WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Vice President Mike Pence was set to make an economic pitch to re-elect President Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday while his boss waded into the latest flare-up of unrest over the police shooting of a Black man.
The convention’s first two nights featured grim claims about how the United States would suffer if Trump loses in November to Democrat Joe Biden, who is leading in national opinion polls. On Wednesday Trump weighed in on protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where three people were shot, two fatally, on the third night of unrest there. A 17-year-old was arrested on homicide charges.
Trump posted on Twitter that he was sending federal law enforcement and the National Guard, with the agreement of Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers. “We will NOT stand for looting, arson, violence, and lawlessness on American streets,” Trump wrote.
Officials said the suspect appeared to be linked to a vigilante militia-style group who had asked the local sheriff to deputize them as protest responders, which he refused.
Biden said he spoke with the family of the Black man, Jacob Blake, 29, who was badly wounded when police shot him four times in the back at close range. The former vice president called for justice for the Blake family and for an end to violence.
“Protesting brutality is a right and absolutely necessary, but burning down communities is not protest. It’s needless violence,” Biden said in a video posted to his campaign’s social media accounts. “The wisest words that I’ve heard spoken so far have come from Julia Jackson, Jacob’s mother. She looked at the damage done in her community and she said ‘this doesn’t reflect my son or my family.’”
Pence, who will be renominated as Trump’s running mate after on-and-off speculation he would be dropped from the ticket, is expected to highlight the administration’s record as well as goals for a second term.
The former Indiana governor and congressman, a conservative Christian, served as a key connector between Trump and evangelical voters, a powerful and influential part of the Republican political base.
But he has also become, along with Trump, the face of the White House response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 177,000 people in the United States and put tens of millions of Americans out of work. Pence leads the White House coronavirus task force.
Democratic House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Pence had “pulled his punch” in confronting the virus and became “a figure in the background” after being appointed to lead the task force.
“They were slow in anticipation and, not only that, reacting to what was happening out there in terms of the spread of the virus,” Pelosi said in a video news briefing on Wednesday.
A White House official said Pence would offer an optimistic vision for the country while also providing a contrast with Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris. At their own party convention last week, Biden and Harris warned Americans against giving Trump another four years in the White House.
Despite the promise of an upbeat message, the Republican gathering’s first two days were peppered with ominous predictions of a wave of radical socialism and chaos if Democrats won the White House.
Republicans are hoping Trump will get a boost in the polls from a convention that is highlighting his re-election themes, including a tough “law and order” message.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken Aug. 19-25 showed Biden had not seen a bounce in popular support from his party’s convention last week, but maintains a 7-percentage-point lead over Trump nationally.
HATCH ACT CONCERNS
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised Trump’s foreign policy record in a video address from Jerusalem, drawing criticism from Democrats and former officials for breaking with protocol by using his appointed office for partisan purposes.
The Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s oversight subcommittee announced an investigation into whether Pompeo’s appearance breached regulations or the 1939 Hatch Act, which limits political activities by federal employees.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Politico in a video interview on Wednesday that Pompeo was speaking in a personal capacity and used no federal assets in delivering the speech.
Tuesday night’s convention program also included a citizenship naturalization ceremony at the White House, overseen by the acting secretary of homeland security, and a presidential pardon, raising concerns the apparatus of the federal government was being harnessed for Trump’s re-election campaign.
A White House official said the naturalization ceremony and pardon were official White House events. The footage was posted on a public website ahead of the convention broadcast and the campaign was free to use that content, the official said.
Pence plans to speak from Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, the inspiration for the U.S. national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a national monument under federal control.
The Maryland site allows space for an outdoor live audience. Both parties’ conventions have been dramatically scaled back, taking place mostly virtually and without large live audiences to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Other speakers scheduled on Wednesday include second lady Karen Pence, Senators Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Joni Ernst of Iowa, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, and Kellyanne Conway, who announced earlier this week that she would be stepping down as a White House adviser.
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