Some top moments from the Republican National Convention
The 2020 Republican National Convention will likely be remembered for its groundbreaking transgression of ethical norms separating government from party politics, culminating with President Trump holding the final night of the convention on the grounds of the White House.
As Trump spoke from risers on the South Lawn and jumbo screens showed the speech, a crowd of more than a thousand eschewed social distancing guidelines on a day that the U.S. death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic passed 180,000. The number of dead from the disease was not spoken during the four-day convention.
Here are some of the other memorable moments:
A surprise naturalization ceremony
Chad Wolf, acting secretary of Homeland Security, and President Trump host a naturalization ceremony for new citizens in the White House in a video shown Tuesday at the Republican National Convention.
On the second night of the Republican convention, Trump participated in a naturalization ceremony at the White House for five immigrants, welcoming them as new U.S. citizens.
Government ethics experts were quick to point out that Chad Wolf, acting secretary of Homeland Security, who led the ceremony, violated federal law that restricts federal employees from certain political activities by appearing in an event for a political, partisan event. The president is exempt from the federal Hatch Act, which prohibits federal officials from using their positions to influence elections or partisan politics.
The White House has said that the RNC’s use of the ceremony did not violate the act because the video was publicized online, and the Trump campaign simply chose to show it. But the move led to calls for investigation.
Wolf “specifically hijacked a governmental function for the Trump campaign,” Walter Shaub, a former director for the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, wrote on Twitter. “And he used humans. I have seen a lot of ethical abuses before. I’ve never seen anything like that.”
The moment was also a sharp contrast to an administration that has sought to slash legal immigration by limiting pathways to citizenship.
A secretary of State’s norm-breaking partisan speech from Jerusalem
Pausing during a multination trip to the Middle East, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo taped his convention speech with Jerusalem in the background.
Wolf is not the only federal official whose appearance at the Republican convention sparked investigations, complaints and accusations of violating the Hatch Act.
While on a government trip to Israel, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo gave a speech from a rooftop in Jerusalem, praising Trump’s foreign policy leadership. His four-minute speech tossed aside norms upheld by previous secretaries of State, who have long avoided the appearance of partisanship. Government ethics experts say he also broke the law.
Pompeo himself reminded other State employees in a July cable of the department’s “longstanding policy” that U.S. citizen employees and family members may not engage in partisan activities while abroad on temporary duty, even on personal time. His speech led to official complaints with the State Department and at least one investigation.
Maximo Alvarez’s speech on fleeing Cuba
Maximo Alvarez, an immigrant from Cuba, gave an emotional speech on the first night of the Republican convention about his story of coming to the U.S.
The Florida businessman told of fleeing Fidel Castro’s communist regime as a child and starting over in Miami. At age 13, Alvarez came to the U.S. through a government program called Operation Pedro Pan, which brought unaccompanied children to Miami, according to his company’s website.
Alvarez said the U.S. gave him an opportunity to build a life and most of all, the gift of freedom. The businessman, owner of Sunshine Gasoline Distributors, has donated thousands to Trump’s reelection campaign, Republican candidates and the GOP, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
Alvarez warned of Democrats’ agenda, likening their ideas of “spread the wealth, free education, free healthcare” to Castro’s.
“I choose President Trump because I choose America. I choose freedom,” he said, choking up as he recalled his father’s words about going to the U.S. “I still hear my dad: ‘There is no other place to go.’”
Kimberly Guilfoyle takes it to maximum volume
Kimberly Guilfoyle speaks at the Republican National Convention.
Former Fox News personality and GOP fundraiser Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is the girlfriend of the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., burst out of the gates on the opening night of the convention with a high-energy and high-volume speech.
“Don’t let the Democrats take you for granted,” Guilfoyle said. “Don’t let them step on you. Don’t let them destroy your families, your lives and your future. Don’t let them kill future generations because they told you and brainwashed you and fed you lies that you weren’t good enough.”
Guilfoyle spread her arms wide as she urged support for Trump: “Ladies and gentlemen, leaders and fighters for freedom and liberty and the American dream, the best is yet to come!”
Meet the McCloskeys
America first met Mark and Patricia McCloskey outside their homes, when they brandished guns at nonviolent protesters who were passing through their upscale St. Louis neighborhood. They were charged with felony unlawful use of a weapon, but conservatives rallied to their side, making them symbols of self-defense.
That culminated with a convention invitation that was of-the-moment — part rebuke of the protests roiling the nation, but also emblematic of how little the Trump campaign cared about the optics of inviting a highly litigious couple that has a long history of sparring over minor slights.
‘Erdogan was very good’
Trump met at the White House with former captives whose release his administration helped facilitate, in a video shown on the first night of the convention. Trump praised the leader responsible for one of the captives’ imprisonment, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who fired or imprisoned civil servants, police, professors, military officers, dissidents and journalists after a failed 2016 coup.
Pastor Andrew Brunson was one of those swept up. Trump told Brunson: “To me, President Erdogan was very good.”
The Hatch Act goes out with a whimper, but also a bang
Trump’s convention disregarded federal ethics laws with repeated use of federal property and employees for campaign purposes, but there may have been no greater symbol of the norm-shattering than the president holding his acceptance speech on the lawn of the White House, and then following it with a campaign fireworks show from the National Mall. One Democratic senator, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, pushed back:
Get off our lawn.— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) August 28, 2020
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