Republicans used the third day of their national convention to portray President Trump as a strong defender of conservative principles on law enforcement, defense and the economy — emphasizing his law-and-order credentials as social unrest flared again after another police shooting of a Black man.
Vice President Pence, the headliner of the night, took the lead in painting Trump as projecting leadership abroad and overseeing a strong domestic economy before it was battered by the coronavirus pandemic. And in one of the night's sharpest attacks against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Pence warned: "You won't be safe in Joe Biden's America."
"He does things in his own way, on his own terms," Pence said of Trump, who was in attendance for the speech at Fort McHenry in Baltimore. "Not much gets past him, and when he has an opinion, he's liable to share it. He's certainly kept things interesting, but more importantly, President Donald Trump has kept his word to the American people."
But the night's focus also served to highlight where Trump, who has governed as a populist with a nationalist streak, has often been at odds with the party's traditional messages on the economy and intervention abroad. Where the party once pushed a message of free trade, Trump has put in place tariffs and embraced protectionist policies. Where his GOP predecessors frequently deployed the military abroad, Trump has called for bringing soldiers home.
The evening's program, much like those of the preceding two nights, sidestepped those differences as the party fully lines up behind Trump. Speakers instead focused on portraying the president as a defender of police, soldiers, medical personnel and small-business workers while depicting Democrats as their enemies.
None of the speakers specifically addressed the police shooting of Jacob Blake Jr., a Black man, in Kenosha, Wis., on Sunday, which left him paralyzed from the waist down. Violent protests have since ensued, and on Wednesday, local officials said a 17-year-old had been charged with homicide after two people in Kenosha were killed and another seriously wounded by gunfire during overnight protests.
Racial justice protests have been a mainstay of the summer across the country following the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in Minneapolis in May when a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, and Trump has grown heavily critical of the protesters after first supporting peaceful gatherings in response to Floyd’s death.
Republicans on Wednesday night echoed that criticism and joined Trump in portraying the protests, which have included looting and violence, as a dire threat to the country. And they accused Democratic officials in cities across the country of failing to restore order.
“From Seattle and Portland to Washington and New York, Democrat-run cities across this country are being overrun by violent mobs,” said South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem, one of the opening speakers. “People that can afford to flee have fled. But the people that can’t — good, hard-working Americans — are left to fend for themselves.”
In the face of accusations that Trump and Republicans' rhetoric toward the racial justice movement is racist, Pence said the administration supports both the Black community and the police departments that have come under increasing scrutiny for how they patrol communities of color.
"The American people know we don't have to choose between supporting law enforcement and standing with our African American neighbors to improve the quality of their lives, education, jobs and safety," Pence said. "And from the first days of this administration, we've done both. And we will keep supporting law enforcement and keep supporting our African American and minority communities across this land for four more years."
The unfolding turmoil in the country — both the aftermath of the Kenosha shooting and Hurricane Laura barreling toward the Gulf Coast — did little to alter the convention programming, much of it having been recorded in advance. But two officials familiar with the planning said Trump’s formal address to the convention Thursday might not happen because of Laura, a storm that the National Hurricane Center said could trigger an “unsurvivable” storm surge and which strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane earlier Wednesday. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private planning.
Advisers will decide Thursday morning whether Trump will speak after assessing the damage to Texas and Louisiana. Trump is scheduled to address an audience on the South Lawn of the White House, and he tweeted earlier Thursday that his administration was "fully engaged" with officials in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.
"This is a serious storm, and we urge all those in the affected areas to heed state and local authorities," Pence said. "Stay safe, and know that we'll be with you every step of the way to support, rescue, response and recovery in the days and weeks ahead."
A major thread throughout the GOP convention has been Trump's fervent support for police, as the president seeks to capitalize on racial unrest in primarily Democratic-run cities and states to warn of urban chaos should he lose reelection.
One of the scheduled speakers was Michael "Mick" McHale, a retired Florida police officer who heads the National Association of Police Organizations. In his remarks, he accused Biden of turning "his candidacy over to the far-left anti-law enforcement radicals."
"The differences between Trump-Pence and Biden-Harris are crystal-clear," McHale said. "Your choices are the most pro-law enforcement president we've ever had, or the most radical anti-police ticket in history."
Meanwhile, Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), spoke with the Blake family earlier Wednesday. Biden released a video statement that condemned not only the police shooting but also the violent protests that erupted in its aftermath.
“You know, as I said after George Floyd’s murder, protesting brutality is a right, and absolutely necessary,” Biden said. “But burning down communities is not protests. It’s needless violence.”
Thursday's speaking lineup was heavy on lawmakers and senior officials with national security backgrounds, as well as outside supporters of the president's foreign policy agenda.
That included Ric Grenell, the former acting director of national intelligence and U.S. ambassador to Germany; Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who is the first female combat veteran elected to the Senate and is locked in a tough reelection bid; Keith Kellogg, Pence's national security adviser; and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.), a former Navy SEAL officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and lost his right eye to an improvised explosive device during one of his deployments.
Some of the testimonials to Trump ran counter to what is known about Trump's relationship with foreign leaders while exaggerating his achievements or providing a misleading accounting of his presidency.
Grenell said he saw the president "charm" German Chancellor Angela Merkel, even though the president has repeatedly antagonized her publicly.
Many credited Trump with taking a tough stand against China while ignoring his attempts to court President Xi Jinping at the beginning of his presidency and ignoring Beijing's human rights abuses.
Kellogg acknowledged that Trump is "no hawk" on foreign policy but portrayed him as acting decisively when needed, a description that runs counter to the portrait painted by former national security adviser John Bolton in his recent book.
"He wisely wields the sword when required but believes in seeking peace instead of perpetual conflict," Kellogg said.
Another one of the speakers was the exiled Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who was under house arrest in China until his 2012 escape to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and eventually to the United States. He has written in support of the Trump administration’s posture toward China.
The Trump family affair at the convention continued, with Lara Trump, the president's daughter-in-law and an adviser to the campaign, delivering one of the closing remarks. Second lady Karen Pence spoke about support for military families.
Other speakers included Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Madison Cawthorn, the Republican nominee for the 11th Congressional District in North Carolina who at 25 is poised to become the youngest-ever member of Congress.
The lineup also included an array of everyday “heroes” — such as Clarence Henderson, a participant in the Greensboro, N.C., sit-ins of the 1960s, and the veteran football coach Lou Holtz — who the campaign said had made significant contributions “to our great American story.”
Holtz, who coached at the University of Notre Dame, took personal aim at Biden, calling the former vice president and others like him "Catholics in name only" because of their support for abortion rights.
Sister Deirdre "Dede" Byrne, of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, echoed the criticism from Holtz, calling Biden and Harris "the most anti-life presidential ticket ever" and praising Trump for his policies opposing abortion access.
Senior Democratic officials took a swipe at the vice president in advance of his speech, portraying him as subservient to the president and an enabler of the chaos in the Trump White House.
"Pence is quiet as a little mouse," Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a conference call organized by the Democratic National Committee. "He has shown no leadership. He has just been a total acolyte of President Trump's bad policies, misdeeds and, frankly, lying."
Pence delivered his convention address at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, now a historic landmark that was used to defend Baltimore Harbor from the British navy during the War of 1812. That battle is the inspiration for the poem written by Francis Scott Key that eventually became "The Star-Spangled Banner."
The site is maintained by the federal government through the National Park Service.
Trump's reference to Baltimore in 2019 as a "disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess" was not mentioned.
Questions also continued Wednesday over Trump and the Republican Party's use of government resources and landmarks that critics decry as a blatant violation of federal law meant to maintain a gulf between official government business and political activity.
The Office of Special Counsel said in a statement Wednesday that it would investigate complaints about violations of the Hatch Act, which bars executive-branch employees from participating in politics in their official capacity. But the office emphasized that it has no power to enforce the criminal provisions of the law, which is an issue for the Justice Department.
“OSC’s role does not include grandstanding or holding news conferences about potential violations that may or may not occur,” said Henry J. Kerner, a Trump appointee who heads the office. “Ultimately, officials and employees choose whether to comply with the law.”
The statement also reiterated that some areas of the White House — including the Rose Garden and the West Lawn — do not fall under the Hatch Act, nor can the president or vice president violate it. First lady Melania Trump’s speech to the convention was delivered in the Rose Garden on Tuesday, and the president’s South Lawn remarks are expected to draw an audience of at least 1,000.
White House officials have dismissed Hatch Act concerns, emphasizing that administration employees who appear at the convention — including outgoing White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and current White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany - were doing so in their personal capacities.
Both Conway and McEnany, who spoke Wednesday, described Trump as a supportive boss who empowered and elevated women to senior positions in the White House and in the campaign.
At RNC, Pence rebuts Biden’s critique of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus
Vice President Pence on Wednesday offered a forceful response to Joe Biden’s searing criticism of the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, vowing that a safe and effective vaccine will be ready by year’s end despite scant evidence that scientists are on pace.
Pence also called for an end to violent acts at protests in American cities, including Kenosha, Wis., where a man shot and killed two people and wounded another late Tuesday. Police have arrested a 17-year-old on charges of first-degree murder.
“Let me be clear, the violence must stop — whether in Minnesota, Portland or Kenosha,” Pence said, while accepting a formal nomination for a second term with remarks at the Republican National Convention. “We will have law and order on the streets of America.”
In his speech at the Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore, Pence touted President Trump’s record on foreign and domestic policy, while delivering a rebuttal to Biden’s assertion that the president had failed to protect the nation from a pandemic that has killed more than 170,000 Americans.
“Last week, Joe Biden said that ‘no miracle’ is coming. But what Joe doesn’t seem to understand is that America is a nation of miracles,” Pence told a crowd at the outdoor event. “After all the sacrifice in this year like no other — and all the hardship — we are finding our way forward again.”
Pence also offered a note of solace for the families who have lost loved ones to the deadly pathogen.
Tonight, he said, “we mourn with those who mourn, and we grieve with those who grieve. And this night I know millions of Americans will pause and pray for God’s comfort to each of you.”
Over the first two nights of the Republican National Convention, a litany of speakers enthusiastically endorsed Trump but stayed mostly clear of speaking about the novel coronavirus — even though Biden and other Democrats focused much of their attacks on Trump at their nominating convention last week over his management of the pandemic.
Pence, the head of the White House’s coronavirus task force, stepped in to answer the critique. He touted a ramping-up of testing to as many as 800,000 per day — although experts said federal and local government agencies still are not testing enough people to help control the virus. And he echoed Trump’s push to reopen schools and continue to reopen segments of the economy.
“As we open up America again and open up America’s schools, I promise you we’ll continue to put the health of America first,” Pence said, even though medical experts have warned that opening schools and resuming team sports are likely to prompt another spike in coronavirus cases.
Pence also faulted Biden’s stance on the racial justice protests that have convulsed American cities in the wake of more high-profile killings and shootings of Black Americans by police. The protests in Kenosha erupted after Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot by police in an incident that was caught on video after he allegedly was trying to break up a fight among other people.
Pence falsely stated that Biden supports defunding police departments. As Trump’s campaign has sought to do, Pence cast Biden as beholden to more-liberal members of the Democratic Party, even though he defeated progressive Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in the primary.
“When you consider their agenda it’s clear: Joe Biden would be nothing more than a Trojan horse for a radical left,” Pence said.
In closing, he offered a revision of Trump’s famous 2016 campaign slogan: “With President Donald Trump in the White House for four more years, and God’s help, we will make America great again, again.”
Trump supporters, protesters clash outside of Pence’s speech venue in Baltimore
More than an hour before Vice President Pence delivered his acceptance speech at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Trump supporters and protesters clashed in fights that required police intervention — and in one case, Taser use — according to reports on social media.
Fewer than 100 anti-Trump protesters had gathered outside Fort McHenry, an iconic Baltimore landmark whose battered flag during the War of 1812 inspired the star-spangled lyrics to the national anthem.
Several confrontations broke out between the protesters and a smaller group of Trump supporters sprinkled near the crowd. In one instance, protesters chanted taunts of “She’s a Karen” at a Trump supporter who had engaged in a shouting match with other protesters. The situation eventually escalated into police swarming into the crowd, video shot by the Baltimore Sun showed.
Baltimore police did not immediately respond to a request for further information.
“This president stood up to China and ended the era of economic surrender. Joe Biden has been a cheerleader for communist China — wants to repeal all the tariffs that are leveling the playing field for American workers.”
— Vice President Pence
There is scant evidence the tariffs “are leveling the playing field.” In fact, economists say that the brunt of the cost has been passed on to American consumers and that Trump’s trade war with China has made matters worse for U.S. industries reliant on trade, such as farmers in the Midwest.
First, Trump imposed tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of goods from China, complaining that Asia’s largest economy had been gaming global trade rules and manipulating its currency for years. In retaliation, China reduced purchases of U.S. crops such as soybeans. Then Trump directed subsidies to American farmers to soften the blow. The two countries eventually resolved some sticking points in the first phase of a trade deal that took effect in February. But China is lagging far behind in its commitment to purchase $200 billion in agricultural, manufactured and energy products above 2017 levels.
Yet Trump falsely says China is “more than living up to” its commitments.
Fact Checker: Pence offers false claims on Biden and fracking
“Where this president achieved energy independence for the United States, Joe Biden would abolish fossil fuels and fracking.”
— Vice President Pence
All of this is false — and we fact check these lines so often from Trump, it seems like speechwriting malpractice or an intentional effort to deceive for Pence to include them in a prime-time speech.
The United States is not energy independent, as it continues to import millions of barrels of oil per day. “In 2019, the United States imported about 9.10 million barrels per day (MMb/d) of petroleum from nearly 90 countries,” according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Biden would not abolish fossil fuels. His plan on energy and the environment calls for “net-zero [carbon] emissions no later than 2050.” That’s 30 years from now. In the interim, Biden’s plan says, “we must look at all low- and zero-carbon technologies,” leaving the door open to carbon capture and other fossil-fuel-based sources.
The line about fracking is also wrong. Fracking, short for “hydraulic fracturing,” is a drilling technique that uses high-pressure water and chemical blasts to access natural gas and oil reserves underground. The technique has facilitated a boom in U.S. energy production over the past decade, but it has been controversial, the target of climate-change activists and many Democrats.
Biden would not ban all fracking. He says he would issue no new fracking permits for federal lands or waters, while allowing existing fracking operations to continue.
Fact Checker: Pence touts VA reforms that started under Obama
“And after years of scandal 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.”
— Vice President Pence
In three sentences, Vice President Pence overstates the impact of the Trump administration’s efforts to help veterans twice.
The VA Choice bill — known as the MISSION Act — was mostly an update of a law passed in 2014 during Barack Obama’s presidency. Plus, it’s not yet clear that veterans are facing shorter wait times to see doctors. The MISSION Act only took effect in 2019.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 was an important measure for accountability and whistleblower protection at VA. But this law builds on firing authority given to the VA secretary through the Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 in response to the 2014 Phoenix VA scandal.
Fact Checker: Pence echoes Trump’s false claims on military
“Four years ago, we inherited a military hollowed out by devastating budget cuts, an economy struggling to break out of the slowest recovery since the Great Depression. … We rebuilt our military.”
— Vice President Pence
Trump often falsely claims he’s “totally rebuilt” the U.S. military. Pence is echoing that claim in so many words. The military budget had declined in the years before Trump took office as a result of decreases in funding for Overseas Contingency Operations, as both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan came to a close, not because the military was “hollowed out.”
Adjusted for inflation, the U.S. military budget under Trump lags some years during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over three fiscal years, the Trump administration and Congress have authorized $2.5 trillion in military spending. Much of it will go toward building new, more modern ships and weaponry. But the money is not all spent, only a portion of it is destined for new equipment, and the equipment is not all built.
As for Trump’s claim that Obama and Biden presided over “the slowest recovery since the Great Depression,” it’s important to note that job growth was higher during the last three years of the Obama administration (8.1 million) than the first three years of Trump (6.6 million).
Fact Checker: Pence yet again misleads on Biden’s position on police
“When [Joe Biden was] asked whether he’d support cutting funding to law enforcement, and he replied, ‘Yes, absolutely.’”
— Vice President Pence
The Trump campaign is determined to spread the fiction that former vice president Joe Biden supports “defunding police.” But that is simply false, according to Biden, his campaign and a review of his remarks. Pence is misquoting Biden, just as President Trump’s millions of dollars of campaign ads on the issue (which have earned Four Pinocchios) misquote him.
The phrase “defunding police” generally means shrinking the scope of police responsibilities to public safety and changing the tactics used by police officers. Biden backs advocates’ calls to increase spending on social programs separate from local police budgets, but he also wants more funding for police overhauls such as body cameras and training on community policing approaches.
“No, I don’t support defunding the police,” Biden told CBS. “I support conditioning federal aid to police based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness. And, in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community and everybody in the community.” Indeed, Biden has come under fire from the left for his position and for proposing to spend an additional $300 million a year on the community policing program started in the Clinton administration.
During the interview, Barkan said, “We can reduce the responsibilities assigned to the police and redirect some of the funding for police into social services, mental health counseling and affordable housing.”
He asked Biden, “Are you open to that kind of reform?” In the video, Biden replies, “I’ve proposed that kind of reform.” At another point, Barkan again asks: “But so we agree that we can redirect some of the funding?” The video shows Biden saying: “Yes, absolutely.”
But the audiotape of the full conversation on police shows Biden’s responses were much more nuanced. The NowThis video does not include Biden adding that his response was not the same as “defunding all the police.” He also speaks about increasing funding for mental health, which is different from saying he would fund mental health aid out of redirected funds from the police. In effect, Biden says he would condition aid on police reforms as an incentive on the one hand, while simultaneously providing additional resources for mental health, homelessness and other kinds of community support.
Fact Checker: Pence dramatically overstates impact of Trump’s ‘China ban’
“Before the first case of coronavirus spread within the United States, President Trump took the unprecedented step of suspending all travel from China. That action saved an untold number of American lives.”
— Vice President Pence
Pence greatly overstates the impact of Trump’s action, which did not halt all travel from China and was not much different from what other countries did.
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 which allows flights to keep going.
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.
But the testing criteria set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were extremely narrow: Only those with recent travel to China or those who had come into contact with a confirmed infection would be tested.
The New York Times estimated nearly 40,000 people traveled from China to the United States in the two months after Trump imposed restrictions on such travel — and at least 430,000 people have arrived in the United States on direct flights from China before the restrictions.
The virus was already spreading through the United States, and there is little evidence it saved lives, especially since the Trump administration did not rapidly set up an effective testing regime like many other countries.
Fact Checker: Pence repeats false claim on Trump tax bill
“President Trump kept his word and then some … to pass the largest tax cut and reform in American history.”
— Vice President Pence
Pence, President Trump — and other surrogates — have held on to this false factoid since before the tax cut was passed. The president himself has repeated the falsehood more than 200 times.
But in reality, 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. In recent history, Trump’s tax cut is the eighth largest — and even smaller than two tax cuts passed under Barack Obama.
Fact Checker: Former acting DNI spreads unfounded conspiracy theories
“The Obama-Biden administration secretly launched a surveillance operation on the Trump campaign, and silenced the many brave intelligence officials who spoke up against it. … Former vice president Joe Biden asked intelligence officials to uncover the hidden information on President Trump’s incoming national security adviser three weeks before the Inauguration.”
— Richard Grenell, who was briefly acting director of national intelligence
Grenell jumbles together a bunch of unfounded conspiracy theories that Trump has frequently tweeted or claimed in public remarks. The FBI investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russian entities was not ordered by President Barack Obama or Vice President Joe Biden.
In his jab at Biden, Grenell is referring to a January 2017 meeting that Obama held in the Oval Office with then-FBI Director James B. Comey, Biden and national security adviser Susan E. Rice, among others. But his claim is not supported by the evidence.
Rice indicated in an email that Obama was primarily concerned with whether limits should be placed on classified information that was shared with the incoming team, in particular incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn, in light of the intercepts of the calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador. Although presidents generally are expected not to inquire about criminal investigations, it is appropriate to have a discussion about a counterintelligence probe, as that involves national security.
In interviews before Congress and with FBI investigators, no one who participated in the meeting recall Biden saying anything, let alone making the request that Grenell claims. Sally Yates, then deputy attorney general, in testimony this month before the Senate, said under oath that neither Obama nor Biden attempted to influence the FBI’s investigation of Flynn during the meeting. “During the meeting, the president, the vice president, the national security adviser did not attempt to any way to direct or influence any investigation,” she said. She said Obama’s only interest in Flynn was to ensure that it was safe to share sensitive national security information with the incoming administration while the FBI investigated him.
Lara Trump seeks to humanize Trump, calls him a ‘good man’
The president’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump continued the evening’s theme of presenting President Trump as a compassionate man.
“What I learned about our president is different than what you might have heard. I learned that he’s a good man. That he loves his family. That he didn’t need this job,” she said. “That no one on earth works harder for the American people. That he’s willing to fight for his beliefs and for the people and the country that he loves. He is a person of conviction.”
Lara Trump, married to Eric Trump, said the public image of her father-in-law was created by “distorted news and biased commentary.” Trump’s image as an aggressor or bully comes largely from his own Twitter account and public comments.
She, like South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem before her, compared Trump with Abraham Lincoln: “This is an election that will decide if we keep America America or if we head down an uncharted, frightening path towards socialism. Abraham Lincoln once famously said America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
Harris makes fundraising appeal ahead of Pence taking the stage at the RNC
Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) is trying to raise money off Vice President Pence’s speech tonight, sending out an email Wednesday saying that the man she hopes to replace is “wrong about our country and wrong about our future.”
“Our nation is experiencing a moral reckoning with racism and systemic injustice, which has sent people of all ages, colors, and creeds to the streets to demand change,” Harris wrote. “Trump and Pence have responded with callousness.”
The main job for a ticket’s vice-presidential nominee is typically to level attacks against the opposing party and Harris is following that mold. In addition to tweaking Pence before his big address, she’s also planning an address in Washington on Thursday ahead of Trump’s renomination speech that is expected to focus on the administration’s failures to contain the coronavirus.
Harris and Pence will face off in October, when the vice-presidential candidates hold their sole debate. In her fundraising note she made it clear that it’s already on her mind. “I look forward to debating Mike Pence on the debate stage,” Harris wrote.
Chinese political dissident highlights Beijing’s human rights abuses that Trump has largely ignored
Chen Guangcheng is a famed blind human rights lawyer from China. He has exemplified the fight for human dignity in an authoritarian nation, and was sprung from house arrest by U.S. diplomats under the Obama administration in 2012.
On Wednesday, he showed up onstage at the RNC delivering a searing critique of the Chinese Communist Party, calling it an “enemy of humanity” that is “terrorizing its own people and it is threatening the well-being of the world.”
Chen’s remarks come as Trump has sought to present himself as tough on Beijing and Biden as too weak to stand up to President Xi Jinping’s regime. Yet Chen’s appearance underscored an area where Biden’s camp views Trump as weak: speaking out on human rights violations.
While Trump has bashed China on trade and faulted Beijing for not controlling the spread of the coronavirus, Chen focused on the Communist Party’s pursuit of “power and control,” saying its leaders act “without regard to the law or to human rights.”
Chen, wearing a suit and sunglasses and standing before a row of American flags, highlighted the disappearance of political dissidents such as himself, taken into custody by the state, and he asked prime time American viewers to “consider the sad plight of the Uighurs in concentration camps.”
Trump has barely talked about the Uighurs — and former national security adviser John R. Bolton wrote in a recent memoir of his White House tenure that the president told Xi in a private conversation that he was justified in building the Uighur camps. Trump has denied Bolton’s account.
One thing that’s certain: Chen’s mere presence onstage in this high-profile event is likely to anger Beijing and potentially cause waves in the bilateral relationship — no matter who wins the election.
Civil rights activist Clarence Henderson praises Trump’s leadership
As a young Black man in the 1960s Clarence Henderson was a civil rights activist, joining a sit-in at a Woolworth lunch counter in North Carolina. He is speaking at the convention about racial justice and against violent protesters, a favorite topic for Trump.
Henderson is politically conservative and supported Trump in 2016. Asked about his support for Trump, he told the Greensboro News and Record this week that, “Politicians are a dime a dozen, but leaders are priceless. Donald Trump is a leader. And he loves America.”
Henderson’s inclusion in the convention lineup appears to be an effort to blunt the Democrats’ advantage among Black voters and argue that Democrats haven’t delivered for Black voters as they’ve promised.