Democratic National Convention 2020: Day 3

By Melissa Macaya, Kyle Blaine, Jessica Estepa, Fernando Alfonso III and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 1:20 AM ET, Thu August 20, 2020
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8:18 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

Obama still editing tonight's DNC speech

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

Former President Barack Obama is still editing his convention speech at this hour, putting the finishing touches on the most confrontational and blistering address he has given against President Trump.

A person close to Obama tells me that he has spent the last few weeks thinking and conceiving of what he wants to say tonight, but most of the writing happened after the eulogy he delivered for John Lewis.

In those remarks, he did not mention Trump by name. Tonight, he will — and he will not hold back, a person close to Obama said, as he decided this moment was urgent enough to break with protocol in going after a sitting president.

He will deliver his remarks without audience or fanfare from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. The choice was designed to underscore how “our very democracy is at a stake,” a Democratic official tells me.

One other major change tonight — that CNN has learned Obama suggested himself.

Initially, the convention originally had Obama speaking after the running mate tonight. But once Kamala Harris was selected, Obama suggested switching the order so he could speak first, followed by her.

“It felt like an opportunity to symbolically pass the torch, give her her moment and spotlight,” a person close to Obama said.

8:25 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

Harris has spoken with several VP finalists

From CNN's MJ Lee

CNN has learned that since being chosen as Joe Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris has personally spoken with several of the other VP candidates, including some of the finalists:

  • Former national security adviser Susan Rice
  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren
  • Rep. Val Demings

All of these women have publicly supported Biden’s decision to choose Harris, and we’ve seen some of them speak at this week’s convention.

And as Harris makes history tonight as the first woman of color to be nominated as VP, it is not a coincidence that this evening will also feature several other high-profile Democratic women who will speak in support of her. We expect that gender will be one of the themes tonight.

In a mark of the historic nature of her candidacy, Harris will be officially nominated by three women close to her: Her sister, niece, stepdaughter. But as a reminder of how unusual this convention is, all three women will be speaking virtually.


8:09 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

Here's what to expect on the third night of the DNC

From CNN's Eric Bradner, Dan Merica and Kate Sullivan

Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Former President Obama, and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Former President Obama, and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Getty Images

The third night of the Democratic National Convention is tonight, and it will take place from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET.

The two history-making figures who are linked together by Joe Biden are set to headline Wednesday's lineup. Sen. Kamala Harris will accept the Democratic vice presidential nomination, and former President Barack Obama will make remarks.

Here are some key things to watch for tonight:

  • Harris will make it official: Biden's running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, is set to be officially nominated as the Democratic vice presidential pick — making her the first Black and South Asian woman to appear on a major political party's ticket and potentially the country's first female vice president.
  • Obama to tout his one-time #2: Obama will make the case for his former vice president's election. Obama knows what it takes to be president. And he knows Biden. That is why Democratic organizers view the former president's speech, more than any other on Wednesday night, as key to convincing voters that the former vice president is ready to jump to the top job. Katie Hill, a spokesperson for Obama, said the speech will outline "why Joe Biden and Kamala Harris possess the experience and character to lead us out of the ongoing economic and health care disasters that the current administration has blundered into."
  • Other notable speakers: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Rep. Cindy Axne of Iowa, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona and more will be speaking tonight. Actress Kerry Washington will emcee.
  • Musical performances: Billie Eilish, Prince Royce and Jennifer Hudson are scheduled to perform.

Read more about the nights' events here.

7:52 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

Elizabeth Warren to hammer Trump's "failed" response to Covid-19

From CNN's MJ Lee and Daniella Diaz

Night three of the Democratic National Convention will feature Joe Biden’s former 2020 rival, Sen. Elizabeth Warren. 

Warren and Biden have stayed in touch since Warren dropped out of the race in March and the former vice president has publicly endorsed and touted some of Warren’s policy ideas.

A source familiar with Warren’s remarks tonight tells CNN she will be speaking live from a pre-K and kindergarten facility in Springfield, Massachusetts, the Springfield Early Childhood Education Center. The Education Center is run by the city and was forced to close in March because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is in front of this backdrop that Warren will discuss what she sees as the “failed federal response to the pandemic” and the Biden-Harris ticket’s economic vision, the source told CNN. 

It’s also worth noting that universal childcare was one of the key pillars of Warren’s presidential campaign and a plan she spoke about with frequency. 

7:50 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

What former VP pick Tim Kaine says Kamala Harris needs to deliver tonight 

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Sen. Tim Kaine wears a mask during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on May 12, in Washington, DC.
Sen. Tim Kaine wears a mask during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on May 12, in Washington, DC. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine dished some advice to his Senate colleague Kamala Harris this afternoon, as she prepared to accept the Democratic VP nomination later in the evening.

“The key is, she's got to introduce herself to the American public," Kaine told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "They're going to see an amazing personal career and an amazing African-American woman, Indian-American woman, child of immigrants who understands the dreams of immigrants and a fierce and affective senator who will speak truth to power."

Kaine went on to outline some of the challenges his 2016 running mate, Hillary Clinton, faced running for President, saying that Harris may face similar, if not worse opposition as a woman of color.

"The biggest pain was seeing the tremendous misogyny and double standards applied against women candidates," he said of running alongside Clinton. "And then when you have a woman of color, it gets even more intense... she has to face off against deep misogyny or subtle double standards that have held women back, and she has to face-off against the President who's not afraid to use racist lies to try to trash her."

But Kaine said no matter how Harris' speech goes, she is bound to make history.

"She is going to make history," Kaine told Blitzer. "That was not the case with my candidacy. I wasn't breaking a glass ceiling. But Kamala Harris is."

7:26 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

Obama takes direct aim at Trump in excerpts released of DNC address

Former President Barack Obama address a townhall talk to discuss, among others, the future of Europe with young people on April 6, 2019 in Berlin.
Former President Barack Obama address a townhall talk to discuss, among others, the future of Europe with young people on April 6, 2019 in Berlin. John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

The Democratic National Convention has released text excerpts of remarks coming tonight from former President Barack Obama.

In his remarks, Obama takes direct shots at President Trump, who he says has "shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends; no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves."

"I have sat in the Oval Office with both of the men who are running for president. I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies. I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously; that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care," Obama added.

Read more excerpts from Obama's speech tonight:

  • "Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe. 170,000 Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone. Our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished, and our democratic institutions threatened like never before."
  • "I’m well aware that in times as polarized as these, most of you have already made up your mind. But maybe you’re still not sure which candidate you’ll vote for – or whether you’ll vote at all. Maybe you’re tired of the direction we’re headed, but you can’t yet see a better path, or you just don’t know enough about the person who wants to lead us there."
  • "So let me tell you about my friend Joe Biden. Twelve years ago, when I began my search for a vice president, I didn’t know I’d end up finding a brother. Joe and I came from different places and different generations. But what I quickly came to admire about him is his resilience, born of too much struggle; his empathy, born of too much grief. Joe’s a man who learned early on to treat every person he meets with respect and dignity, living by the words his parents taught him: 'No one’s better than you, but you’re better than nobody.'"
  • "Over eight years, Joe was the last one in the room whenever I faced a big decision. He made me a better president. He’s got the character and the experience to make us a better country."
  • "Tonight, I am asking you to believe in Joe and Kamala’s ability to lead this country out of dark times and build it back better. But here’s the thing: no single American can fix this country alone. Democracy was never meant to be transactional – you give me your vote; I make everything better. So I am also asking you to believe in your own ability – to embrace your own responsibility as citizens – to make sure that the basic tenets of our democracy endure."


7:36 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

Harris will criticize Trump's "failure of leadership," saying it has "cost lives and livelihoods"

In live remarks from Wilmington, Delaware, set to take place later this evening, presumptive vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will sharply criticize President Trump, saying his administration has turned "our tragedies into political weapons," according to excerpts released by convention organizers.

"Donald Trump’s failure of leadership has cost lives and livelihoods," Harris will say in a portion of her speech.

"Joe will be a president who turns our challenges into purpose," Harris adds.

The California senator will also use her speech to paint a picture of the country she and Biden hope to build together if they are elected in November.

"[I am] committed to the values she [my mother] taught me, to the word that teaches me to walk by faith, and not by sight, and to a vision passed on through generations of Americans—one that Joe Biden shares," Harris will say. "A vision of our nation as a beloved community – where all are welcome, no matter what we look like, where we come from, or who we love."

"A country where we may not agree on every detail, but we are united by the fundamental belief that every human being is of infinite worth, deserving of compassion, dignity and respect. A country where we look out for one another, where we rise and fall as one, where we face our challenges, and celebrate our triumphs. Together," Harris continues.

Read more excerpts from her speech:

"We’re at an inflection point. The constant chaos leaves us adrift. The incompetence makes us feel afraid. The callousness makes us feel alone. It’s a lot.

And here’s the thing: We can do better and deserve so much more.

We must elect a president who will bring something different, something better, and do the important work. A president who will bring all of us together—Black, White, Latino, Asian, Indigenous—to achieve the future we collectively want.

We must elect Joe Biden."

Here is a portion of the video that will introduce Harris:

8:15 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

Young activists will speak about gun violence and climate change tonight

From CNN's Rachel Janfaza

Emma Gonzalez speaks during an interview, Monday, June 4, 2018, in Parkland, Florida.
Emma Gonzalez speaks during an interview, Monday, June 4, 2018, in Parkland, Florida. Wilfredo Lee/AP

Since Donald Trump’s election, young activists have led the charge in a number of protest movements. They walked out of school in protest of gun violence, striked from school to save the climate and took to the streets with calls for racial justice this summer. 

One in 10 eligible voters will be between the ages of 18 and 23 this November, according to the Pew Research Center. Tonight, young leaders from both the gun violence prevention movement and the climate justice movement will take the virtual stage at the Democratic National Convention.

Emma Gonzalez, 20-years-old and a survivor of the 2018 Parkland school shooting, will introduce a section of tonight’s program focused on ending gun violence. The section will feature other gun violence prevention advocates including Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman from Arizona who was shot and wounded in a 2011 mass shooting.

Gonzalez is one of the co-founders of March For Our Lives, the youth-led gun violence prevention organization founded in the wake of the Parkland school shooting. Gonzalez, who was a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at the time, famously called “BS” in an address to lawmakers and gun advocates at a 2018 gun control rally just days after the shooting. Gonzalez's intro during the convention is expected to include audio from this 2018 speech.

Since then, Gonzalez and her peers at March For Our Lives have lobbied for gun control legislation, called out the National Rifle Association, and registered new voters with a cross-country bus tour in the summer of 2018.

Earlier this month, March For Our Lives put out an ad narrated by Gonzales, titled “Our Power,” which chronicles the rise of gun sales throughout the pandemic, and the way that Covid-19 has disproportionately impacted communities of color.

“Our power means we refuse to fear for our lives. We refuse to live without justice. It’s our power, and we will use it," Gonzalez says in the ad.

Tonight’s convention line-up will also feature a group of young climate activists. During the evening’s segment on climate change, these organizers are expected to talk about what’s at stake when it comes to their future, and what they want from Biden when it comes to climate action.

6:52 p.m. ET, August 19, 2020

Trump on Obama's speech tonight: "I wouldn't be here" if he and Biden did "a good job"

From CNN's DJ Judd 

President Trump was asked today to react to excerpts released ahead of former President Barack Obama's speech tonight at the Democratic National Convention. 

Here's what Trump said:

“Now, President Obama did not do a good job. And the reason I'm here is because of President Obama and Joe Biden, because if they did a good job, I wouldn't be here, and probably if they did a good job, I wouldn't have even run, I would have been very happy, I enjoyed my previous life very much, but they did such a bad job that I stand before you as President.”

Trump took aim at the former president, telling reporters at an afternoon briefing, “when I look at what we have, and I look at how bad he was, how ineffective a president he was, he was so ineffective, so terrible, slowest growing recovery in the history, I guess since 1929, on the economy.”