What we know so far
- Donald Trump jnr makes an impassioned plea for his father, the US President, praising him for taking swift action to shut down travel from China once the pandemic began. The death toll in the US 177,000.
- Former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, a prominent Indian-American, defends the US from Democratic accusations of that the country is “racist. That is a lie. America is not a racist country.”
- In a sign of further racial tension, protests erupted in Wisconsin where police shot and wounded a black man, while responding to a call about a domestic dispute.
- In an earlier speech in North Carolina, US President Donald Trump has claimed falsely that Joe Biden was trying to steal the election and that Biden was a puppet of Beijing.
Here’s North American correspondent Matthew Knott with his take on the Republican Convention:
“The first night of the Republican National Convention was a fascinating and often surprising broadcast that tried to achieve several different (and perhaps conflicting) aims at once.
There were clear efforts to try to appeal to more moderate voters – as seen in the headline speeches by former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Senator Tim Scott. Haley is the daughter of Indian immigrants and Scott is the only black Republican in the Senate.
Both explicitly argued that the Republican Party is not racist, presenting the party as a broad and diverse coalition. But there was plenty of culture war fodder for the populist Trump base: Florida congressman Matt Gaetz mocking “Woketopians” and a gun-toting St Louis couple saying Democrats want to destroy the suburbs.
The Republicans focussed on coronavirus early on, painting a flattering picture of Trump’s handling of the pandemic. The fact checkers will pick holes in many details but it was smart politics not to ignore the dominant issue of the campaign.
I think it was a good move to have Trump interacting with ordinary people – first COVID-19 essential workers and then hostages who have been freed during his presidency.
The big difference to the DNC last week was that most of the speakers appeared from a podium in Washington rather than beaming in from across the country. This made the broadcast less visually stimulating and came off poorly when Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is running Trump’s fundraising operation, shouted her speech into the microphone.”
The closing speech of the night goes to Tim Scott, the lone Black GOP senator who has taken the lead for his party on the issue of police reform.
In the wake of George Floyd’s death, Scott put up a proposed bill, which included incentives for police departments to ban chokeholds, more disclosure requirements about the use of force, penalties for false reports, and a plan for lynching to be a federal hate crime.
The trouble is, sections of it didn’t pass muster with the Democrats, who blocked it in favour of their own proposal.
“Democrats called our work a token effort and walked out of the room,” he says tonight.
Scott has also been a big advocate of Trump’s efforts on the economy, particularly on lowering the unemployment rate on record for African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians.
He talks that up tonight, as well as his work on so-called “opportunity zones” which is designed to spur investment in poor communities – in a nod to Donald Trump’s social policy credentials.
“An initiative that the President and I work together on is now bringing more than $75 billion of private sector investment into distressed communities,” he says.
“We live in a world that only wants you to believe in the bad news, racially economically and culturally,” he says.
“The truth is, our nations are always bending back towards fairness. We are not fully where we want to be, but God Almighty, we’re not where we used to be. We were always striving to be better.”
I’m sure I’m missing some of the examples but there is an undercurrent of violence in many of the speeches tonight. This is consistent with Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign when he described Mexican immigrants as “rapists and murderers.”
Tonight, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz: “Nightmares are becoming real. Cops killed. Children shot.”
Kimberly Guilfoyle said: “Don’t let them kill future generations because they told you, and brainwashed you, and fed you lies that you weren’t good enough!
Violence also figured in the story of Andrew Pollack, whose daughter was killed in the 2018 Parkland school.
Patricia McCloskey said Democrats would bring “crime, lawlessness, and low quality apartments into now thriving neighbourhoods. These are the policies that are coming in to a neighbourhood near you. So make no mistake, no matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America.”
After a measured address from Nikki Hayley, Donald Trump’s oldest son appears.
He starts by painting a picture of America as a “land of promise and opportunity” which recently enjoyed the “greatest prolongued economic expansion in American history.”
And then, he says “courtesy of the Chinese Communist Party the virus struck.”
Trump jnr praises his father for taking swift action to shut down travel from China.
In contrast, he says, “Joe Biden and his Democrat allies called my father a racist and a xenophobe for doing it. They put political correctness ahead of the safety and security of the American people.”
“Beijing Biden is so weak on China that the intelligence community recently assessed that the Chinese Communist party favors Biden. They know he’ll weaken us both economically and on a world stage,” he says.
There’s a sharp contrast between this speech, and that of Biden’s family members from last week’s DNC.
Family members are often used in conventions to present the audience with a different side to the candidate.
But instead of providing some fresh insights to his father, Trump jnr does more of an attack-dog stump speech, accusing Biden of wanting to bring in more illegal immigrants “to take jobs from American citizens”; of wanting to “drive wages down for Americans”; and of seeking to “repeal the Trump tax cuts, which were the biggest in our country after eight years of Obama and Biden slow growth.”
“Trump’s policies have been like rocket fuel to the economy and especially to the middle class. Biden has promised to take that money back out of your pocket and keep it in the swamp,” he says.
We’re now hearing from former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Haley was the first female governor of South Carolina and the first Indian-American governor elected in the United States.
Over the years, Haley has been able to keep Trump on side, even when she disagreed with him.
In an interview in 2018, for instance, days after Trump met with the Russian president Vladimir Putin in Finland, she noted: “We don’t trust Russia. We don’t trust Putin. They’re never going to be our friend.”
Tonight, though, there’s nothing but agreement and praise for the President, and strident criticism of Joe Biden.
She also talks about race, an issue that the Democrats raised repeatedly last week as they vowed to tackle systemic injustice in America.
But her view is different: “In much of the Democratic Party it’s now fashionable to say that America is racist. That is a lie. America is not a racist country.”
“This is personal for me,” she says.
“I’m the proud Daughter of Indian immigrants, they came to America and settled in a small southern town. My father wore a turban. My mother wore a sari. I was a brown girl in a black and white world.
“We faced discrimination and hardship. But my parents never gave in to grievance and hate my mom built a successful business. My dad taught 30 years at a historically black college, and the people of South Carolina chose me as their first minority and first female governor.”
“America is a story that’s a work in progress. Now is the time to build on that progress and make America even freer fairer and better for everyone.”
Next up: another slick RNC video – this one about Trump freeing American hostages.
It’s followed by a chat between the President and people who have been released by his administration over the last few years.
One man was held in Syria, another was apprehended and held in Iran, and another was held hostage with his wife in Venezuela.
They’re sitting in the White House (at a reasonable social distance) thanking the President for everything he’s done.
These sessions are reminiscent of the fireside chats Biden had with health workers, military men, and families during the Democratic National Convention last week.
They’re as much a chance to hear the stories of ordinary Americans who have overcome adversity as they are to showcase the president’s first-term achievements.
Kellyanne Conway, one of President Donald Trump’s most influential and longest serving advisers, announced Sunday that she would be leaving the White House at the end of the month.
Conway, Trump’s campaign manager during the stretch run of the 2016 race, was the first woman to successfully steer a White House bid, then became a senior counselor to the president. She informed Trump of her decision in the Oval Office.
Conway cited a need to spend time with her four children in a resignation letter she posted Sunday night. Her husband, George, had become an outspoken Trump critic and her family a subject of Washington’s rumour mill.
“We disagree about plenty but we are united on what matters most: the kids,” she wrote. “For now, and for my beloved children, it will be less drama, more mama.”
We’re now hearing from Trump campaign fundraiser Kimberly Guilfoyle, an attorney and television news personality, who also happens to be going out with Donald Trump junior.
It’s been a few months since Guilfoyle tested positive for COVID19 before she was set to attend Trump’s Fourth of July speech at Mount Rushmore – and she looks like she’s made an incredible recovery.
In fact, Guilfoyle gives what is easily the most intense and forceful speech of the night (so far) yelling into the microphone in an empty auditorium about the threat of socialism.
“Don’t let the Democrats take you for granted! Don’t let them step on you!” she says.
“Don’t let them kill future generations because they told you, and brainwashed you, and fed you lies that you weren’t good enough! Like my parents, you can achieve your American dream! You can be that shining example to the world and be the change in this country!
“President Trump is the leader who will rebuild the promise of America, and ensure that every citizen can realise their American dream, ladies and gentlemen!”
We’re now hearing from Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple who came to fame after defending their homes against Black Lives Matter protesters.
This couple is also central to Trump’s pitch on law-and-order.
You’ve seen us on TV”, says Mark McCloskey, “we don’t back down – neither does Donald Trump.”
As for the Democrats, says Patricia: “They’re not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities. They want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single family home zoning. This forced rezoning will bring crime, lawlessness, and low quality apartments.
“These are the policies that are coming to a neighbourhood near you. So make no mistake, no matter where you live. Your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats, America.
Democrat Vernon Jones, a black state representative from Georgia, makes the case that blacks should not vote for Democrats.
Trump put the interest of “workers, especially black workers first,” says Jones, who hails from Georgia.
In the US, blacks have predominantly supported Democrats since the Civil Rights era.
Jones also spoke about criminal justice reform that affects the sentencing of black Americans. This is an area that Trump has sought to change.
He’s also giving his party an almighty serve. He accuses the Democrats of turning their backs on police officers by wanting to “defund police” – a term that is used to describe reallocating money away from police departments and into social services and other measures.
This is a term that you’ll hear a lot during the convention as it’s central to Trump’s law-and-order pitch, particular in the suburbs.
“The Democratic Party has become infected with a pandemic of intolerance, bigotry, socialism, anti-law enforcement bias, and a dangerous intolerance for people who attack others, destroy their property and terrorise our own communities,” Jones says.
Correction: An earlier version of this post erroneously described Jones as a congressman.
Next up is Herschel Walker, a former NFL player.
He’s talking about the Donald Trump he’s known for 37 years. This Donald Trump, he says, is a good friend, and a man who has done so much for the black community.
In Walker’s view, Trump often gets a bad wrap by those who don’t realise his efforts in the social justice space.
“People talk about growing up in the deep South. Well I’ve seen racism up close – and it isn’t Donald Trump,” says Walker.
“Just because someone loves and respects our flag, our national anthem and our country, deoesn’t mean they don’t care about social justice. I care about all those things. So does Donald Trump.”
Coronavirus continues to dominate the first half hour of the RNC, in a sign of how central the virus is to the November 3 election.
After hearing from nurse Amy Johnson Ford, viewers are treated to a video showcasing Trump’s efforts in the health space, before Louisiana surgeon Dr D.E Ghali, who has suffered from the virus, appears on screen.
“As a patient, I’ve benefited from the expedited therapies made possible by the swift action of this administration. President Trump truly moved mountains to save lives and he deserves credit,” he says.
“Thank you President Trump for providing timely access to critical diagnostics and therapeutics during this pandemic. Thank you, Mr. President, for your strong leadership in these challenging times.”
Then we cut to Trump in the White House, where he’s meeting postal workers, nurses, police officers and small business owners who have also been affected by the virus in some form.
“I want to thank you all very much,” Trump says. “You’re fantastic people… and we love you all.”11.08am
Florida Representative Matt Gaetz used some one-liners about the Democrats, saying the auditorium he spoke from was emptier than Biden’s “daily schedule.” He also mentioned “Biden in the basement”, a theme that Republicans have frequently made and which, for the record, has overtones of the Qanon conspiracy theory.
Ronna McDaniel is the Republican National Committee chairwoman. She starts by referencing Eva Longoria, the Desperate Housewives actress who hosted Day One of the Democratic National Convention last week.
“Well, I’m actually a real housewife and a mom from Michigan with two wonderful kids in public school,” she says.
“Unlike Joe Biden President Trump didn’t choose me because I’m a woman. He chose me because I was the best person for the job.”
We’ve also heard from Matt Gaetz, the Republican Congressman who represents the highly populous state of Florida. The 38-year-old has been known to break ranks with his GOP allies on certain policy issues, such as legalising marijuana.
He was among 34 House members who sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in April asking that the chamber’s leaders ensure legal marijuana businesses access future coronavirus-related stimulus relief.
In another bit of backdrop playing out during the virtual convention, the state of Wisconsin has called out the National Guard to the city of Kenosha following protests – sometimes violent – after police apparently shot an unarmed black man in the back.
29-year-old Jacob Blake was shot by police on Sunday in front of his children, following a domestic dispute he reportedly sought to defuse.
Blake is in serious condition at the hospital.
The incident occurred months after the death of black man George Floyd in police custody in neighbouring Minnesota triggered nationwide, even global protests, over structural racism that normalised police shootings of black people.
How the Republicans may try to seize on this news is not clear, and yet Trump has consistently tried to paint the Democrats as the party of chaos.
Now we’re hearing from more “ordinary Americans”.
Rebecca Friedrichs, a “school choice advocate”, was first up. She says she’s here “to give voice to America’s great teachers- because our voices have been silenced for decades by unions who claim to represent us.”
“They do not,” she says.
Then comes Tanya Weinreis, a small business owner who was forced to close some of her Mountain Mud Expresso coffee huts when Coronavirus hit.
She believes that Trump is the man to lead the country through its current economic crisis.
“I’m worried we have a generation of Americans who have been told that the American Dream doesn’t look good. That’s a lie. I know because I live that dream.”
Actor Jon Cryer proposes a game based on the likely rhetoric to be used during the convention.
He writes: Tonight’s #RNC will be stomach churning and we are going to need an army of lawyers for election night. So instead of a drinking game, my friends and I will be playing this👇”
He then added a link to a Democratic fundraising organisation.
Here is another link of the video of the Republican National Committee.
And we’re off….
Trump has had an unofficial production role in this four day extravaganza, so it’s not surprising that the Convention kicks off with a flashy video showing images of Americans icons and the president.
It’s all part of the key themes to this RNC: America as “a land of promise, opportunity, heroes and greatness.”
Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan then appears. He prays, with the statue of Liberty in the backdrop, before the first speaker, Charlie Kirk, takes to the stage.
Kirk is the founder of Turning Point USA, an organisation for young conservatives. Trump he, says, is “the defender of Western Civilisation.”
“President Trump was elected to defend the American way of life,” he says.
“The American way of life is being dismantled by a group of bitter deceitful vengeful activists who have never built anything in their lives.”
And what would a convention be without a theme, right?
The overall theme of this Republican National Convention is “Honoring the Great American Story.”
According to campaign officials, it will highlight “the promise and greatness of America” and throw the spotlight on Trump’s leadership over the past four years; what his administration has achieved; and some policy ideas for the future.
Each day will also have its own sub-theme.
Monday is “Land of Promise.”
Tuesday is “Land of Opportunity.”
Wednesday is “Land of Heroes.”
Thursday is “Land of Greatness.”
Fun times ahead…
For someone who has such a hold on the GOP, it’s hardly surprising a third of the convention’s speakers this week are people who are related to Trump or work for him.
First Lady Melania Trump will deliver a speech from the Rose Garden on Tuesday, and all of the President’s adult children — Donald jnr, Eric, Tiffany and Ivanka — will also have a speaking role.
Here’s who you’ll get to see today as the four day event kicks off:
–South Carolina Senator Tim Scott
–House Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana
–Florida Representative Matt Gaetz
–Ohio Representative Jim Jordan
–Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley
–Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel
–Georgia State Democrat Vernon Jones
–Campaign aide Kimberly Guilfoyle
–Charlie Kirk, founder and president of Turning Point USA
–Kim Klacik, Maryland candidate for the House of Representatives
–Mark and Patricia McCloskey, a couple from Missouri who went viral after pointing guns at a group of Black Lives Matter protesters
–Sean Parnell, a retired member of the US Army who is running for the 17th Congressional District of Pennsylvania
–Donald Trump jnr, the president’s oldest son.
Putting on a convention is a logistical nightmare at the best of times – but all the more so when a nasty old virus is ravaging the country.
Readers might recall that Republicans had planned to hold their big bash in Jacksonville, Florida – until the state became one of America’s worst affected areas for coronavirus.
The GOP were then banking on having the full convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, but that too went a little pearshaped thanks to the state’s public health guidelines.
Delegates still descended on Charlotte earlier today to do an in-person “roll call” to nominate the president and vice president Mike Pence, but it was a scaled back and somewhat subdued affair – at least until Trump himself rocked up.
The president rolled town on Airforce One, and took to the stage to accuse Democrats of trying to steal the election; declared Joe Biden to be a puppet of China; and insisted that America was going to be great again.
“Be very, very careful,” he warned. “We have to win. This is the most important election in the history of our country.”