President Trump and his supporters kicked off the Republican National Convention on Monday, with speakers characterizing a potential Joe Biden presidency as disastrous. Melania Trump will lead the lineup Tuesday night. Meanwhile, there is some controversy over Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s decision to appear at the event. Yamiche Alcindor and Nick Schifrin join Judy Woodruff to discuss.
Read the Full Transcript
And now, to share their reporting, I'm joined by our White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor and foreign affairs correspondent Nick Schifrin.
Hello to both of you.
So, Yamiche, I know you have been talking to the campaign today. How do they feel they were able to get their message across or not last night?
Well, Trump campaign officials, as well as Republican officials, tell me that they are very pleased with the way that the RNC is going. They feel like the convention is doing a good job in making the case for why President Trump should be reelected.
That being said, there are a number of misleading claims, and I want to walk you through some of them.
The first is from President Trump himself. He had that unprecedented first speech at the RNC. That was about an hour.
He said — quote — "We just have to make this China virus go away. And it's happening."
Judy, this, unfortunately, is false. The United States is still leading the world in coronavirus cases. We have about two million cases. And in the last week, we have seen of 42,000 cases per week. So, the coronavirus is not at all going away. It is sometimes decreasing, but it is not, as he said, going away.
The second thing I want to point out is House Minority Whip Steve Scalise. He said — quote — "Joe Biden has embraced the left's insane mission to defund the police."
This is the second in command, second-ranking GOP official in the House. That is false. Joe Biden has said repeatedly that he does not believe in abolishing the police or defunding the police. He does say that he wants to see systemic change in law enforcement and have a world and a country where African-Americans are not more likely to be killed by the police, which is the case now.
Lastly, I want to turn to Patricia McCloskey. She's one-half of that Saint Louis couple who pointed guns at Black Lives Matter protesters when they were walking through her neighborhood.
And she said — quote — "Democrats want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family zoning."
This, again, is false. There — she's referring to a housing regulation that was focused on fighting discrimination and focused on combating desegregation in America.
And it was focused on the idea that you don't want to have people locked out of the suburbs. But there is no sort of regulation that says that single-family zoning will end. That's just some of the statements, and we expect to hear more tonight.
And I know you meant to say, Yamiche, 42,000 cases a day of — new cases of coronavirus.
So, Yamiche, looking at tonight, what should we expect?
Tonight, we should expect President Trump to really be making the case, both with White House officials and with close family members, that he should be reelected.
So we're going to see a number of people whose last name is Trump. First lady Melania Trump will be coming to the Rose Garden to deliver the keynote address. But we're also going to be hearing from Tiffany Trump, as well as Eric Trump.
We're also going to be hearing from Larry Kudlow. He's a top White House economic official. He's likely going to be making the case that President Trump can bring the country back from the devastating economic impacts of the coronavirus.
And we're also going to hear from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. This is an unusual move. In the last 75 years, we have not seen a sitting secretary of state deliver an address at a Republican Convention or at a major party convention. So there are some ethical concerns there.
But this is just some of the people that we're going to be hearing tonight making the case for President Trump.
Well, let me ask you, Nick, about that.
There is some controversy around Secretary Pompeo's address. How is this a break from tradition?
Yes, Judy, I spoke with a half-dozen historians, political scientists.
And they point out that, while there were multiple Cabinet secretaries who spoke at Obama's conventions, a handful of Cabinet secretaries who have spoken at previous Republican conventions, as Yamiche said, there's a consensus that no secretary of state has spoken at any convention at least since World War II, and most likely for many years before that.
And the reasons are U.S. traditions. Politics are supposed to stop at the water's edge. Foreign policy and partisan politics aren't supposed to mix. And while our leaders are conducting diplomacy abroad, the idea is that they represent the United States and not a party.
Now, I talked to one political scientist. He called all of that old-fashioned. And he pointed out the secretary of state is on the front lines of trying to advance the president's interests, even during an election year.
But traditions are not just custom. They're actually enshrined in State Department documents that have been released by House Democrats.
Take a look. A December 2019 legal adviser memo states: "Senate-confirmed presidential appointees," of which Pompeo is one, "may not even attend a political party convention or convention-related events."
And a cable sent on July 24 signed by Mike Pompeo says: "Presidential appointees may not engage in any partisan political activity in concert with a partisan campaign, political party or partisan political group, even on personal time."
So, given that, Nick, what is Pompeo's defense of what he's doing?
Well, despite the language from that cable I just read, the State Department spokespeople say that Pompeo was on personal time when he taped this address from Jerusalem.
A spokesman says — quote — "Secretary Pompeo will address the convention in his personal capacity. No State Department resources will be used. Staff are not involved in preparing the remarks or in the arrangements for Secretary Pompeo's appearance. The State Department will not bear any costs in conjunction with this appearance."
But Pompeo, Judy, is on official taxpayer-funded trip. And that means that he will be seen with that extraordinary backdrop of the Old City of Jerusalem, thanks to State Department resources.
Now, why Jerusalem? President Trump said it himself just last week, that he moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem in order to appeal to evangelical voters.
And, Judy, tonight, Joaquin Castro, the chair of House Foreign Affairs Oversight Investigation Subcommittee, has launched an investigation into Pompeo's appearance tonight.
Well, it's a backdrop like no other. That's for sure.
All right, Nick Schifrin, Yamiche Alcindor, thank you both.