mike Pence also accepted his renomination with a speech praising Trump for his leadership, but he frequently distorted the facts.

Read our real-time fact-check.

Praising police, Mike Pence at RNC says 'you won't be safe in Joe Biden's America'

WASHINGTON — Driving President Donald Trump's "law and order" message, Vice President Mike Pence praised law enforcement on the third night of the Republican convention Wednesday against the backdrop of protests sparked by a police officer shooting a Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

"Law and order are on the ballot," Pence continued. "The choice in this election is whether America remains America.”

The third night of the RNC — the traditional political pep rally that Trump is hoping will boost his flagging re-election campaign — was held as the country faces turmoil.

A teenager was arrested Wednesday for fatally shooting protesters in Wisconsin demonstrating against the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man. The NBA postponed playoff games in response to Blake’s shooting. Texas and Louisiana braced for a catastrophic hurricane. Deadly wildfires continued to burn in Northern California. All while the coronavirus death toll rapidly nears 200,000.

Read more about the third night of the RNC here.