- The second night of the 2020 Republican National Convention was a made-for-TV affair featuring a naturalization ceremony and a pardoning.
- President Donald Trump used the power of the presidency to promote his reelection campaign while attempting to make himself look good on issues he’s often criticised over: immigration and criminal justice.
- The night also featured several fringe right-wing figures who pushed conspiracy theories and disproven talking points on a wide array of issues.
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The Republican National Convention typically attracts the biggest conservative names in the US.
That has not been the case for the 2020 edition, as President Donald Trump has so alienated prominent GOP establishment figures that some even chose to speak on Joe Biden’s behalf at the Democrats’ convention last week instead.
Tuesday night’s RNC lineup, the convention’s second night, contained several names most Americans have probably never heard of, including fringe right-wing figures pushing conspiracy theories and debunked talking points on a wide array of issues. People like Abby Johnson, an abortion opponent who supports barring women from voting and recently condoned the police racially profiling her biracial son.
Nicholas Sandmann, a teenager who last year found himself at the centre of a culture battle that largely played out on social media, was also a speaker. Sandmann used his speech to decry the news media and declared that he had been “cancelled.”
Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi offered a speech full of conspiracy theories on the Bidens and Ukraine that have repeatedly been disproved.
Pam Bondi: 'When you look at his [Joe Biden] 47-year-career in politics, the people who benefitted are his family members.' — Reminder that Pres. Trump's daughter and son-in-law are his senior advisers with no political experience #RNC2020 pic.twitter.com/PsmRdMsNmR
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) August 26, 2020
One of the people scheduled to speak, Mary Ann Mendoza, had her speech cancelled at the last minute because she’d shared an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory on Twitter earlier in the day.
While the second night of the RNC lacked the fire and fury of the first night of the proceedings, it filled that void with a series of surreal acts.
Trump, a president who has consistently vilified immigrants, returned to his roots as an entertainer and held a reality-TV-style naturalization ceremony with his acting chief of homeland security, Chad Wolf.
Five people became US citizens during the made-for-TV-moment, which surely was meant to soften swing voters’ impression of a president who has separated thousands of migrant children from their parents, consistently sought to build a wall on the border to keep immigrants out, and routinely espoused xenophobic sentiments.
Trump, who recently sparked uproar after commuting the sentence of his friend Roger Stone, also held a pardoning ceremony during the RNC on Tuesday. The “law and order” president, who has spent the summer demonizing people protesting systemic racism in America’s criminal-justice system, pardoned a convicted bank robber.
After issuing a pardon, Trump is now doing a naturalization ceremony during the RNC pic.twitter.com/OBM867ywqJ
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 26, 2020
The president has faced fierce criticism for holding much of this year’s largely virtual convention at the White House, where both the naturalization ceremony and the pardoning ceremony took place.
In using the powers of his office to promote his reelection effort, Trump has broken ethical norms in a profound way. And by performing an official duty in what was a political campaign event, Wolf may have violated a law (the Hatch Act) prohibiting federal employees from engaging in political activities while on the job.
This all came before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered an unprecedented speech that broke protocol and saw America’s top diplomat participate in a partisan event while on a taxpayer-funded trip to the Middle East. Pompeo has also faced allegations of breaking the law by delivering remarks at the convention, and House Democrats are launching an investigation into his speech.
And in the final speech of the evening, the first lady, Melania Trump, touched on how “mean and manipulative social media can be.” Left unsaid was the president’s well-documented, almost hourly tendency to use Twitter as a weapon to spread disinformation and attack his opponents.