Republican National Convention 2020: Day 3

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

Updated 1:04 a.m. ET, August 27, 2020
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8:55 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Wisconsin violence hangs over RNC as protests grow

Analysis from CNN's Kevin Liptak

David Goldman/AP
David Goldman/AP

A crisis is brewing in the upper Midwest following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. A prayer for peace in the city opened Tuesday night’s Republican National Convention, but Trump has since sought to use the violence there to advance his “law and order” message, chastising the state’s governor before eventually saying he was sending in federal law enforcement.

The events in Kenosha provide an unsettling backdrop for Trump's convention – though the unrest does seem to fit into it's pro-law enforcement theme, which continue on Wednesday with scheduled speeches from a man whose wife was murdered and the president of the National Association of Police Organizations.

But they also lay bare the consequences of Trump's actions and provide another stark reminder of how Trump has stoked racial divisions during his presidency. Two featured convention speakers on Monday, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who were filmed brandishing guns at a group of protesters who were walking along the neighborhood’s private street, en route to the St. Louis mayor’s residence to advocate for policing reform.

How speakers -- particularly those representing the administration, including Vice President Mike Pence -- address the unrest in Wisconsin on Wednesday remains to be seen. The President's rival Joe Biden said Wednesday he'd spoken with Blake's family and said protests must be peaceful. A White House official told CNN’s Jim Acosta efforts have been made to connect Trump with the Blake’s family but the President hasn't specifically addressed Blake's shooting. The White House released a statement broadly condemning violence on Wednesday: "President Trump condemns violence in all forms and believes we must protect all Americans from chaos and lawlessness," press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said.

9:14 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

The convention begins with a political prayer

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

RNC
RNC

At the beginning of the third night of the Republican National Convention, Rabbi Shubert Spero prayed for "divine protection over our brothers and sisters in the path of storms along our Gulf Coast."

Further in the prayer, Rabbi Spero praised constitutional rights such as the freedom of speech and expression as well as religious freedom. He also hailed President Trump for "his determination to defend and maintain the God-given rights of our citizens as enshrined in our Constitution and in our declaration."

Here’s an excerpt from his prayer:

“Father, we pray that this outlook and mindset, this form of government continues as has been our history, especially now when to our horror, it is being challenged. And so we pray that God gives strength and health to our President, who has splendidly demonstrated daily his determination to defend and maintain the God-given rights of our citizens as enshrined in our constitution and in our declaration, eloquently passed down through our Judaeo-Christian tradition.
President Trump has stood up fearlessly against those who are corrupting the term social justice so as to deny Americans their birthright and these divine gifts. May God protect him. May God bless all those in government and among our citizens who seek to honor, defend and preserve our heritage.”

In a political closing to the prayer, he renewed Trump’s campaign call.

“May God continue to make America great, and may we continue to be his people, one nation, under God and let us say amen,” he said in his closing.

Watch:

8:50 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Pence not expected to address Wisconsin tonight

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images
Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence isn't expected to address the unrest unfolding on the streets of Wisconsin during his speech at the Republican National Convention tonight, a source familiar with the address tells CNN. 

This person said mention of Wisconsin had never been included in the draft, but a separate source said earlier Wednesday that Pence would reference it tonight. It's not clear what changed as events shifted dramatically throughout the day, but it is certain that the events in Kenosha will loom over the third night of the RNC. 

Beyond tweeting about sending in law enforcement to Wisconsin, President Trump has not publicly commented on the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Aides have said he is waiting for more information. He has been briefed by the attorney general and aides have been in contact with the governor's office. 

It's a familiar pattern in the Trump White House where Pence will delay commenting on a matter until the President has weighed in. That appears to be the case here in Fort McHenry tonight. 

8:39 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

The third night of the RNC has begun.

From CNN's Maeve Reston and Stephen Collinson

RNC
RNC

The third night of the Republican National Convention has kicked off. Vice President Mike Pence will step into the convention's leading role this evening as the party looks to push President Donald Trump's pro-police "law and order" message on the same night sports stars make a historic protest against police brutality.

Pence is expected to make the case that Joe Biden would lead the country in a dangerously liberal direction as he defends the Trump presidency. A major theme of both his address and the night as a whole will be support for law enforcement. The theme of the night contrasts sharply with National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball teams announcing they will not play in their Wednesday night games to protest police violence against Black people.

The Milwaukee Bucks decided against playing Game 5 of their playoff series against the Orlando Magic in protest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake — a 29-year-old Black man who was shot multiple times in the back as he tried to enter an SUV with his children in the vehicle — in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which is close to Milwaukee. The two other playoff games scheduled to be played Wednesday night were then also postponed as players decided to join the Bucks in the protest.

It's a historic moment in the sporting world that will stand starkly against the Republican messages of support for police and regular calls for athletes to stick to sports instead of making political statements. Pence is expected to address players kneeling during the National Anthem as a form of protest against police brutality and both Trump and Pence have repeatedly criticized players who have taken a knee as disrespectful to the flag and to American values.

Throughout the spring and summer as Americans filled the streets to protest the death of George Floyd, Pence has tried to reframe the debate as an attack on police. In numerous swing state appearances this summer, he has inaccurately suggested that the former vice president would side with far-left activists who favor defunding the police.

Read more here.

8:08 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Key things to watch on night 3 of the RNC 

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

Vice President Mike Pence and Kellyanne Conway.
Vice President Mike Pence and Kellyanne Conway. AP, Getty Images

The third night of the Republican National Convention is this evening, and will take place from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET.

Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence are among the scheduled speakers, alongside several women in high-ranking political positions within the Republican Party across the country and Madison Cawthorn, the 25-year-old who won a North Carolina Republican congressional primary over a candidate backed by Trump.

The night is also expected to feature a military veteran, a civil rights activist and the president of the National Association of Police Organizations.

Like Tuesday's speeches, Wednesday's appearances are expected to be a mix of pre-taped remarks, pre-cut videos and live broadcasts. The Trump campaign has said to prepare for surprises and expect President Donald Trump to make an appearance each night of the convention.

Day three of the convention is set to focus the theme: "Land of Heroes."

Here are key things to watch tonight:

  • Pence at Fort McHenry: The vice president will deliver his speech from Fort McHenry in Maryland. The raising of the American flag at the fort during the War of 1812, which signaled American victory over the British in the Battle of Baltimore, was the inspiration for Francis Scott Key's "The Star-Spangled Banner." Over the last two nights, the convention's concluding speeches have sought to deliver more unifying messages than the preceding speakers. But even though Pence doesn't typically see himself as Trump's attack dog, a Trump campaign official told CNN's Jim Acosta the vice president knows he has a job to do, and to expect Pence to "take some lumber to Joe" Biden in the convention's concluding speech on Wednesday night.
  • Addressing demonstrations in Kenosha, Wisconsin: Pence will address the racial unrest in America in his speech at Fort McHenry, according to the senior Republican official. He will make a particular mention of the violence unfolding in Wisconsin, where two people were killed overnight and a third injured during the third straight night of demonstrations in Kenosha over the police shooting of Blake, the official said. Convention speakers have spoken generally about ongoing protests against brutality, largely decrying their cause as a liberal one and defending the police.
  • GOP women in power, including Kellyanne Conway: Conway is among the list of scheduled speakers at the RNC Wednesday evening, speaking just a few days after she abruptly announced she would be leaving her White House job. In 2016, Conway became the first female campaign manager to win a presidential race. After the election, she became counselor to the President and has remained one of the President's longest-serving advisers. Conway is among a list of standout women in GOP leadership roles expected to speak on Wednesday. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst and Rep. Elise Stefanik, the youngest Republican ever to be elected to Congress, are also scheduled to speak.

Read more about tonight's events here.

8:12 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Trump campaign previews tonight's speakers

From CNN’s Donald Judd

David T. Foster III/Pool/Getty Images
David T. Foster III/Pool/Getty Images

On a call with reporters earlier today, Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh previewed tonight’s keynote speech from Vice President Mike Pence. Pence will speak from Fort McHenry, the inspiration for Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner

“We expect the vice president to deliver a stirring speech, honoring what makes America great,” Murtaugh told reporters on a call. “He will talk in optimistic tones about our future as Americans, and he will lay out the very real and important accomplishments of President Trump's administration, despite, he will note, a media obsessed with whatever the day to day distractions are in the swamp in Washington, DC”

Pence will focus on the Trump administration’s accomplishments, Murtaugh said, “especially as compared to the platitudes that are all that we hear from Joe Biden.”

President Donald Trump will appear in tonight’s program, as he has every night this week so far.

7:49 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Women in GOP leadership roles to take center stage at RNC tonight

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway is among the list of scheduled speakers at the RNC Wednesday evening, speaking just a few days after she abruptly announced she would be leaving her White House job.

In 2016, Conway became the first female campaign manager to win a presidential race. After the election, she became counselor to the President and has remained one of the President's longest-serving advisers.

Conway announced Sunday evening she will leave her job at the White House at the end of the month while her husband, George Conway, said he was withdrawing from the anti-Trump organization, The Lincoln Project, with both citing a need to focus on their family.

Conway's speech on Wednesday will mark her second appearance at the 2020 GOP convention.

On Tuesday, she was featured in a short video with other women in leadership positions across the Trump campaign and the Trump administration.

Conway is among a list of standout women in GOP leadership roles expected to speak on Wednesday. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst and Rep. Elise Stefanik, the youngest Republican ever to be elected to Congress, are also scheduled to speak.

It appears to be part of a larger appeal to bring more women into the party amid fears that their support for the GOP and Trump is eroding. According to several national polls conducted over the summer, the gender gap among voters is near historic highs.

7:37 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

Pence will “keep defining the Democratic ticket as out of touch and dangerous for America”

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the first day of the Republican National Convention on August 24, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the first day of the Republican National Convention on August 24, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Logan Cyrus/AFP/Getty Images

In his speech at Fort McHenry tonight, Vice President Mike Pence will address the racial unrest in America.

He will make a particular mention of the violence unfolding in Wisconsin, where two people were killed overnight and a third injured during the third straight night of demonstrations in Kenosha over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

The vice president’s remarks are still being written — and updated as events unfold in Wisconsin and elsewhere — but he plans to steep his remarks in patriotic tones and will make a particular reference to the National Anthem.

He is expected to repeat his call for standing during the anthem — as a sign of respect for the flag — and use that in his remarks tonight.

It remains an open question how much he will dwell on that, aides said, because he is also focused intently on Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and VP nominee Kamala Harris.

A senior Republican official says Pence will use his remarks “to keep defining the Democratic ticket as out of touch and dangerous for America.”

7:27 p.m. ET, August 26, 2020

RNC uses White House for speeches and surprises despite ethics concerns

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez and Kevin Liptak

President Donald Trump applauds as he arrives to listen to first lady Melania Trump's address to the Republican National Convention from the Rose Garden at the White House on August 25 in Washington.
President Donald Trump applauds as he arrives to listen to first lady Melania Trump's address to the Republican National Convention from the Rose Garden at the White House on August 25 in Washington. Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Donald Trump is slated to accept the 2020 Republican presidential nomination on Thursday with a speech from the White House lawn — an act ruled permissible by a federal agency. Yet even with the legal sign-off, the Republican convention's use of the White House this week is as norm-busting as anything in the Trump presidency and has gone far beyond his predecessors' actions.

First lady Melania Trump held her speech in a newly renovated Rose Garden. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a speech from Jerusalem during an official foreign trip.

And throughout this week, Trump himself has used the White House as a backdrop for other programming — including a surprise pardon and immigration naturalization ceremony.

All presidents, in some way, use the powers of their office when it comes time for reelection. That includes highlighting executive orders that benefit key voting blocs or touting foreign policy achievement available only to the sitting commander in chief.

But never have those moves been so blatantly staged for political gain -—or have officials appeared so nonchalant about violating longstanding rules like the Hatch Act, a law that is supposed to stop the federal government from affecting elections or going about its activities in a partisan manner.

There is a shrugging attitude toward the Hatch Act among many of Trump's aides, people familiar with the West Wing dynamics say, after the President made clear early in his tenure he would not admonish advisers found to have violated the law restricting political activity by government officials.

"Nobody outside of the Beltway really cares. They expect that Donald Trump is going to promote Republican values," White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Wednesday morning in an interview with Politico. "This is a lot of hoopla that's being made about things."

"What are the consequences?" another administration official asked. "No one gets punished."

Trump has joked he would excuse anyone found to be violating the act on his behalf, one of the people said. The President himself decides what punishment to dole out.

Read more here.