First lady Melania Trump and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo capped the Republican National Convention’s second night with speeches that sought to humanize Donald Trump and highlight the president’s leadership through the pandemic that’s jeopardizing his chances for another term.
“Donald will not rest until he has done all he can to take care of everyone impacted by this terrible pandemic,” the first lady said in an address Tuesday from the White House Rose Garden, where she oversaw a recent renovation.
The Slovenia-born first lady spoke about healing “racial unrest in our country” and her pride in becoming a U.S. citizen. She spoke of her “Be Best” initiative to discourage online bullying for youths, a contrast from her husband’s barrage of Twitter attacks on rivals.
Before the first lady’s remarks, Pompeo told the convention, in a speech taped during an official visit to Jerusalem, that Trump has “pulled back the curtain on the predatory aggression of the Chinese Communist Party” and made historic progress toward Middle East peace.
Pompeo’s speech delivered while overseas appears to violate State Department guidance that prohibits political activity while on official travel. It’s also a departure from past secretaries who steered clear of conventions.
Anticipating an uproar when he taped his remarks on Monday, Pompeo, who’s considered a presidential contender for 2024, introduced himself as someone with “a big job — as Susan’s husband and Nick’s Dad.”
Representative Joaquin Castro, the Texas Democrat who is vice chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote Pompeo’s deputy on Tuesday demanding documents and a briefing detailing the legal justification for what he called part of “a pattern of politicization of U.S. foreign policy.”
Pompeo saw success even in Trump’s unfulfilled efforts, including his bid to reach a nuclear deal with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un. “The president lowered the temperature and, against all odds, got North Korean leadership to the table,” he said. He made no mention of some contentious moves by the president, including his withdrawal from the Paris accord on climate change.
The secretary of state wasn’t the only convention speaker who took advantage of official powers and perks for the convention. Trump issued a pardon on video and presided over a naturalization ceremony at the White House.
The pardon went to Jon Ponder, the ex-convict who founded Hope for Prisoners Inc., a nonprofit designed to help former inmates re-enter society. Ponder appeared in a video along with Richard Beasley, the former FBI agent who arrested him and has become a close friend. Trump has touted his own success in enacting criminal-justice reform and blamed Democratic opponent Joe Biden for legislation that increased federal sentencing guidelines.
One scheduled speaker, Mary Ann Mendoza, was removed from the lineup after she tweeted a conversation that included references to a Jewish plot to enslave the world. She was to speak about her son, a police officer, who was killed by a drunken driver who was an undocumented immigrant with a criminal record, the campaign said.
Two of the president’s children, Eric Trump and Tiffany Trump, were on the evening’s roster of speakers saluting the president’s handling of issues including trade and immigration.
With “land of opportunity” as the theme, the convention spotlighted an array of Trump supporters — an anti-abortion activist, the granddaughter of evangelist Billy Graham and the Democratic mayor of Eveleth, Minnesota.
The speakers — including Jason Joyce, the lobster fisherman who said he didn’t support Trump in 2016 out of skepticism he was a true conservative — said the president kept his campaign promises, strengthened the Supreme Court with his two appointments and put in place policies that have benefited blue-collar workers and farmers.
The second night of the convention minimized the coronavirus that has killed more than 177,000 Americans.
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