Republican National Convention 2020: Day 2

By Rebekah Metzler, Jessica Estepa, Melissa Macaya and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 12:49 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020
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7:20 p.m. ET, August 25, 2020

Melania Trump's RNC speech not vetted by the West Wing

From CNN's Kate Bennett

The speech Melania Trump will deliver from the Rose Garden tonight (or the East Room, if it rains) was not vetted by anyone in the West Wing, Stephanie Grisham confirms to CNN, nor did anyone on the President’s staff approve the content.

It is unusual for a first lady to deliver a speech of this magnitude to this large an audience without it being vetted by anyone in the West Wing, specifically to monitor for messaging alignment.

This year, as she did in 2016, Melania Trump shunned the help of professional speechwriters.

Most of her remarks were written by a senior aide, says a campaign official, who tells CNN Trump spent several hours last night in the East Wing rehearsing and making final adjustments to the copy.

7:12 p.m. ET, August 25, 2020

Trump to appear "multiple times" tonight

From CNN's Betsy Klein and Ryan Nobles 

President Donald Trump speaks on the first day of the Republican National Convention at the Charlotte Convention Center on August 24.
President Donald Trump speaks on the first day of the Republican National Convention at the Charlotte Convention Center on August 24. Chris Carlson/Pool/Getty Images

Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said that President Donald Trump will appear “more than once” during Tuesday’s Republican National Convention.

“President Trump himself will have a significant role again tonight and he will appear more than once during the programming,” Murtaugh told reporters during a briefing call, but said it does not mean he will be giving prepared remarks.

Trump is expected to make appearances each night of the GOP convention. He will give his acceptance speech on Thursday from the White House.

“There will be a small audience” for first lady Melania Trump’s event tonight, and said they “are consulting with a coronavirus adviser and all appropriate precautions will be taken.” He referred questions on the tone of the speech to her office.

Murtaugh went through the list of tonight’s slated speakers – they are expected to address topics such as indigenous people, criminal justice, the Maine lobster industry, the dairy industry, the anti-abortion movement, illegal immigration, drug addiction and law and order.

There will be another elected Democratic speaker: Eveleth, Minnesota, Mayor Robert Vlaisavljevich.

Murtaugh declined to provide details on the President’s Thursday speech, other than to say he will be “trumpeting his economy” and address his “unprecedented” coronavirus response, and a “look ahead” toward the next four years.

“We felt very good about last night,” Murtaugh said of Monday’s programming, adding that the campaign was “very pleased” with the way night one played into the “overarching theme” of “honoring the great American story.”

He ticked through some of the speakers and said they shared “undeniably uplifting” stories.

He claimed that one night of RNC is “more entertainment” and “more informative than all four days of the Democrats.”

7:07 p.m. ET, August 25, 2020

Pompeo to speak at RNC from Israel

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler, Jeremy Diamond, Kaitlan Collins and Kevin Liptak

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wears a mask at a press conference on August 12, in Prague, Czech Republic.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wears a mask at a press conference on August 12, in Prague, Czech Republic. Gabriel Kuchta/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will address the Republican National Convention tonight, despite just a month earlier reminding employees to "not improperly engage the Department of State in the political process," according to a cable obtained by CNN.

Pompeo's decision to address the RNC in pre-taped remarks from Jerusalem breaks with past precedent of secretaries of state not addressing political conventions and a long-standing protocol of not discussing domestic politics while abroad. It has drawn scrutiny and scorn from diplomats.

Pompeo will discuss Trump's policy achievements, particularly his accomplishments on China, delivering robust Middle East policy, strengthening NATO, and seeking out diplomacy with North Korea, according to a source who was briefed on the convention plans.

On the Middle East aspect of the speech, Pompeo will highlight the moving of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and the Israel-United Arab Emirates agreement earlier this month, the source said.

Pompeo will address the RNC for about four minutes in a prerecorded message from a rooftop in Jerusalem, the source said. The speech would be given "in his personal capacity," according to a State Department official.

"No State Department resources will be used," the official said. "Staff are not involved in preparing the remarks or in the arrangements for Secretary Pompeo's appearance. The State Department will not bear any costs in conjunction with this appearance."

A source familiar said Trump asked Pompeo to speak and he considers it a high honor to have been asked. The President thinks it will be one of the most important speeches of the week.

The speech has been cleared through Pompeo's personal lawyers, State Department, White House lawyers and RNC lawyers, the source familiar said. The source said they are not concerned that it is a Hatch Act violation or improper as Pompeo "will be speaking as a citizen of the US, not speaking as the secretary."

No taxpayer resources are being used to support the speech, the source said, as it's being funded by the campaign and RNC. No support staff are traveling with Pompeo on his government plane. The source briefed on the convention plans said a private company paid for by the RNC will record the video.

Pompeo departed for a swing through the Middle East and Africa on Sunday. His stops include Israel, Sudan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Trump has frequently touted his support for Israel as a top foreign policy achievement, and said Friday that his decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem was popular with Evangelicals.

6:57 p.m. ET, August 25, 2020

Melania Trump will deliver RNC speech from newly renovated White House Rose Garden

From CNN's Kate Bennett

First Lady Melania Trump visits the Children’s Inn at National Institute of Health on Valentine's Day on February 14 in Bethesda, Maryland.
First Lady Melania Trump visits the Children’s Inn at National Institute of Health on Valentine's Day on February 14 in Bethesda, Maryland. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

First lady Melania Trump on Saturday unveiled the newly renovated White House Rose Garden, an iconic space that she will use as a backdrop for her upcoming speech to the Republican National Convention.

The Rose Garden has been under construction since late last month, when the first lady announced she was spearheading an overhaul to the space to include updates to the technological elements of the space, as well as the redesign of the plantings and the placement of new limestone walkways.

Since construction began, the garden — used more frequently in the Covid-19 era to hold news conferences as it allows White House staff, journalists and guests to more safely socially distance — has been out of sight from staff and members of the press.

CNN previously reported the space was on a list of spots for the first lady's convention speech. President Trump will give his convention address Thursday from the South Lawn of the White House.

And some hope she will bring the same meticulous attention to detail that she put into redoing the iconic space — complete with a more than 200 page report — to the showy partisan event. The Rose Garden renovation was paid for by private donations.

The detail-oriented first lady wasn't so careful in 2016, effectively botching her introduction to America by delivering an RNC speech including lines plagiarized from Michelle Obama's 2008 convention speech.

In 2016, Trump, according to campaign sources at the time, shunned the assistance of more seasoned speechwriters and worked with a staffer at the Trump Organization who had some experience helping ghostwrite her husband's books.

This time the first lady is again, opting not to use a professional speechwriting team for her convention address, relying instead on her small circle of staff, according to a Republican strategist, speaking with anonymity to preserve working relations within the White House.