Republicans began their nominating convention Monday with dark denunciations of Democrats and warnings about a future controlled by “radical liberals,” while praising President Trump’s stewardship of the country, including his handling of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 173,000 Americans.
The night’s program also served as a response to attacks on Trump’s character and accusations of racism by featuring testimonials from Black supporters, the grieving parent of a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting victim and a cancer survivor.
The evening’s remarks, coupled with the president’s rambling and conspiratorial address earlier Monday to delegates convened in North Carolina, stood as a stark reminder of Trump’s domination of the party and its message — and largely overshadowed the GOP’s official and cheerier theme for the day, “Land of Promise.”
Speaker after speaker painted the Democrats’ vision for the country in apocalyptic terms while arguing that a victory by Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden would threaten Americans’ physical and financial safety.
“They want to destroy this country and everything that we have fought for and hold dear. They want to steal your liberty, your freedom. They want to control what you see and think and believe, so they can control how you live,” said an animated Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top Trump campaign official and the girlfriend of the president’s oldest son. “They want to enslave you to the weak, dependent, liberal, victim ideology, to the point that you will not recognize this country or yourself.”
The dire warnings were occasionally interspersed with promises that under Trump, the economy could recover and forces of change facing the country could be held at bay.
“There are millions of families like mine across this nation . . . full of potential, seeking to live the American Dream,” said Tim Scott (S.C.), the lone Black Republican in the Senate and the night’s closing speaker. “And I’m here tonight to tell you that supporting the Republican ticket gives you the best chance of making that dream a reality.”
Trump has come under withering criticism for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has been the major cause of his plummeting poll numbers in his contest with Biden. In response, the first night of the convention prominently featured defenses of Trump’s response to the outbreak, with the president appearing in a video shortly after 9 p.m. to talk with a group about his efforts.
Earlier in the evening, a video montage touted Trump’s actions to mitigate the pandemic and played selectively edited clips of some Democratic leaders expressing appreciation for him, even though those officials have also been highly critical of Trump.
The rhetoric started long before the prime-time speaking lineup, with Trump appearing at the convention hall in Charlotte where he made baseless statements about election fraud.
“They’re trying to steal the election from Republicans,” the president said of Democrats, without evidence, minutes after formally securing the party’s nomination. “Just like they did it last time, with spying.”
Other speakers at the convention — including young conservative organizer Charlie Kirk, and the St. Louis couple who emerged from their mansion and aimed weapons at racial-justice protesters — amplified the president’s assertions that America would become a hellscape if Biden won.
“I am here tonight to tell you — to warn you — that this election is a decision between preserving America as we know it and eliminating everything that we love,” said Kirk, 26, calling Trump the “bodyguard of Western civilization” battling “vengeful activists.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), one of the president’s staunchest defenders in Congress, said Democrats want to “disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home, and invite MS-13 to live next door. And the defunded police aren’t on their way.”
The president’s son Donald Trump Jr. criticized Biden as a veteran of Washington who had his chance to solve the challenges facing the country and failed.
“Joe Biden is basically the Loch Ness monster of the Swamp,” Trump Jr. said. “For the past half-century, he’s been lurking around in there. He sticks his head up every now and then to run for president, then he disappears and doesn’t do much in between.”
Speakers appeared by video or from the party’s rented space inside Washington’s Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, with American flags decorating the stage alongside looming columns.
Stoking racial and cultural animus has been central to Trump’s public identity for decades, and it has only become more pronounced as he has fallen behind Biden in the polls and as the country has embarked on a national debate over systemic racism after the shootings of Black Americans by White police officers, with the latest incident unfolding in Kenosha, Wis., over the weekend.
Scott’s turn Monday was part of a broader attempt by Republicans to counter Democrats’ charge that the GOP under Trump has become a bastion for White grievance, resentment and racism.
Kimberly Klacik, whose viral campaign ad last week showed her walking the streets of Baltimore while suggesting that Democrats do not care about Black voters, also spoke Monday. Klacik, who is Black, is the Republican running for the late congressman Elijah E. Cummings’s seat against Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.), the former NAACP chief who handily defeated her in a special election in April and now faces a rematch in November.
Vernon Jones, a Black Democratic state lawmaker from Georgia who announced in April that he would endorse Trump, also spoke, as did retired football star Herschel Walker.
“It hurts my soul to hear the terrible names that people call Donald,” Walker said. “The worst one is ‘racist.’ I take it as a personal insult that people would think I would have a 37-year friendship with a racist.”
Still, those overtures to Black Americans were featured alongside an appearance by lawyers Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who have said they drew their guns to defend their home on a private street in an upscale St. Louis neighborhood from a crowd of racial-justice protesters who were marching to Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house.
Video and photos showing Mark McCloskey wielding a rifle and Patricia McCloskey aiming a pistol at the marchers created a firestorm of controversy. Some thought the couple were legally defending their home — instantly making them popular figures on the right — while others saw them as unnecessarily taking up arms against peaceful protesters.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, St. Louis’s first Black chief prosecutor, filed charges against both McCloskeys last month, each with one felony count of unlawful use of a weapon.
The couple ominously warned of dangers facing American communities and criticized Biden for pushing anti-segregation policies that they said would hurt the suburbs. “These are the policies that are coming to a neighborhood near you. So make no mistake: No matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America,” Patricia McCloskey said.
Republicans in Charlotte earlier Monday joined that chorus.
“We have crime ravaging our streets,” New York Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy said as the state delivered its 94 delegates. “That is what America will see if a Biden-Harris regime runs our country.”
Flickers of traditional Republican pitches, most notably from Scott, at times cut through the charged hostility toward Democrats. Scott’s approach to Trump is similar to the tack taken by other lawmakers: applaud the president and the GOP’s legislative gains and executive actions, but do not celebrate the man.
The senator commended Trump for taking steps to help Black Americans and “clean up Joe Biden’s mess,” and cautioned that Democrats are seeking a “cultural revolution.”
Scott, who has worked with Trump on criminal justice changes and tax breaks for investments in poorer neighborhoods, is considered by GOP donors and activists to be a potential future presidential contender, as is Nikki Haley, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who also spoke Monday, promoting Trump’s foreign policy decisions, which often run against traditional GOP policies.
To respond to Democrats’ portrayal of Trump as a person of low character who harms the nation to suit his own needs, the convention featured several speakers highlighting their view of him as a generous man.
“I got to see who [President Trump] really is,” said Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was killed in the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting in 2018 and who has advocated for school safety measures while defending gun rights. “He’s a good man and a great listener. And he cuts through the BS.”
Democrats welcomed the arrival of the Republican National Convention with a new television ad accusing Trump of “job-destroying incompetence and deadly mismanagement” of the pandemic.
“Welcome to the RNC, Republican National Chaos,” the narrator says in the 30-second spot, which opens with a scene of downtown Charlotte. “Because Trump is meeting the covid moment with job-destroying incompetence and deadly mismanagement, students and teachers are left to themselves, the jobless left without a lifeline, grandparents left to die alone, an economy left to perish.”
Many of the party’s remaining establishment figures stayed away. The only living former Republican president, George W. Bush, will not speak this week — a break from tradition. All three past Democratic presidents offered remarks at that party’s convention last week.
Some vulnerable GOP senators are avoiding the Trump-dominated convention as well.
“It’s a concession to reality when an incumbent president doesn’t have a strong reelect number,” said GOP strategist Doug Heye, who used to work at the Republican National Committee. “You don’t have a lot of people in tough races flocking to be seen with him.”
The night featured stalwart congressional defenders of Trump, including Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) as well as Sean Parnell, a GOP congressional candidate in Pennsylvania.
But it was Trump who hovered over the event Monday, beginning with his last-minute appearance at the roll call.
The roll call, which typically occurs on the Tuesday of a four-day convention week, had been moved up to keep some party business in Charlotte, chosen as the site of the convention before the pandemic, ahead of prime-time programming anchored in Washington.
Greeted by cheers of “four more years,” Trump joked that he might deserve additional terms in office because of the investigations of his 2016 campaign. “If you want to really drive them crazy, you say 12 more years,” he said, instantly prompting some chants of “12 more years.”
The president received 2,050 delegates, a unanimous vote after primaries that set turnout records for an incumbent with no serious challenger. Three opponents had filed for the primaries, but only former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld stayed in the race past Super Tuesday, and the single delegate he won was reassigned to Trump.
Delegates who had largely stayed at their tables during Vice President Pence’s remarks crowded toward the front of the room to hear the president, who spoke briefly about the administration’s response to the pandemic before talking about TV coverage of the convention, the restrictions that prevented an in-person event in North Carolina, energy pipelines, international trade deals, judicial appointments and his false refrain that the election would be “rigged” by the expansion of mail voting.
Trump spoke for more than 50 minutes, and some delegates moved back to their seats as he circled around familiar themes.
“They want no guns. They want no oil and gas. And they want no God,” Trump said of Democrats.
While the Trump campaign released 50 priorities for a second term Sunday night, the president referred to only a few of them. He pledged to “create 10 million jobs in the first 10 months,” and he said an executive order that would drive down prescription drug prices by using trade powers would go into effect soon.
Weigel reported from Charlotte. Meagan Flynn, Amber Phillips and Michael Scherer contributed to this report.
Republican convention videos use stock footage from Thailand
During a video tribute to Trump early in Monday’s program, convention producers flashed an image of a woman in a window holding a sign that read “Thank You Doctors & Nurses." Another piece of tape showed a lab worker in mask, gloves and bodysuit next to a sign that says “Danger Covid-19 Biohazard."
Both pieces of tape are listed for sale as stock video through Getty Images, and in both cases the visuals are described as a product of Thailand.
Stock footage is a basic building block of most political advertising, often the source of the happy senior in the direct-mail piece or the worried mother consoling herself with a cup of coffee at the kitchen table. But controversies can erupt when the footage has an unexpected backstory.
A recent Trump Facebook ad used a photo from a 2014 pro-democracy protest in Ukraine to represent the “chaos and violence” of this summer’s protests on American streets. During the 2016 campaign, a group tied to Jeb Bush famously used footage that showed the sun rising over a beautiful field that turned out to be in England.
Stock footage gotcha, of course, is not the only game like this played in campaign politics. Last week, Republicans jumped on the Democratic convention appearance of former New York congresswoman Susan Molinari, a Republican, who endorsed Biden. The controversy: Years earlier, she had run a lobbying firm that had Russia as a client.
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) used his keynote speech to challenge Joe Biden’s record on racial justice.
In a speech that was mostly uplifting and hopeful, the only Black Republican in the Senate used Biden’s long record as a senator and vice president — along with some verbal gaffes — to try to undercut his image.
“It’s critical to paint a full picture of the records of Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Joe Biden said if a Black man didn’t vote for him, he wasn’t truly Black. Joe Biden said Black people are a monolithic community,” Scott said, referring to recent statements by the former vice president.
Scott accused Biden, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1994, of crafting crime legislation that “put millions of Black Americans behind bars” and noted that Trump signed the 2018 bill overhauling federal criminal sentencing.
In his acceptance speech Thursday night, Biden recalled the White supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., after which Trump praised some of the racist marchers, as the event that prompted him to run for president.
Scott took the stage at the Mellon Auditorium as the highest-profile Black Republican politician to counter that image, to say things are not as bad as Biden made them out to be.
He said that it was “factually baseless” for people to say that things are “worse today than in the 1860s or the 1960s.” He told his own family’s story, beginning with his grandfather being forced out of school in the third grade to work in cotton fields and then later in life watching his grandson become the first Black person to serve in both houses of Congress.
“Our family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime. And that’s why I believe the next American century can be better than the last,” he said.
A 2016 promise, rebooted for 2020: Trump will defeat ‘violence in our streets’
A recurrent theme during the first night of the Republican National Convention has been the looting and clashes that broke out in some cities since the killing of George Floyd, incidents that were significantly outnumbered by peaceful protests.
“It’s almost like this election is shaping up to be church, work and school vs. rioting, looting and vandalism,” Donald Trump Jr. said in his Monday night speech. “Or, in the words of Biden and the Democrats, ‘peaceful protesting.’ ”
Four years ago, Trump’s father was talking about protests and crime in much the same way, and promising to stop them. At the party’s last convention, which came after a much smaller series of protests, the future president said that “attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life.”
“Any politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our country,” Trump said at his acceptance speech in Cleveland. “Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities. Many have witnessed this violence personally, some have even been its victims. I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored.”
Trump Jr.: Biden is the ‘Loch Ness Monster of the swamp’
Donald Trump Jr. made a forceful case for his father’s reelection bid, portraying a country that was prospering before the novel coronavirus struck and calling Joe Biden the “Loch Ness Monster of the swamp.”
The president’s eldest son was one of the closing speakers of the first night of the GOP convention. In 10 minutes of remarks, Trump defended his father’s handling of the pandemic, criticized Biden for faulting the Trump administration’s actions and said the Democratic nominee’s policies would “stop our economic recovery cold.”
Trump Jr. called it “madness” that Biden, who said in a television interview that he would contemplate closures nationwide if scientists recommended it, was “already talking about shutting down the country again.”
His remarks seemed to be a preview of the themes that his father will highlight later this week during his formal acceptance speech Thursday, including attacks on “cancel culture,” praise for the administration’s economic agenda, a fervent defense of law enforcement, and swipes at Biden’s lengthy tenure in Washington.
“Joe Biden is basically the Loch Ness Monster of the swamp,” Trump, Jr. said. “For the past half-century, he’s been lurking around in there. He sticks his head up every now and then to run for president, then he disappears and doesn’t do much in between.”
Trump Jr. also promoted school choice, limited immigration, lower taxes, revamped trade deals and an isolationist military view, arguing to “end the endless wars and quit sending our young people to solve problems in foreign lands.”
“If Democrats cared for the forgotten men and women of our country, they’d do exactly what President Trump is doing,” Trump Jr. said. “America is the greatest country on Earth. But my father’s entire worldview revolves around the idea that we can always do even better.”
Sen. Tim Scott will deliver the final speech Monday
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) will anchor Monday’s program with the final speech of the night, one of the highest-profile platforms he will perform on after less than 10 years in Congress, the last eight of which have come with a familiar moniker: the only Black Republican in the Senate.
Scott first won a seat in the House in 2010, a tea party-fueled wave in which he first had to win a GOP primary over the son of Strom Thurmond, the late senator who was the state’s most famous politician of the post-World War II era. Thurmond was originally a staunch segregationist, running on the Dixiecrat ticket for president in 1948, pushing racist positions that he would recant later in his life, but Scott’s victory over Paul Thurmond stunned the Palmetto State establishment.
After two years in the House, Scott won the appointment to succeed Jim DeMint, a fiery conservative senator who resigned mid-term, getting sworn into office in January 2013. He has coasted in two Senate races since then, gaining more clout in a chamber where just two other senators — Democrats Cory Booker (N.J.) and Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) — are Black.
Scott, a member of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, played a key role in the 2017 tax cut bill, pushing for special economic zones in poor and minority communities.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently tapped Scott to lead the GOP effort to come up with legislation to curb police violence after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police, but Democrats believed the proposal did not go far enough and filibustered it.
Scott has spoken passionately on the Senate floor about his own experiences as Black man interacting with police, including Capitol Police who questioned whether he was actually a member of Congress.
“He’s pledged to repeal the Trump tax cuts, which were the biggest in our country.”
—Donald Trump Jr.
This is a silly claim. Trump’s tax cut amounts to nearly 0.9 percent of the gross domestic product, meaning it is far smaller than President Ronald Reagan’s tax cut in 1981, which was 2.89 percent of GDP. Trump’s tax cut is the eighth largest tax cut — and even smaller than two tax cuts passed under Barack Obama.
Fact Checker: Not the ‘greatest economy’ ever in the U.S. history
“The failed Obama-Biden administration never could do and build the greatest economy our country has ever seen.”
—Donald Trump Jr.
Before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered businesses and sent unemployment soaring, Trump’s supporters could certainly brag about the state of the economy in his first three years as president. But they run into trouble when they made a play for the history books to say it was the best economy in U.S. history.
As we already noted, Trump inherited a thriving economy. Moreover, by just about any important measure, the economy under Trump did not do as well as it did under Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson or Bill Clinton.
The gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 2.3 percent in 2019, slipping from 2.9 percent in 2018 and 2.4 percent in 2017. But in 1997, 1998 and 1999, GDP grew 4.5 percent, 4.5 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively. Yet even that period paled in comparison against the 1950s and 1960s. Growth between 1962 and 1966 ranged from 4.4 percent to 6.6 percent. In postwar 1950 and 1951, it was 8.7 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate reached a low of 3.5 percent under Trump, but it dipped as low as 2.5 percent in 1953.
Fact Checker: A medley of misleading economic claims from Donald Trump Jr.
“Job gains are outpacing what the so-called experts expected.”
Trump and his allies would sometimes note, before the coronavirus pandemic began, that job creation was exceeding some projections from analysts at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. But those projections are outdated, and it’s misleading to leave that out in a prime-time address.
The coronavirus pandemic disrupted the economy and made old economic projections obsolete. Employers have been adding jobs quickly in recent months, not because economic growth is beating old projections, but because the pandemic caused millions of job losses and the economy has begun to bounce back from its slowdown.
“Democrats claim to be for workers, but they’ve spent the entire pandemic trying to sneak a tax break for millionaires in Democrat states into the covid relief bill. Then they attacked my father for suspending the payroll tax for middle-class workers.”
Democrats have been trying to restore the state and local tax deduction since Trump and Republicans capped it at $10,000 as part of a tax overhaul, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, that took effect in 2018. Overall, the Republican tax cuts mostly benefited wealthy individuals and corporations. Most of the impact of capping the SALT deduction, but not all, was felt by states with relatively high taxes and residents with high incomes and high home values. Many of them are governed by Democrats, but the effect is also felt in Republican-run states such as Indiana, according to the Tax Foundation, a think tank.
“While the new SALT cap increases federal taxable income for high-income taxpayers, these taxpayers benefited from other tax changes,” the Tax Foundation said. “The new lower tax rates, expanded child tax credit, and limiting of the AMT, among others, all benefited taxpayers now impacted by the SALT cap. On net, even many taxpayers limited by the new SALT deduction had their taxes lowered in 2018.”
Biden “supported the worst trade deals in the history of the planet. He voted for the NAFTA Nightmare. Down the tubes went our auto industry. He pushed TPP. Goodbye, manufacturing jobs.”
Millions of manufacturing jobs and thousands of U.S. manufacturing establishments have disappeared since the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1994, but it’s difficult to isolate how much of that was because of NAFTA and not other factors such as automation.
The studies we reviewed indicate NAFTA had a modest effect on the U.S. economy. Auto industry representatives and independent analysts seem to agree the NAFTA dynamics have helped rather than hindered automakers with U.S. operations. Trump and his allies often claim that he significantly overhauled NAFTA with the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). It’s not a total trade revolution, as Trump promised, but USMCA does make changes to modernize trade rules in effect from 1994 to 2020, and it gives some wins to U.S. farmers and blue-collar workers in the auto sector. Economists and auto experts say they think the USMCA is going to cause car prices in the United States to rise and the selection to go down. Some elements of the deal were borrowed from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal Trump scrapped at the start of his term and that his son is now deriding in this speech.
“The President quickly took action and shut down travel from China. Joe Biden and his Democrat allies called my father a racist and xenophobe for doing it.”
— Donald Trump Jr.
President Trump’s son overstates the impact of Trump’s actions. On Jan. 31, the president announced that, effective Feb. 2, non-U.S. citizens were barred from traveling from China, but there were 11 exceptions. Meanwhile, U.S. citizens and permanent residents could still travel from China but were subject to screening and a possible 14-day quarantine. Trump’s action did not take place in a vacuum. Many airlines were canceling flights, and by our count, at least 38 countries took similar action before or at the same time the U.S. restrictions were put in place.
The president frequently claims he took bold action that was criticized, but news reports say he was reluctant to impose the ban, citing his relationship with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, but the action was urged by his top health advisers. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters on Feb. 7: “The travel restrictions that we put in place in consultation with the president were very measured and incremental. These were the uniform recommendations of the career public health officials here at HHS.”
Whatever criticism there was was scattered and relatively muted. Trump points to a comment by former vice president Joe Biden — “This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia … and fearmongering to lead the way instead of science” — but Biden says that did not refer to the travel restrictions.
The virus was already spreading through the United States, and there is little evidence it saved lives, especially because the Trump administration did not rapidly set up an effective testing regime like many other countries.
Republican showcase Black leaders at convention to attack Democrats and counter racism charge
Democrats put Black leaders front and center through their convention last week. Republicans responded Monday with the same strategy on the first night of their convention.
A Heisman trophy winner, a Democratic state representative from Georgia and a first Black female Republican candidate running for a Maryland congressional seat took turns in the first hour of the broadcast to defend President Trump against charges of racism or warn that continued Democratic governance would hurt the African American community.
“It hurts my soul to hear the terrible names that people call Donald,” said Herschel Walker, a College Football Hall of Fame running back, who has long been close to Trump. “The worst one is ‘racist.’ I take it as a personal insult that people would think I would have a 37-year friendship with a racist. People who think that don’t know what they are talking about. Growing up in the Deep South, I have seen racism up close. I know what it is. And it isn’t Donald Trump.”
Kim Klacik, who rose to prominence with viral videos by blaming Democrats for the plight of inner-city Baltimore, made the broader case that Black voters would improve their situation by turning to Republicans.
“The Democrats still assume that Black people will vote for them, no matter how much they let us down and take us for granted,” she said. “Nope! We’re sick of it and not going to take it anymore. The days of blindly supporting the Democrats are coming to an end.”
The third speaker, an elected Democrat, went even further.
“The Democratic Party does not want Black people to leave the mental plantation they’ve had us on for decades,” said Vernon Jones, a state representative from Georgia. “But I have news for them: We are free people with free minds. I am part of a large and growing segment of the Black community who are independent thinkers.”
In an August Washington Post-ABC News poll, 87 percent of Black voters support Joe Biden, vs. 9 percent for Trump. That margin is just shy of Hillary Clinton’s winning margin among Black voters in 2016, and further behind Barack Obama’s 95 percent support in 2008 and 93 percent support in 2012.
Nikki Haley says ‘America is not a racist country’
Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley cast President Trump’s foreign policy as tough and effective and said Joe Biden would return the United States to policies of weakness and capitulation.
“This president has a record of strength and success. The former vice president has a record of weakness and failure,” Haley said in a live address.
The daughter of immigrants, Haley also said her story of election as South Carolina’s first minority and first female governor is a rebuke to what she called “political correctness and ‘cancel culture.’”
“In much of the Democratic Party, it’s now fashionable to say that America is racist. That is a lie. America is not a racist country,” said Haley, who is often mentioned as a potential future GOP presidential candidate.
“America is a story that’s a work in progress. Now is the time to build on that progress, and make America even freer, fairer and better for everyone. That’s why it’s tragic to see so much of the Democratic Party turn a blind eye toward riots and rage,” Haley said.
“The American people know we can do better. And of course we know that every single Black life is valuable.”
Haley served as Trump’s representative at the United Nations for the first two years of his term.
Trump to pastor held by Turkey: Erdogan was ‘very good’
President Trump told a pastor who was held by the Turkish government for nearly two years that the country’s leader, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was “to me … very good.”
The remarks came in a pretaped video from the Diplomatic Room of the White House, in which Trump was surrounded by a half-dozen former detainees held abroad for various reasons but released under his presidency. Trump said in the video that his administration has retrieved more than 50 hostages from 22 countries.
Andrew Brunson is a pastor from North Carolina who was held in a Turkish prison for nearly two years after being arrested amid thousands after an unsuccessful 2016 coup attempt.
“I was held in Turkey for two years, and you took unprecedented steps actually to secure my release, and your administration really fought for me,” Brunson told Trump.
Brunson had faced charges of having contact with Kurdish separatists designated by Turkey and the United States as terrorists — accusations that Brunson and the United States said were false. Brunson was released in 2018.
“To me, President Erdogan was very good, and I know they had you scheduled for a long time and you were a very innocent person and he ultimately, after we had a few conversations, he agreed,” Trump told Brunson. “So we appreciate that.”
Other former detainees featured in the video included:
Michael White, who had been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus and was released in June after being held in Iran for nearly two years. White is a cancer patient whose family feared for his safety because of his health complications and Iran’s notoriously unsanitary prison system.
Sam Goodwin, who was detained in Syria for two months after he had crossed into the country from Iran as he attempted to visit every country in the world. Goodwin was released in July 2019.
Josh Holt, a Utah native who had traveled to Venezuela to marry a woman he met online and was released in May 2018 after two years in a Caracas jail. He and his wife, Thamy, were imprisoned and released together. Holt had been accused by Venezuelan officials of stockpiling weapons and grenades in public housing — a charge he had denied.
Bryan Nerren, a Tennessee pastor who was detained in India for more than seven months until his release in May. Nerren had traveled there for a missionary conference.
Fact Checker: Trump did not bring the economy ‘back before’
“President Trump brought our economy back before, and he will bring it back again.”
— Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley
Trump and his supporters often speak as if he took office in the middle of the Great Recession when, in fact, he inherited a pretty good economy. The United States added more than 250,000 jobs each month in 2014 and 227,000 a month in 2015. It added 193,000 a month in 2016, as Trump barnstormed the country saying the economy was in crisis.
In 2017, Trump’s first year in office, monthly job growth slowed to 179,000 per month. It jumped to 223,000 a month in 2018 — lower than under President Barack Obama in 2014 and 2015 — and fell back to 175,000 a month in 2019.
When in 2018, Trump proclaimed, twice in the same day, “an economic turnaround of historic proportions,” the United States had been adding jobs for 94 straight months, of which 18 were under Trump’s leadership.
Fact Checker: The astonishing evolution of Trump’s North Korea policy
“Obama and Biden let North Korea threaten America. President Trump rejected that weakness, and we passed the toughest sanctions on North Korea in history.”
— Former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley
Haley conveniently leaves out the rest of the story. The evolution of Trump’s policy on North Korea is astonishing.
On Nov. 7, 2017, speaking in South Korea, the president denounced the North Korean regime, saying: “Citizens spy on fellow citizens, their homes are subject to search at any time, and their every action is subject to surveillance. In place of a vibrant society, the people of North Korea are bombarded by state propaganda practically every waking hour of the day. North Korea is a country ruled as a cult.”
That’s the period of the sanctions cited by Haley.
Seven months later, Trump met with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, the first time a U.S. president sat down with a North Korean leader. “His country does love him. His people, you see the fervor. They have a great fervor,” Trump said after the meeting.
Complex diplomatic initiatives usually work the opposite way: Lower-level officials reach a series of agreements over months or years of talks, resulting in a summit meeting to finalize the deal. Trump, eager for a made-for-television event, opted to go straight to the summit without substantial agreements in place.
The problem with that approach is demonstrated by the document Trump and Kim signed in June 2018. It was remarkably vague, leaving much to interpretation and debate, especially compared with previous documents signed by North Korea. Pyongyang has a long history of making agreements and then not living up to their obligations, but apparently Trump was not aware that the language in earlier agreements was tougher.
Trump and Kim met twice more, in February and June 2019, when Trump stepped over the demilitarized zone to become the first U.S. president to set foot on North Korean soil. No further agreements were reached, but Trump continued to depict the relationship as a success even as experts said Pyongyang continued to improve its nuclear and missile programs. Trump even made excuses for Kim, dismissing the missile tests as “short-range,” not “ballistic missiles tests” and claiming that Kim was “not happy with the testing.”
“North Korea has been building new missiles, new capabilities, new weapons as fast as anybody on the planet with the 115th-most powerful economy in the world,” Air Force Gen. John Hyten said in January 2020.