WASHINGTON – Republicans defended President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and slammed Joe Biden on Monday during the first night of a GOP convention that was intended to be upbeat but that often veered into a dark assessment of the Democratic Party.

“Joe Biden’s entire economic platform seems designed to crush the working man and woman,” claimed Donald Trump Jr., during remarks in which he also referred to the former vice president as “Beijing Biden” and the “Loch Ness monster” of the swamp Trump says he wants to drain.

“It’s almost like this election is shaping up to be church, work, and school versus rioting, looting and vandalism,” the president’s son said. “Or, in the words of Biden and the Democrats, ‘peaceful protesting.’”

In fact, there were both peaceful protests in many American cities this summer following the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by police in Minneapolis, and also riots and unrest. The president and many of his allies have often conflated the two groups. Many cities had protests with no riots.

In a series of videos and remarks, some of them live and others taped, Republicans touted the president’s response to the coronavirus, promised to lift the economy back to pre-COVID levels and generally attempted to present the election as a choice between Biden and Trump rather than as a referendum on the president’s last four years.

“President Trump ought to be really happy with tonight. For the most part, all speakers made a compelling, optimistic case for the party & his reelection,” Republican strategist Scott Jennings wrote on Twitter.

There were times when the evening carried the upbeat message that organizers had promised, particularly during remarks by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who drew on his personal experience to offer a vision of hope for racial reconciliation in a nation still reeling from the deaths of several Black Americans during interactions with police.

“Our family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime,” Scott said.

But there were also times when the speakers turned heavily critical of Biden and presented the nation under his leadership as a country steeped in chaos and socialism. Kimberly Guilfoyle, a senior campaign official and girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., warned of the Democratic “socialist agenda.”

“They want to destroy this country, and everything that we have fought for and hold dear. They want to steal your Liberty, your Freedom. They want to control what you See and Think, and Believe, so they can control how you live,” Guilfoyle said. “Don’t let the Democrats and their socialist comrades take you for granted.”

Several speakers tried to cast Biden and the Democrats as an existential threats to gun ownership, property rights, national security, personal wealth, and other aspects of the American Dream.

Some Democrats see Trump and the Republicans in equally apocalyptic terms.

“This convention is a bubbling cauldron of delusion, insanity and grievance,” tweeted political strategist and Trump critic Steve Schmidt

True to form, Trump made two unscheduled appearances during the prime time portions of the convention: One focused on the coronavirus and the other dealing with his efforts to free Americans detained overseas. Heading into the convention, Republican strategists said Trump had to make an affirmative case on the virus given polls showing Biden leading on that issue.

Trump made one appearance with front line workers, telling them that he was “for the nurses. I’m for the doctors. I’m for everybody. We have to defeat this China virus.”

Time and again the convention returned to the issue of race, with a former football player admonishing those who have described the president as racist, and the Senate’s lone Black member – Scott — attacking Biden’s past misstatements on race.

Few of the speakers addressed Trump’s own remarks on race.

The recent shooting of a black man in Kenosha, Wisc., by police was not raised during the event, though Scott noted several other high-profile cases of African Americans who were killed by police.

“America is not a racist country,” asserted Nikki Haley, Trump former ambassador to the U.N. and the former governor of South Carolina.

— John Fritze, Courtney Subramanian and David Jackson

Scott slams Biden’s statements on race

Sen. Tim Scott ripped Democratic nominee Joe Biden on Monday for his past misstatements on race and argued that President Donald Trump’s administration rolled back many of his predecessor’s policies to help African American communities.

“Joe Biden said Black people are a monolithic community. It was Joe Biden who said poor kids can be just as smart as white kids,” said Scott, a South Carolina Republican, referring to misstatements for which Biden later apologized. “And while his words are one thing, his actions take it to a whole new level.”

Scott’s remarks, which included much of his own personal story, were part of a broader effort during the first night of the Republican convention to blunt some of Trump’s own controversial remarks on race, including his defense of the Confederate flag and statutes honoring southern generals of the Civil War as issues of free speech as well as his frequent conflation of Black Lives Matters protests with others rioting.

But they were also an effort to call attention to some of Trump’s policies, including his decision to provide more reliable funding to historically Black colleges, tax cuts for all Americans and the pre-COVID economic growth. Scott also noted Trump’s efforts to approve a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill in 2018 – legislation raised several times during the first night of the RNC.

Despite his criticism of Biden, Scott also offered one of the more hopeful messages of the evening rooted in his own history.

“Our family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime,” Scott said.

Scott, the lone Black GOP senator, has become a leading voice for Republicans on the issue of race at a time when the nation is still reeling from the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the subsequent protests that played out across the nation.

Scott did not mention the police shooting of Jacob Blake on Sunday, an incident that has been repeatedly replayed on cable news networks in the hours leading up to the convention. However, did name several other African Americans killed by police.

“From a global pandemic, to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, 2020 has tested our nation in ways we haven’t seen for decades,” Scott said.

Legislation to reform police departments largely fizzled in June. Scott blamed Democrats for that effort falling, though Democrats said the bill approved by the GOP-controlled Senate did not go far enough.

“It’s about how we respond when tackling critical issues like police reform,” Scott said. “When Democrats called our work a token effort and walked out of the room during negotiations because they wanted the issue more than they wanted a solution.”

Scott also worked with the White House on expanding the federal Opportunity Zone program, which offers tax incentives for private investment in low-income communities. Trump frequently points to the program as the top example of his administration’s effort on behalf of cities.

Trump frequently discussed the low unemployment among African Americans – and most other groups – before the coronavirus pandemic struck. But it’s not clear whether that economic message has resonated: Polls indicate Biden has overwhelming support among Black voters.

John Fritze

RNC plays footage of mask-wearing Trump

Trump for months had resisted wearing a mask in public until he first donned one during a visit in July at Walter Reed Hospital in suburban Maryland.

But the RNC played footage of him doing just that, during a video aired as small business owners Catalina and Madeline Lauf, two sisters from the Chicago suburbs, touted the president’s economic platform.

The snippet of the mask-wearing president, only a few seconds long, was taken from his visit last month as he toured a North Carolina facility helping develop a coronavirus vaccine.

Trump in recent weeks has encouraged Americans to wear masks as way to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Ledyard King

Trump Jr. calls Biden the `Loch Ness Monster of the Swamp’

Donald Trump Jr., known for his combative and colorful social media presence, described his father’s opponent as “basically the Loch Ness Monster of the Swamp.”

In one of the top speeches of the convention’s first night, the president’s oldest son said Joe Biden has been lurking around Washington, D.C. for the past half-century.

“He sticks his head up every now and then to run for president, then he disappears and doesn’t do much in between,” Trump Jr. said. “So if you’re looking for hope, look to the man who did what the failed Obama-Biden Administration never could do and built the greatest economy our country has ever seen.”

“President Trump,” he added, “will do it again.”

Trump Jr. has the highest-profile of the president’s children in his re-election campaign. He’s a top surrogate, fundraiser and messenger through social media, conservative broadcasts and the campaign’s digital shows.

On his Instagram account, Trump Jr. refers to himself as a “General in the Meme Wars.”

His high level of involvement is a change from 2016. In that campaign, he is most known for having set up the Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and a Russian lawyer that was looked into as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the election.

Monday, Trump Jr. put the spotlight on China, saying the Chinese Communist Party wants “Beijing Biden” to win because he won’t be as tough on them as Trump is.  He also blamed the disruption of the economy on the coronavirus – which arrived “courtesy of the Chinese Communist Party.”

While there’s “light at the end of the tunnel” on the coronavirus under his father’s leadership, Trump Jr. said, he criticized Biden for saying in an ABC interview Sunday that if he were president, he would shut the country down to stop the spread of the coronavirus — if that were recommended by scientists.

“It’s madness,” said Trump Jr.

He accused the Democrats of imposing a “cancel” culture on the nation’s founders by tearing down monuments. And he said people of faith are under attack, being prevented from going to church while “mass chaos in the streets gets a pass.”

“It’s almost like this election is shaping up to be church, work, and school versus rioting, looting and vandalism,” Trump Jr. said. “Or, in the words of Biden and the Democrats, `peaceful protesting.’”

Maureen Groppe

Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley: America’s story is a work in progress

The former UN ambassador opened her speech by quoting one of her predecessors, Ambassador Jean Kirkpatrick, who served under former President Ronald Reagan, at the 1984 GOP convention: “Democrats always blame America first.”

“Joe Biden and the Democrats are still blaming America first,” Haley said. “Donald Trump has always put America first. He has earned four more years as president.”

Haley, who maintained good relations with President Donald Trump since she left the administration 2018, said serving as the U.S. ambassador to the UN was “not for the faint of heart.”

“It’s a place where dictators, murderers, and thieves denounce America…and then put their hands out and demand we pay their bills,” she said. “Well, President Trump put an end to all that…We stood up for America and we stood against our enemies.”

Haley praised Trump for his tough stance on China and Iran and hailed the administration for moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. She said Trump had a record of “strength and success” while Biden had one of “weakness and failure.”

Haley has been mentioned as a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate who could seize the party mantle. At one point, Haley was rumored as a potential candidate to replace Vice President Mike Pence on the 2020 ticket. Trump shot down the idea last year and insisted Pence would be his running mate, adding that “Nikki’s future is great.”

The former South Carolina governor, who led the 2015 call to remove the Confederate flag from the State House in the wake of a racially motivated mass shooting at a Charleston church, also blasted Democrats for saying America is racist.

“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,” said Haley, who spoke about growing up in the South as the daughter of Indian immigrants.

“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,” she added.

Haley also reflected on the shooting at Emanuel AME Church five years ago, contending that her state “came together” after the tragic shooting.

“What happened then should give us hope now,” she said. “America isn’t perfect. But the principles we hold dear are perfect. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that even on our worst day, we are blessed to live in America.”

Courtney Subramanian

Trump appears with released Americans

President Donald Trump made a second unscheduled appearance at the Republican National Convention during prime time on Monday, this time joined by six Americans who had been detained overseas and subsequently released during his presidency.

Trump appeared in the Diplomatic Reception Room with Michael White, freed by Iran in June, and Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was arrested in Turkey and released in 2018 and four others. Trump has frequently touted his effort to free Americans held in places like Iran and Syria.

“We’re very proud of the job we did,” Trump said.

The president’s appearance was preceded by video describing the president as a “tough and skilled negotiator.”

Most of the released Americans spoke and thanked Trump for his efforts. 

“You took unprecedented steps to secure my release,” Brunson said. “I’m very, very grateful.”

Others joining Trump: Sam Goodwin taken into custody in Syria and released last year; Joshua and Tamara Holt, arrested in Venezuela and releaesd in 2018; and Pastor Bryan Nerran, arrested in India and released in May.

“We got you all back,” Trump said. “We have a few more people we want to get back…and they will be back very soon.”

John Fritze and David Jackson

Kimberly Guilfoyle: America, it’s all on the line

Kimberly Guilfoyle, the senior campaign official and girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., declared “it’s all on the line” and that it was her duty to fight to protect the American dream as the daughter of an immigrant. 

Borrowing the campaign slogan used by Joe Biden, the president’s Democratic challenger, the former Fox News host said: “This election is a battle for the Soul of America. Your choice is clear.”

“If you want to see the socialist Biden/Harris future for our country, just take a look at California,” she said, pointing to the home state of Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, as well as her ex-husband, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. “It is a place of immense wealth, immeasurable innovation and immaculate environment – and the Democrats turned it into a land of discarded heroin needles in parks, riots in the streets and blackouts in homes.”

“In President Trump’s America we light things up, we don’t dim them down. We build things up, we don’t burn them down. We kneel in prayer and we stand for our flag,” said Guilfoyle, who leads the fundraising effort for the Trump Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee.

 “America, it’s all on the line. President Trump believes in you. He emancipates and lifts you up to live your American dream,” she continued. “Stand for an American president who is fearless, who believes in you, and who loves this country and will fight for her.

Courtney Subramanian

Gun-toting Missouri couple backs Trump at convention against the “radicals” of the Left

Patty and Mark McCloskey, the St. Louis homeowners who drew nationwide attention for pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protestors in June, aimed their rhetorical fire Monday at the “radicals” who nominated Biden.

The couple, speaking from their home town, outlined a foreboding future under Biden, where the suburbs would be unsafe, lawless and infested with “low-quality apartments.”

“When we don’t have basic safety and security in our communities, we will never be free to build a brighter future for ourselves, for our children, and for our country,” said Patty McCloskey. “That’s what’s at stake in this election. And that’s why we must re-elect Donald Trump.”

The McCloskey’s appearance comes amid Trump’s aggressive push for gun rights protections and a law-and-order agenda in the face of racial justice protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.

In a video that went viral, the couple brandished guns outside their mansion at protesters walking on a private street on the way to demonstrating outside the St. Louis mayor’s residence nearby. Both were charged in July with unlawful use of a weapon, a felony.

“Whether it’s defunding the police, ending cash bail so criminals can be released back out on the streets the same day to riot again, or encouraging anarchy on our streets, it seems as if Democrats no longer view the government’s job as protecting honest citizens from criminals, but rather protecting criminals from honest citizens,” Mark McCloskey said. “Not a single person in the out-of-control mob you saw at our house was charged with a crime. But you know who was? We were. They’ve actually charged us with a felony for daring to defend our home.”

The couple joins other prominent non-politicians who have prime-time speaking slots during the four-day convention, including former Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann, Andrew Pollack, the father of Parkland shooting victim Meadow Pollack, and anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson.

Ledyard King

Father of Parkland shooting victim says another Trump term is vital to school safety

The father of a student killed in 2018 during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that claimed 17 lives said that re-electing President Donald Trump is a matter of keeping students safe in school.

Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was 18 and a senior when she was killed, said after his daughter’s tragic death, he met with the president and got to see what a “good man and a great listener” he is.

“I never wanted this to become a political spectacle but it did. And I never wanted to meet the president like this, but I did,” Pollack said in his emotional speech at the convention Monday.

Pollack praised Trump’s creation of a commission that put forth recommendations for schools to prevent mass shootings, which emphasized actions at the local level. The administration was criticized by Democrats at the time for suggesting that teachers should be armed. Pollack said the media “turned my daughter’s murder into a coordinated attack on President Trump, Republicans and our Second Amendment.”

“I learned that gun control laws didn’t fail my daughter. People did,” Pollack said.

Pollack said he opposes an Obama-era policy that was meant to combat racial discrimination in disciplinary actions in schools by promoting a “restorative” approach to discipline and viewing expulsion and reports to authorities as only a last resort. The Trump administration rolled back the policy after the Parkland shooting.

“I truly believe the safety of your kids depends on whether this man is re-elected. I hope you’ll join me in helping to make that happen.”

Jeanine Santucci

RNC works to defend Trump on coronavirus

Convention organizers had to address the inevitable: The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic turmoil that has dragged down President Donald Trump’s poll numbers all year.

They did so with a highly produced video noting some of the president’s early efforts, including his decision to close off travel to China, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon from LSU Health Shreveport in Louisiana and a taped exchange between Trump and frontline workers in the White House.

“Trump truly moved mountains to save lives and he deserves credit,” asserted G.E. Ghali, the surgeon.

Heading into the convention, Republican strategists said Trump had to make an affirmative case on the virus. Fifty-three percent of Americans believe Democrat Joe Biden would do a better job handling the coronavirus compared with 37% who feel that way about Trump, according to a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll this month.

— John Fritze

Jim Jordan rails against Democrats for response to coronavirus, protests

Rep. Jim Jordan echoed a familiar refrain on Monday night, criticizing Democrats for everything from impeachment to violence during protests against police brutality.

 Jordan, R-Ohio, is a staunch ally of the president and is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, where he went to bat for Trump during the House impeachment proceedings.

In his Republican Convention speech delivered Monday just after Trump made an appearance, Jordan said “crime, violence, mob rule” are happening in Democrat-controlled cities.

 Jordan also told an emotional story about President Donald Trump talking on the phone to Jordan’s family after his nephew died.

 “I love the president’s intensity and his willingness to fight every day in Washington for our families. But what I also appreciate is something most Americans never see – how much he truly cares about people,” Jordan said.

 Jordan claimed Democrats “won’t let you go to” church, work or school, though pandemic-related shutdowns have occurred in cities across the country, in states run by both Republicans and Democrats.

 “President Trump has fought against each of their crazy ideas,” Jordan said. “He’s taken on the swamp, all of the swamp: the Democrats, the press, and the never Trumpers.”

Jeanine Santucci

Herschel Walker defends Trump on race

Former professional football player Herschel Walker laid out an impassioned and personal defense of President Donald Trump’s past statements on race, disputing criticism that his frequent barbs over sports figures kneeling during the national anthem have been insensitive.

“It hurts my soul to hear the terrible names that people call Donald. The worst one is ‘racist,'” said Walker, who is Black and who described his relationship with Trump as a “deep” friendship. “I take it as a personal insult that people would think I’ve had a 37-year friendship with a racist. People who think that don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Touching on the controversy surrounding the national anthem, Walker said that “just because someone loves and respects the flag…doesn’t mean they don’t care about social justice.”

Walker said that Trump “shows how much he cares about social justice in the Black community through his actions.”

Trump has repeatedly criticized NFL players for kneeling during the anthem, which they have done to protest police brutality. Walker’s remarks, which were taped, came as the nation was processing the latest police-involved shooting of a black man: Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisc.

John Fritze

Trump meets frontline workers

President Donald Trump made a surprise appearance during the Republican National Convention on Monday to meet with front line workers dealing with the coronavirus, part of the Republican effort to push back on criticism of his response. 

“We have delivered billions of dollars of equipment,” Trump told postal workers, truck drivers, registered nurses and two police officers during the unexpected event.

One person in the small group speaking to Trump was a nursing supervisor at a hospital in New Jersey.

“I am so in awe of your leadership,” she told him. “It takes a true leader to ignore all that (negative) stuff and do what is right.”

Trump’s response: “I’m for the nurses. I’m for the doctors. I’m for everybody. We have to defeat this China virus.”

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel hits Democrats for celebrity appearances

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel kicked off her remarks by slamming Democrats for opening last week’s convention with Eva Longoria, a celebrity known for her role on the television series “Desperate Housewives.”

“Well, I’m actually a real housewife and a mom from Michigan with two wonderful kids in public school who happens to be only the second woman in 164 years to run the Republican party,” she said. “And 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.”

McDaniel has led the RNC since 2017 after serving as the head of the Republican Party in Michigan, a key battleground state she helped President Donald Trump carry in 2016. She took over as RNC chair on Trump’s recommendation, replacing Reince Priebus who joined the White House as the president’s chief of staff.

She’s also the niece of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and has repeatedly defended Trump against her uncle’s criticisms. Earlier this year she tweeted that she stood with Trump after Romney became the only Republican senator to vote to convict the president during his impeachment trial.

During her remarks, McDaniel criticized Democrats for focusing on their disdain for Trump rather than outlining their policies, adding that their argument for Joe Biden “boiled down to the fact that they think he’s a nice guy.” 

“Tonight begins a new chapter in the great American story. A story that has inspired the world for generations,” she said. “This election is the most important in our lifetime. Your vote counts more than ever.” 

Courtney Subramanian 

Gaetz: Election is between a ‘visionary’ builder and a basement dweller

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz said the contrast between the two candidates on the November ballot, praising Trump as a “visionary” who will be facing off against “basement-dwelling Joe Biden.”

“Donald Trump, like all builders, is a visionary. That which is built in the mind is even more powerful than what holds it together,” Gaetz said, speaking from the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington. “First comes the vision, then the work.”

Gaetz, 38, is a favorite of the president (they talk frequently) who aggressively went after the Democrat House members leading the impeachment inquiry last year.

Biden, he said echoing a familiar Republican theme, is nothing but a tool of the far left who will “disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home, and invite MS-13 to live next door,” Gaetz said. “And the police won’t be coming when you call in Democrat-run cities. They’re already being defunded (and) disbanded.”

Few in Congress have been as supportive of Trump as much as the fiery congressman from the Florida panhandle (who ironically holds the seat that anti-Trump Republican and MS-NBC personality Joe Scarborough once occupied).

A media-savvy congressman who has bucked the GOP by advocating for legalized marijuana, Gaetz has carved out a national profile in part from his starring role in the just-released HBO documentary, “The Swamp”.

Ledyard King

Democrat for Trump

Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones, a lifelong Democrat who is Black, said it may surprise people that he supports President Donald Trump. Jones said Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has had 47 years in public office to get results, “but he’s all talk and no action.”

Jones said he learned a strong work ethic from his parents while growing up in a cinder-block home with no indoor plumbing. Jones, who attended North Carolina Central University, said Trump delivered historic funding historically Black colleges and universities.

Jones also supported Trump’s tax bill for opportunity zones to drive investment into communities. And Jones supported Trump’s criminal justice overhaul, to reduce mass incarceration that decimated Black communities.

But Jones said the Democratic Party has become infected with intolerance, bigotry and a dangerous tolerance for people who attack others and destroy property.

“I was threatened, called an embarrassment, and asked to resign by my party,” Jones said after he endorsed Trump. “But I’m here to tell you that Black voices are becoming more woke and louder than ever.”

Bart Jansen

Small businesswoman talks coronavirus stimulus 

The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic made an early appearance at the Republican National Convention on Monday in the form of a businesswoman who benefited from a bipartisan stimulus aimed at small businesses. 

Tanya Weinreis, owner of several coffee shops in Montana, received a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, part of a broader stimulus approved by Congress, geared to help small businesses to stay afloat. 

“It has been a lifesaver,” said Weinreis, adding that her business was hammered by event cancellations because of the virus. “Not only were we able keep every single employee but we’ve been hiring weekly ever since.”

Weinreis and other non-politicos are appearing at the convention in part to tout President Donald Trump’s efforts to combat the virus and the economic fall out from it. Trump has often praised the program but the White House and Congress have so far been unable to come to an agreement on extending it.

The program expired in early August. 

John Fritze

Kirk: Trump ‘bodyguard of western civilization’

Echoing the sort of dire language President Donald Trump often uses to describe his opponents, conservative activist Charlie Kirk blamed “bitter, deceitful, vengeful” opponents for the nation’s woes and described Trump as an antidote to that division.

“Trump is the bodyguard of western civilization,” asserted Kirk, the 26-year-old founder of Turning Point USA.

Kirk’s message offered a particularly bleak view of the nation, arguing the country is “locking up pastors” while “releasing violent criminals from prison” and “kicking doctors off of social media” while “promoting Chinese state-funded propaganda” on other tech platforms.

The conservative superstar is appearing at the convention as part of an effort to help Trump capture younger voters. That constituency could be pivotal, and at the moment, polls show Trump faces a yawning gap of support among Millennials and other young voters.

Voters aged 18 to 34 support Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, over the GOP ticket by 22 points, a CNN poll found this month.

John Fritze and Deirdre Shesgreen

Trump to appear at convention with Americans held overseas 

President Donald Trump is expected to make another appearance at the Republican National Convention on Monday — this time joined by Americans held abroad and those detained by foreign governments released during his time in office.

Trump is expected to appear with Michael White, freed by Iran in June, and Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was arrested in Turkey and released in 2018 and four others. Trump has repeatedly touted his efforts to get Americans held overseas freed.

The appearance was not included on the original RNC schedule and underlines the fact that Trump is likely to appear unexpectedly several times during the convention, as he did earlier in the day in Charlotte, N.C. 

David Jackson and John Fritze 

‘Can’t be trusted’: Michael Cohen appears in ad to run during RNC attacking president

Michael Cohen, who served as Trump’s loyal personal attorney and fixer, will appear in a series of Democratic group American Bridge ads with a message to voters about Trump: they “shouldn’t believe a word he utters.” 

“For more than a decade, I was President Trump’s right-hand man, fixer and confidant. I was complicit in helping conceal the real Donald Trump. In essence, I was part of creating an illusion,” Cohen says. “Later this week, he’s going to stand up at the White House and blatantly lie to you.”

Cohen continues, “I’m here to tell you he can’t be trusted — and you shouldn’t believe a word he utters. So, when you watch the President this week, remember this: If he says something is huge, it’s probably small. If he says something will work, it probably won’t. And if he says he cares about you and your family, he certainly does not.”

The series of ads will run during the Republican National Convention this week, starting digitally on Monday and appearing on TV starting Wednesday, according to CNN. 

Cohen comes as the latest anti-Trump Republican to speak out just before the start of the RNC. Former Republican Party chairman Michael Steele joined the Lincoln Project just hours ago, and 27 former GOP lawmakers publicly endorsed Democratic nominee Joe Biden Monday morning.

Matt Wolking, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, told USA TODAY in response, “If you believe anything Michael Cohen says, I have a basement in Delaware to sell you.”

Cohen, a self-described Trump fixer, pleaded guilty to coordinating payoffs to buy the silence of adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. The women said they had sexual affairs with Trump before he was elected. Cohen insisted he acted at the direction of Trump, who has denied the affairs.

Savannah Behrmann

Who is Charlie Kirk? 

One of the first speakers of tonight’s RNC event is expected to be Charlie Kirk, the 26-year-old conservative darling who is a Trump family confidant and the head of Turning Point USA, which is devoted to attracting and energizing young voters.

Kirk bills himself as “Twitter’s 5th most engaged personality” and a vessel for the GOP to reach coveted college-age voters.  

“I visit college campuses so you don’t have to,” Kirk told an approving crowd at the Conservative Political Action’s 2020 conference. “You’re welcome.”

By the time the 2016 election rolled around, Turning Point was a well-funded outfit and Kirk had become increasingly influential. He met Donald Trump Jr. at the GOP convention that year and glued himself to the president’s eldest son. 

“I traveled the country for about 70 days straight carrying Donald Trump Jr.’s bags and getting his Diet Cokes,” Kirk told conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh in 2019. “Helping book flights and taking pictures and coordinating media, essentially being the youth director of the campaign and also being Don Jr.’s body man.”

Now, Kirk enjoys influence and access at the highest levels of the White House, said Andrew Surabian, a Republican strategist with close ties to the Trump campaign.

Deirdre Shesgreen

RNC faces news distractions on Day 1

The Republicans are eager for news coverage of their convention starting Monday –but they’re getting a lot of competition from news breaking all over the country. 

The opening night of the GOP convention starts at 8:30 p.m. EST. Maybe nothing more will happen before then.

David Jackson

Poll: Trump trailing Biden in North Carolina

A new poll released just hours after the Republican National Convention opened Monday in Charlotte shows President Donald Trump losing to Democratic challenger Joe Biden in North Carolina.

Trump trails the former vice president by three points (46% to 49%) in the Tar Heel State and by 10 points nationally (42% to 52%), according to the Morning Consult/Politico poll.

Trump carried North Carolina in 2016, beating Democrat Hillary Clinton by four points (50% to 46%). North Carolina is expected to be a pivotal swing state again this year.

The poll of 1,992 registered voters was conducted Aug. 21-23 and has a two-point margin of error.

Michael Collins

Trump: Unlike Biden, ‘I showed up’

President Donald Trump followed his unscheduled stop at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte on Monday by visiting a company in the battleground state that helps distribute surplus farm food to families in need.   

The president toured a warehouse at the Flavor First Growers and Packers in Mills River, which boxes surplus food and distributes it through the Farmers to Families Food Boxes program. It was the latest indication that Trump intends to stay highly visible during the four-day convention, much of which is taking place virtually.

“This really is an incredible program,” Trump said, standing in front of stacks of boxes filled peppers, eggplant, squash and other fruits and vegetables.

Later, Trump announced that his administration is authorizing another $1 billion for the program. Many families found themselves in need of groceries when the coronavirus pandemic hit, he said.

Though not an official campaign stop, the event sometimes had the feel of a political rally, with the crowd chanting “four more years!” Trump encouraged supporters to get out and vote in November, calling it “the most important election this country has ever had.”

Trump also got in a dig at Democratic Joe Biden for not traveling to Wisconsin during the Democratic National Convention. Milwaukee was scheduled to host the gathering, but Democrats switched to a virtual gathering as a result of COVID.

“Joe Biden was supposed to be in Wisconsin, but he never showed up,” Trump said. “I showed up.”

– Michael Collins

Trump formally accepts nomination 

President Donald Trump was formally nominated for a second term at the Republican National Convention on Monday, marking an official start to this year’s presidential race and the first major moment of the party’s meeting this week.

Trump made a surprise visit to the convention shortly after crossing the threshold of delegates needed for the nod. He started off his remarks with an attack on Democrats, opponent Joe Biden and criticism of mail-in ballots – an indication his message at the party’s convention will mirror what he has been eager to convey in the run up to it.     

More: Trump formally nominated for second term at Republican National Convention

“This is the most important election in the history of our country,” Trump said during nearly an hour of remarks at the Charlotte Convention Center. “This is the biggest.”

Trump was set to hold several campaign events in North Carolina before returning to Washington in the evening. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., was among several speakers expected during the prime time hours. Others include Donald Trump Jr., Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La. 

– John Fritze

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