Posted on August 26, 2020

Donald Trump Pardons a Black Bank Robber and Swears in New Americans as Republicans Try to Paint Upbeat Message About His Presidency

Katelyn Caralle, et al., Daily Mail, August 26, 2020

The second night of the Republican National Convention tried to set a positive tone of optimism Tuesday as President Donald Trump pardoned a convicted bank robber and attended the swearing in ceremony of five new U.S. citizens.

The now former felon, Jon Ponder, and the FBI agent who arrested him, Rich Beasley, appeared for a video together before prerecorded footage of them speaking alongside the president from the White House began.

At the end of the joint remarks with the three men – the president surprised Ponder with a pardon.

‘I’d like to invite Jon’s wife Jamie to join us as I grant John, I’m not sure you know this, a full pardon. So I don’t know if you know that,’ Trump said before sitting down and signing the pardon.

‘You have done incredible work,’ Trump told Ponder as the former prisoner got teary eyed.

Ponder served a five-year sentence for bank robbery, and after his release he dedicated his life to helping those getting out of prison by starting a reentry program for newly freed individuals.

‘When I met Jon 15 years ago, he was angry, scared, and facing years in prison. On the drive to jail, we had a long talk and began to understand each other,’ Beasley detailed in a video package of the two speaking together. ‘Five years later, when he got out of prison, Jon and I met for lunch. He was a different man.’

The theme of the second night of the Republican National Convention was ‘America: The Land of Opportunity.’

Trump hosted a naturalization ceremony at the White House for five individuals becoming American citizens.

That move appeared to fly in the face of the Hatch Act, which prevents the use of government property and personnel to campaign for a candidate. The White House said they had uploaded video of the ceremony to a website which the Trump campaign had access.

Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf headed the ceremony and read the oath off to the candidates for naturalization.

‘On behalf of the Department of Homeland Security, it is my honor to call you My Fellow Americans,’ Wolf said at the conclusion of the oath before handing the podium over to Trump. ‘Mr. President. I want to again commend you for your dedication to the rule of law, and for restoring integrity to our immigration system. Thank you for hosting such a patriotic celebration here at the White House today.’

Trump congratulated the five recipients of citizenship: ‘You are now fellow citizens of the greatest nation on the face of God’s Earth.’

‘You followed the rules, you obeyed the laws, you learned your history, embraced our values and proved yourselves to be men and women of the highest integrity. It’s not so easy. You went through a lot,’ Trump said of the legal process to become an American citizen.

The five countries represented at the ceremony were Bolivia, India, Sudan, Lebanon and Ghana.

The Trump administration has become known for its hardline illegal immigration policies as Democrats have lambasted the president for separating families at the southern border.

Trump has claimed to be the ‘law & order’ president.

During Beasley and Ponder’s remarks, the duo also praised Trump for his commitment to criminal justice reform and law enforcement, as the country continues to face turmoil as tensions heighten between police officers and the black community.

Beasley and Ponder spoke of Trump’s commitment to criminal justice reform and law enforcement, as the country continues to face turmoil as tensions heighten between police officers and the black community.

‘I’m grateful for President Trump’s commitment to criminal justice reform,’ Beasley said. ‘Six months ago, he was the guest speaker at the HOPE for Prisoners graduation, and he stayed much longer than scheduled to hand out diplomas to the 29 men and women who graduated that day.’

‘The most important man in the free world was shaking hands and pledging his administration’s support to ex-offenders,’ he continued of a program that helps prisoners obtain their diploma.

Beasley, a retired FBI agent, added: ‘I also appreciate President Trump’s support for law enforcement. He knows the overwhelming percentage of law enforcement officers are good, smart people who are doing their jobs well. And they can change the world, working with people like Jon.’

The night also featured several other ‘everyday’ voter speakers, including a former Planned Parenthood clinic director and now pro-life activist Abby Johnson.

‘I truly believed I was helping women,’ Johnson said.

‘I support President Trump because he’s done more for the unborn than any other President,’ she continued, citing his accomplishment for the pro-life movement.

‘Life is a core tenet of who we are as Americans,’ Johnson said. ‘This election is a choice between two radical, anti-life activists, and the most pro-life President we’ve ever had. That’s something that should compel you to action.’

Directly after her remarks, 17-year-old Nicholas Sandmann addressed the convention about an altercation that happened while he was in Washington D.C. for the March for Life, a massive annual pro-life march on the Nation’s Capitol.

‘In January 2019, I attended the March for Life in Washington D.C. where I demonstrated in defense of the unborn,’ Sandmann detailed during his pre-recorded speech. ‘Later that day, I bought a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat because our President, Donald Trump, has distinguished himself as the most pro-life Presidents in the history of our country and I wanted to express my support for him too.’

Sandmann, whose Catholic school took students from Kentucky to D.C. for the mark, went viral after a confrontation in front of the Lincoln Memorial with a Native American activist.

The protester went up to Sandmann, who was wearing his new red ‘MAGA’ hat, and pounded on a drum a few inches from his face. The teenager was excoriated in the media for a smirk he had during the confrontation.

He said the ‘awkward smile’ was an attempt to hide his thoughts and avoid embarrassing himself or further instigating the man.

He then railed against cancel culture, claiming the media attempted to cancel him.

‘But I wouldn’t be cancelled,’ Sandmann said. ‘I fought back hard to expose the media for what they did to me and won a personal victory. While much more must be done, I look forward to the day that the media returns to providing balanced, responsible and accountable news coverage.’

He added: ‘I know President Trump hopes for that too.’

Melania Trump will deliver her biggest, most high-profile speech in four years as the headliner for the second night of the Republican Convention, arguing for her husband’s reelection.

Her closest aide said every word will be original.

‘I can tell you that every word in this speech is from her. It’s very authentic, and it’s going to come from the heart, so we’re really excited for people to hear from her,’ her chief of staff Stephanie Grisham told MSNBC on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday night’s speech is meant to serve as a triple fold for the first lady: make the case for President Donald Trump’s second term, shore up his declining support among women voters, and bring redemption from her 2016 address, which liberally borrowed from a previous Michelle Obama speech.

A speaker scheduled for Day Two of the convention had her speech pulled just minutes before she was to appear before the nation.

The move came after she tweeted a string of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

‘Do yourself a favor and read this thread,’ wrote Mary Ann Mendoza, an ‘Angel mom’ who was to speak at Trump’s nominating convention.

Mendoza’s son was killed by a drunk driver who was in the country illegally. Trump has held multiple events with ‘angel moms’ to fuel his campaign against illegal immigration.

The tweet linked to a series of conspiracy theories involving the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a trope that runs back to the Nazi era. It also tied in conspiracy theories involving the Rothschids, a famous European banking family, accusing them of a plot to terrorize non-jews.

After the Daily Beast reported on the tweets promoted by Mendoza, she apologized ‘for not paying attention to the intent of the whole message.’

‘That does not reflect my feelings or personal thoughts whatsoever,’ she wrote on Twitter.

Melania Trump will speak from the Rose Garden whose renovations she oversaw and Grisham said it will be one of the first lady’s longest speeches to date. President Trump is scheduled to attend.

The speech is being heavily hyped and is scheduled to be given in the prime time hour the TV networks are airing convention coverage.

‘The first lady’s speech is amazing. It’s the highlight of the week,’ outgoing White House adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters on Monday.

Grisham said the Rose Garden location was chosen as it was the couple’s home. She pushed back against criticism the political speech on White House grounds could violate the Hatch Act, arguing the first lady is not subject to it.

‘It’s the people’s house, but it’s also their home. And so, she thought it would be really nice to deliver tonight’s speech from their home. She’s also not subject to the Hatch Act,’ Grisham told MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson.

She also said the COVID pandemic made travel difficult so the White House was a safe, cost effective choice.

With a more public and political spotlight than Trump usually seeks, the first lady has spent days crafting this year’s speech, White House aides told The Washington Post.

Trump, whose native language is not English, leaned on some of her top White House allies to help write and fine tune her speech in recent days, including Conway and Grisham, and her top aide Marcia Lee Kelly, who is also serving as this year’s convention CEO.

Her speech also comes after she talked up her husband’s presidential record on helping women during the unveiling of an art exhibit celebrating Women’s Suffrage Monday.

‘Since taking office, my husband and this administration have taken historic measures to empower and support women in the United States — and around the world,’ she said as she appeared in front of the White House.

As one of the most prominent women in the administration, and someone with higher approval ratings than her husband, Melania Trump can help the president capture the key women voting bloc.

And her speech could be her most prominent campaign moment this year. Never a huge fan of the campaign trail to begin with – she made only a handful of appearances for her husband in 2016 – the first lady’s office has announced no plans for her this fall.

Melania Trump was scheduled to host two fundraisers – one in California and one in Mar-a-Lago – before the coronavirus pandemic struck and the virus upended those plans.

But, unlike first daughter Ivanka Trump or the other adult Trump children, the first lady has made no campaign zoom calls or online appearances to tout her husband’s re-election.

And her low profile comes as Joe Biden is closing the gap with women, in part because of the law marks they give President Trump for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The president, in the 2016 election, won white women without a college degree by 27 per cent. And he won suburban voters by 4 points.

Tuesday also will offer the first lady a second chance to address the party faithful after a plagiarism scandal at the 2016 Republican National Convention turned her big night into a political controversy.

A passage in Trump’s speech in Cleveland four years ago closely mirrored a portion of Obama’s address to the Democratic National Convention in 2008, borrowing word-for-word passages in some cases and echoing Obama’s themes.

The incident caused an uproar and, as it happened on the first day of the convention, became the main topic of much of the rest of that week.

Trump made few appearances on the campaign trail after it occurred and, eventually, a staffer for the Trump Organization took the blame for the mishap.

Trump’s speech will close out the second night of the convention after the first set the tone for the four-night event as painting the president as Republicans’ only hope against the liberal ‘mob.’

‘We may not have realized it at the time, but this fact is now clear: Trump is the bodyguard of western civilization,’ the first speaker on Monday night, Charlie Kirk, lavished praise on the president.

‘Trump was elected to protect our families – our loved ones – from the vengeful mob that wishes to destroy our way of life, our neighborhoods, schools, church, and values,’ the Turning Point USA founder said. ‘President Trump was elected to defend and strengthen the American way of life.’

Also speaking at the convention were the St. Louis couple who went viral for wielding guns at Black Lives Matter protesters outside their home earlier this summer.

Mark and Patty McCloskey, who are facing felony charges, touted Trump’s defense of the Second Amendment in warning Americans of the ‘mob.’

‘At this moment in history, if you stand up for yourself and for the values our country was founded on, the mob – spurred on by their allies in the media – will try to destroy you,’ Mark said as he sat beside his wife and addressed the camera in remote remarks.

Melania Trump’s remarks will provide a change of scenery from the first night of the convention, where remarks were largely made from Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., with the exclusion of a few remote and prerecorded remarks and discussion.

Paid for by private donations, the first lady completely renovated the Rose Garden, just in time for her speech making the case for her husband’s reelection.

But Grisham said the two events were not connected.

‘No. Not at all. She’s been working on that renovation for easily six, seven months, talking to horticulturalists and architectures – and architectures and historians. The Rose Garden was in need of this renewal,’ she told MSNBC.

The first couple hosted a private reception for the donors on Saturday night.

‘Gardens are symbols of growth and hope. We celebrate this garden in the hope that future generations will not only enjoy – but also draw inspiration and strength – from this space where so much of our history has been shared,’ Trump said at the reception of her remodel.

The newly-renovated garden conforms with the first lady’s personal aesthetic: clean lines, well structured, and soft, neutral colors. But others took to social media to bash the new design as ‘cold, colorless and boring,’ claiming it looks like ‘a cemetery.’

A slew of other speakers will appear ahead of Trump’s speech, including the president’s youngest daughter Tiffany Trump, who just graduated from Georgetown Law in May, and his son Eric Trump.

President Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will appear in recorded remarks from Israel, where he is currently visiting on official business.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer and former Planned Parenthood clinic director – now pro-life activist – Abby Johnson will make speeches Tuesday.

More notable speakers will include Nicholas Sandmann, a teenager who went viral after a confrontation with a Native American activist in front of the Lincoln Memorial in 2019.

Sandmann was wearing a MAGA hat during a school trip to Washington, D.C. – and was confronted by an anti-Trump Native American activist who pounded on a drum inches from his face as he stood there smiling.

Mary Ann Mendoza, an ‘Angel Mom’ who lost her police officer son in 2014, will also get a chance to speak. Mendoza lost her son after he was in a head-on car collision with an illegal immigrant.

While South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, the lone black Republican in the U.S. Senate, headlined Monday night’s events, much of the focus ended up being on Donald trump Jr. and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, who made separate remarks.

President Trump said last week that he wanted more of the Republican convention to be live than the Democrats’ but just three speeches were – included remarks from Sen. Scott, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, former ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley.

But it was the pre-recorded speech of the president’s eldest son that stood out as the major political argument of the night and struck directly and forcefully at his father’s rival for the presidency.

‘This time the other party is attacking the very principles on which our Nation was founded,’ he said of Democrats, in a speech taped before it was aired Monday.

He accused Biden, who spent over nearly four decades as senator from Delaware and then served as vice president, ‘the Loch Ness Monster’ of establishment Washington D.C.

‘Joe Biden is basically the Loch Ness Monster of the Swamp. For the past half-century, he’s been lurking around in there. He sticks his head up every now and then to run for President, then he disappears and doesn’t do much in between,’ Don Jr. said.

Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle recorded their speeches a few hours before they aired, completing them in one take, live to tape, learned.

In his remarks, the president’s eldest son and his most staunch defender addressed some of his father’s weakness – his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and race relations – while hitting Biden in one of his areas of strength – his appeal to middle-class workers.

He echoed his father in blaming the ‘Chinese Communist Party’ for the pandemic, which has infected more than 5.74 million Americans, including his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, and killed more 177,00 people.

He and Guifoyle, like most of the convention speakers Monday night, spoke from the Andrew Mellon Auditorium in Washington D.C., just a few miles from the White House.

Trump Jr. said Biden’s actions – if elected – would destroy the American economy.

‘Biden’s radical leftwing policies would stop our economic recovery cold. He’s already talking about shutting the country down — again. It’s madness,’ he said.

The president’s son, who works for the family business The Trump Organization, attacked Biden in one of the Democrat’s strongest areas – his appeal to blue-collar voters, the same voters that helped elect President Trump in 2016.

‘In fact, if you think about it, Joe Biden’s entire economic platform seems designed to crush the working man and woman,’ Trump Jr. said. ‘He supported the worst trade deals in the history of the planet. He voted for the NAFTA Nightmare. Down the tubes went our auto industry. He pushed TPP. Goodbye manufacturing jobs.’

President Trump’s family will take center stage at this week’s convention: first lady Melania Trump will give the keynote address on Tuesday night while Eric Trump and Tiffany speak the same evening. Ivanka Trump will introduce her father on Thursday night ahead of his keynote address, delivered from the South Lawn of the White House.

Meanwhile, Trump Jr appears to have found a calling in politics. A popular surrogate for his father at campaign rallies and a prolific fundraiser for the Republican Party, Trump Jr has sparked talk he’ll run for office one day himself.

But on Monday, he advocated for a second term for his father.

Guilfoyle, one of President Trump’s most energetic supporters on the campaign trail and the girlfriend of his eldest son, preceded Trump Jr on stage.

The couple make a popular side show ahead of the president at his campaign rallies with their cute, couplely shtick about their life in politics, complete with cute nicknames for one another.

After Guilfoyle finished her remarks, Trump Jr gave her a fist bump.

The former Fox News host stuck to the campaign’s talking points in her brief remarks, emphasizing that Trump is the ‘law and order president’ while Joe Biden and Kamala Harris want to defund the police, which Biden has said is not true.

‘As Commander-in-Chief, he always puts America First! President Trump is The Law and Order President,’ she said. ‘Biden, Harris and their socialist comrades will fundamentally change this nation – they want open borders, closed schools, dangerous amnesty and will selfishly send your jobs back to China, while they get richer! They will defund, dismantle and destroy America’s law enforcement.’

She also criticized her former home state of California. Guilfoyle is the ex-wife of California Gov. Gavin Newsom. When he was San Francisco mayor the couple were portrayed as the future of Democratic politics.

‘If you want to see the socialist Biden/Harris future for our country, just take a look at California. 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 streets and blackouts in homes,’ she said in dramatic tones.

She then pivoted to what life is like under President Trump.

‘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!’ she said.

She spoke dramatically, waving her arms and practically shouting her words.

Guilfoyle, who is the finance chair of the Trump re-election campaign, promised the ‘best is yet to come’ under President Trump. She raised her arms wide, as if in prayer, shouting her support for the president.

‘President Trump is the leader who will rebuild the Promise of America and ensure that every citizen can realize their American Dream!,’ she said and closed with: ‘Ladies and Gentleman, Leaders and Fighters for Freedom and Liberty and the American Dream – The best is yet to come!’