WASHINGTON: Republicans pressed their case on Tuesday for U.S. President Donald Trump’s re-election over Democrat Joe Biden, arguing as their convention opened for a second day that Trump’s leadership was vital to the country’s economic and political future.
First lady Melania Trump and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will highlight the program in speeches that have drawn complaints from Democrats for using the White House and a diplomatic trip for partisan purposes.
Hours before Republicans reconvened, the president issued a pardon to a convicted Nevada bank robber, Jon Ponder, who has become an advocate for other inmates and will speak to the convention on Tuesday.
“Jon’s life is a beautiful testament to the power of redemption,” Trump said in a video.
Also speaking will be Richard Beasley, the FBI agent, now retired, who arrested Ponder in 2004. They are among an array of Americans to testify that Trump’s policies have helped them.
“I strongly support President Trump’s re-election. When he sees something isn’t right, he’s fearless in fixing it. He listens to working people,” Maine lobsterman Jason Joyce was expected to say, according to advance excerpts.
Other Americans speaking in defense of Trump’s policies on Tuesday had been expected to include Mary Ann Mendoza, whose police officer son died in a head-on collision with a drunk driver who was in the country illegally. CNN said she was pulled from the program after retweeting an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. She later apologized.
On Monday, the opening day, Republicans painted a dire portrait of a future America under Biden’s leadership, with Trump campaign adviser Kimberly Guilfoyle asserting that Democrats want to “destroy this country.”
The tone drew complaints from Democrats who said Trump was to blame for mismanaging the coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 177,000 Americans – more than any other country in the world – and thrown millions out of work.
“Last night was grim and spiteful and fear-inducing,” Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer told reporters in a call.
Adding to the dark picture, parts of Kenosha, Wisconsin, were smoldering after another night of unrest sparked by the shooting of a Black man by police. The man, who remains in intensive care, was shot in the back.
BIDEN LEADS IN POLLS
With 70 days remaining until the Nov. 3 election, Biden, 77, who served as vice president under Barack Obama, leads Trump, 74, in opinion polls. Democrats nominated Biden to challenge Trump at their party’s convention last week.
Melania Trump’s planned speech in the White House Rose Garden and the speech by Pompeo, from a diplomatic trip to Israel, have been criticized by Democrats.
They questioned the propriety of using the presidential residence for political purposes and of Pompeo making a political speech while on a government trip. Trump himself will deliver a speech from the White House lawn on Thursday.
Pompeo planned to speak from Jerusalem even though he warned diplomats in July that presidential appointees should not take part in partisan activity, in a cable sent to all U.S. diplomatic and consular posts abroad.
Biden’s deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, said Pompeo’s decision to give a political speech during an overseas mission is a “blatant use of office for overtly political purposes” that undermines the critical work being done by the State Department.
The Democrat who chairs a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee, Joaquin Castro, announced on Tuesday an investigation into whether Pompeo’s appearance broke federal law and regulations.
The Trump campaign has shrugged off complaints about the use of federal properties as a partisan stage, and said it would ensure all staff and participants were in compliance with the 1939 Hatch Act restricting federal employees from engaging in certain political activities.
The president and vice president are excluded under the law, although there could be implications for staff depending on their level of involvement.
A total of 17 million people watched the Republican convention’s first night on Monday, according to Nielsen, fewer than the 19.7 million TV viewers who watched the first night of the Democratic National Convention last week.
Also scheduled to speak on Tuesday were Trump’s son, Eric, and daughter, Tiffany, as well as Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.