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Updates and analysis from Day 2 of the Republican National Convention

First lady Melania Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Eric and Tiffany Trump spoke on Tuesday
Image: First lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on a background of stage lights and dark red curtains.
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

The Republican National Convention continued Tuesday with speeches from first lady Melania Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and two of Trump's children.

Melania Trump headlined Tuesday night's line-up with a speech from the White House, where she is reflected on her time as first lady, making the case why her husband deserves another four years.

Pompeo, meanwhile, addressed the convention from Jerusalem, a move that has drawn fire from diplomats and breaks with long-standing tradition aimed at keeping U.S. foreign policy separate from domestic politics.

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

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Trump participates in naturalization ceremony despite attacks on immigration

Trump on Tuesday participated in a naturalization ceremony on the second day of the RNC, ostensibly as a way to highlight legal immigration.

Footage of the ceremony aired during the RNC on Tuesday night.

But Trump, in addition to prominent attacks on undocumented immigrants, has taken many swipes at legal immigration too.

Among other attempts to limit immigration are Trump's ban on travel from Muslim-majority countries, various visa restrictions, a limit on refugees, dramatic changes to the asylum system and executive orders limited immigration.

On Bondi speech, Biden camp reprises old response

The Biden campaign is responding to Pam Bondi’s RNC speech on Tuesday by simply pointing back to a statement they issued during the impeachment trial:

"We didn't realize that Breitbart was expanding into Ted Talk knockoffs. Here on planet Earth, the conspiracy theory that Bondi repeated has been conclusively refuted. The New York Times calls it 'debunked,' The Wall Street Journal calls it 'discredited,' the AP calls it 'incorrect,' and The Washington Post fact checker calls it 'a fountain of falsehoods.' The diplomat that Trump himself appointed to lead his Ukraine policy has blasted it as 'self serving' and 'not credible.' Joe Biden was instrumental to a bipartisan and international anti-corruption victory. It's no surprise that such a thing is anathema to President Trump."

The past is never dead — even at the GOP convention

This convention’s treatment of COVID-19 as a conquered thing of the past echoes the ‘28 GOP’s treatment of an economic downturn, as Calvin Coolidge was credited by his fellow partisans with already having averted a "Great Depression."

White House adviser Larry Kudlow and others have credited Trump with successfully navigating through a coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 175,000 Americans and remains a spreading public health threat.

In 1928, Republicans won another term, with Herbert Hoover succeeding Coolidge. The stock market crashed the next year and the nation was plunged into the Great Depression that had been portrayed as a bygone peril.

Fact check: Kudlow claims Trump inherited 'stagnant' economy. That's false.

President Trump's top economic adviser Larry Kudlow claimed Tuesday during his speech at the RNC that Trump, when elected, was “inheriting a stagnant economy on the front end of recession.”

That is false. 

Looking at the broadest measure of economic health, gross domestic product, the numbers show that average quarterly economic growth under Trump, 2.5 percent, was almost exactly what it was under President Obama in his second term, 2.4 percent.

In 2016, Trump said he was unhappy that the country’s economic growth rate was under 3 percent a year. Trump said he thought the economy could grow at better-than-4-percent annual rate.

Kudlow also claimed Tuesday night that the economy “was rebuilt in three years,” saying that “unemployment fell to the lowest rate of 3.5 percent.” 

The Trump administration rightly takes credit for having low unemployment during his presidency, but the idea that Trump "rebuilt" the economy is misleading. Unemployment under Obama had already been trending downward.

In December of 2019 — before the pandemic hit the U.S. — the unemployment rate was a scant 3.5 percent, the lowest it had been in 50 years.

However, as good as that number was, when Trump took office the rate was already at 4.7 percent. That figure is quite low by historical standards (lower than all of the 1980s as well as most of the 1990s and 2000s). In fact, Obama saw a much steeper drop in unemployment in his second term, a 3.3 drop in the rate, than Trump did in his first three years, a decline of 1.2 points.

The numbers under Trump appear to be the continuation of a trend, not something new.

Job creation numbers offer more evidence for this.

On average, there were more jobs added monthly in Obama’s second term than there were in Trump's first three years.

On average, the country created 215,000 new jobs a month in Obama’s second term. In Trump’s first three years, the figure was 182,000. They are both good numbers and if you look at the jobs data plotted on a graph, the rise since 2011 actually looks pretty consistent.

There is one indicator that suggests a change under Trump: the rise in the stock market. On Dec. 31, 2019, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 28,538. That was up 56 percent from 18,332, where it was the day Trump was elected in 2016. 

From Obama's second Election Day until 2016, the Dow climbed 38 percent.

RNC pushes criminal justice reform without police reforms

In the early portion of RNC night 2, Trump’s support for law enforcement and advocacy for those subjected to extended prison sentences intersected with one of the convention’s prevailing themes. Racism is not the problem, many speakers have suggested; the problem is the way that those subjected to it respond.

Trump’s sentencing reforms did, in their first year, lead to abbreviated sentences or the outright release of about 4,500 people, and won Trump plaudits from people across the political spectrum. However, many who work in local government or to help those released from prison navigate the often difficult challenges of finding work or places to live have said that additional attention and funding is needed to help those who have benefited from Trump’s First Step Act. And many contacted by NBC News who are working with the formerly incarcerated also pointed to the need to press reforms further to affect a larger number of those convicted of crimes.

The decision to pardon – on camera – Jon Ponder, a Black man who thanked the federal agent who arrested him and described his struggles with the criminal justice system as rooted in his own “animosity,” set up one of Trump’s preferred ways of approaching the question of how the nation’s criminal justice system functions. Ponder was someone entirely grateful, entirely supportive of Trump and disengaged from the roiling national conversation about policing, race and justice. 

“Not so long ago, my life was running from the police, fearing the police and avoiding the police….,” Ponder said. “But today, I’m filled with hope. I have been given a second chance.”

The only direct mention of Jacob Blake, a Black man shot repeatedly by a Kenosha, Wisconsin police officer, and the civil unrest the shooting has spurred, came at the beginning of the evening in an opening prayer. There Pastor Norma Urrabazo of the International Church of Las Vegas prayed for "healing and comfort to Jacob Blake and his family."

Tiffany Trump, president's youngest daughter, says she relates to struggling graduates

Cissie Graham Lynch attacks trans rights in speech

Cissie Graham Lynch, the granddaughter of late evangelical pastor Billy Graham, gave a primetime speech aimed at boasting about Trump’s policies that protect so-called religious liberty. 

During her speech, she apparently refers to transgender girls as "boys,” while referring to policies that aim to accommodate transgender people based on their gender identity. 

"Democrats pressured schools to allow boys to compete in girls' sports and use girls' locker rooms,” she said. 

There were no efforts to “pressure” schools. However, there have been legal battles provoked by conservatives after largely Democratic lawmakers passed various measures to accommodate transgender Americans.

Recently, the Supreme Court, which leans conservative, agreed in a 6-3 decision that language of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex discrimination, also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Fact check: Was Trump first president to talk religious freedom at the U.N.?

Cissie Graham Lynch, the granddaughter of evangelical preacher Billy Graham, said Tuesday night that Trump is the first president “to talk about the importance of religious freedom at the United Nations, giving hope to people of faith around the world."

This is false. Here’s a clip of Obama talking about religious freedom at the U.N.; here’s a news report of George W. Bush doing the same. At the U.N. last year, Trump said he was the first to host a meeting on religious freedom, but he's definitely not the first to talk up the issue.

Nick Sandmann, teen who sued news outlets over viral incident, says America should join Trump's media bashing

Nick Sandmann, a teenager who gained national attention after appearing at a political protest in 2019, said at the Republican National Convention Tuesday that the country needs to "unite" around President Trump's media bashing.

Sandmann was involved in an incident with a Native American activist on the Washington Mall in January 2019. Video of a portion of their encounter went viral and there was a dispute over what actually occurred.

In his speech, Sandmann railed against the backlash he received following the incident.

"I learned that what was happening to me had a name. It was called being cancelled. As in annulled. As in revoked. As in made void," he said. "Cancelled is what’s happening to people around this country who refuse to be silenced by the far left."

"I’m proud to say that throughout my media nightmare I have had President Trump’s unwavering support," he added later. Echoing Trump's long-standing attacks on news outlets, he added, "I know you’ll agree with me when I say no one in this country has been a victim of unfair media coverage more than President Donald Trump."

Sandmann has a pending lawsuit against NBCUniversal and other media outlets based on reporting about the incident.

RNC keeps highlighting federal courts, unlike Democrats

Republicans continued to highlight the importance of the 2020 election on the Supreme Court and other federal courts on the second day. It was frequently mentioned on Monday as well, with President Trump and others noting that the winner may be able to add justices.

The focus on the courts is a marked contrast to the Democratic convention last week, when the Supreme Court was mentioned just once across four days — by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. It comes as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 87 and battling a recurrence of cancer while Justice Stephen Breyer, a fellow liberal-leaning member, is 82.