Second Night of Republican National Convention Features a Pardon and a Naturalization Ceremony

President Donald Trump arrives to listen to first lady Melania Trump speak during the 2020 Republican National Convention from the Rose Garden of the White House, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(CN) — The second night of the Republican National Convention, which kicked off with a pardon of a convicted bank robber and featured a naturalization ceremony, was intended to highlight opportunities Americans have because of President Donald Trump’s policies.

An eighth-generation lobster fisherman from Maine, a Minnesota Mayor, a police officer from New Mexico and a Wisconsin dairy farmer each attributed their wellbeing to Trump and the policy changes and environmental overhauls he has implemented during his administration.

Jason Joyce, the lobster Fisherman praised the president’s brokering of a deal to end EU tariffs of 8% on Maine live lobsters and up to 20% on Maine lobster products, while farmer Cris Peterson said Trump had acknowledged the importance of farmers and agriculture “more than any president”

But the programming, much like that of Monday evening, also featured many warnings about former Vice President Joe Biden, liberals and the media. 

Cissie Graham Lynch, the granddaughter of late Reverend Billy Graham, echoed on Tuesday the divisive rhetoric that appeared throughout Monday night’s convention.

“The Biden-Harris vision for America leaves no room for people of faith. Whether you’re a baker, a florist, or a football coach, they will force the choice between being obedient to God, or to Caesar, “ she said. “Because the radical left’s god is government power.”

Nick Sandmann, self-described as “the teenager who was defamed by the media after an encounter with a group of protestors on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial last year,” urged voters to opt for Trump, or else, lose the election to “anti-christian, anti-Trump and anti-conservative” Democrats. 

Sandmann was cast into the public spotlight when footage of the then-student donning a MAGA hat while standing in front of Native American elder Nathan Phillips went viral.

The 2019 confrontation on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial received much media attention, which depicted Sandmann as having mocked the elder, until a longer video emerged that revealed neither Sandmann nor his peers provoked the incident. 

“I learned that what was happening to me had a name. It was called being canceled. As in annulled. As in revoked. As in made void,” The 18-year-old graduate of Covington Catholic High School told viewers on Tuesday.

“Canceled is what’s happening to people around this country who refuse to be silenced by the far left. Many are being fired, humiliated or even threatened. Often, the media is a willing participant,” he said.

During the convention, Tiffany Trump added to the anti-media talking point that has been popular among the president’s base throughout his term.

“People must recognize that our thoughts, opinions, and even the choice of who we vote for are being manipulated and invisibly coerced by the media and tech giants,” she said.

“If you tune into the media, you get one biased opinion or another. And if what you share does not fit into the narrative they seek to promote, then it is either ignored or deemed a ‘lie’, regardless of the truth. This manipulation of what information we receive impedes our freedoms,” added Trump.

The president’s former political opponent Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said he was “proud of the job” Trump has done as president, saying that their occasional policy differences are “far outweighed” by their agreements. 

“But more important than simple agreement is accomplishment,” Paul added. 

The senator said that, while others talked about criminal justice reform, “President Trump signed the First Step Act, the first real reform in a generation, and one that sought to undo the harm that others, like Joe Biden, have done.”

The First Step Act was a bipartisan bill, passed by Congress in 2018 and signed by Trump, to combat mass incarceration and its disproportionate effects on Blacks and Latinos.  Applauded by both Democrats and Republicans, the bill served as the first major legislative reduction to federal drug sentences, ultimately reducing the federal prison population. 

Criminal justice reform was a recurring topic on Monday. 

Jon Ponder, who started a nonprofit to help prisoners after he was convicted of robbing a bank said that his “transformation began in a prison cell.”

“Not so long ago, my life was running from the police, fearing the police, and avoiding the police. I had allowed animosity to grow inside of me, making me believe that they were my enemy. But today, I’m filled with hope. I have been given a second chance.”

Ponder and the FBI agent who had arrested him, Jim Beasley, shared the screen to praise Trump’s policies on criminal justice and his “support for law enforcement.”

Trump issued Ponder a full pardon at the White House earlier Tuesday, and the footage of the event played during the convention. 

The convention also featured a video of Trump hosting a naturalization ceremony in the White House for five immigrants.

“It’s not so easy, you went through a lot and we appreciate you being here today,” Trump said.

“You’ve earned the most prized, treasured, cherished and priceless possession anywhere in the world. It’s called American citizenship,” he added.

The acting head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, reportedly presided over the ceremony. 

The optics of this programming sharply contrasted Trump’s years-long campaign to limit immigration to the U.S. Recently, the Trump Administration decided to block the entry of a range of temporary foreign workers and some applicants for permanent residence during the coronavirus pandemic.

Eric Heberlig, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, said that the RNC “used the prestige of the White House to advantage their party.”

“For example, the president tonight has signed a pardon and hosted a citizenship ceremony despite the fact that a presidential nominating convention is a political party event not an official government event,” Heberlig said.

Trump’s wife Melania and his son Eric took vastly different approaches to their speeches, which closed the evening’s programming.

“In the view of the radical Democrats, America is the source of the world’s problems,” Eric Trump said.

“As a result, they believe the only path forward is to erase history and forget the past. They want to destroy the monuments of our forefathers,” he added.

He accused Democrats of wishing to “disrespect our flag — burn the stars and stripes that represent patriotism and the American dream.”

“They want to disrespect our national anthem by taking a knee, while our armed forces lay down their lives every day to protect our freedom. They do not want the Pledge of Allegiance in our Schools. Many, do not want one nation under God,” he exclaimed.

After Eric had bashed his father’s Democratic rivals, Melania Trump conveyed optimism about the nation’s ability to overcome hardships like the Covid-19 pandemic — steering clear of partisan fervor.

“It has been inspiring to see what the people of our great nation will do for one another, especially when we are at our most fragile,” the first lady said in an address from the Rose Garden.

“What really stands out is that the majority of the major speakers are Trump’s family members. We may be getting used to this after almost four years, but this is not normal,” Steven Greene, a political science professor at NC State University, told Courthouse News over email Tuesday.

He said the “normal” thing for him to do on nights like this would entail commenting on major themes and the quality of speeches.

“Quite, honestly, as a Political Science professor who has spent the majority of my adult life studying American democracy, it would be wrong to do the normal thing here. I’ve done the ‘normal’ commentary for both parties’ national conventions going back to 2000,” Greene said. “But to simply comment upon the quality of speeches, themes, etc., in this circumstance would be to belie how abnormal this is and to abdicate my own commitment to a healthy democracy.”

Another aspect of Tuesday night’s convention that stuck out to Greene, was the airing of a political speech given by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“It’s also decidedly not normal, and quite likely literally illegal to have a sitting Secretary of State (who literally admonished his agency’s employees not to engage in partisan political activity recently) give a political speech like this,” Greene said.

House Democrats on Tuesday said they will investigate Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s decision to speak during the convention as a possible breach of policies that forbid political activity in office. 

“American people deserve a full investigation,” Representative Joaquin Castro, a Democrat from Texas and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, said in a statement on Tuesday. 

“Delivering on this duty to keep us safe and our freedoms intact, this president has led bold initiatives in nearly every corner of the world,” Pompeo said on Tuesday, praising Trump in a pre-recorded address from Israel.

In his address from Jerusalem, Secretary Pompeo praised Trump for holding China “accountable for covering up the China virus and allowing it to spread death and economic destruction in America and around the world,” negotiating with North Korea, ending “ridiculously unfair trade deals” with China, and ordering a strike on Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

“I have a big job … as Susan’s husband and Nick’s Dad! They are more safe, and their freedoms more secure, because President Trump has put his America First vision into action. It may not have made him popular in every foreign capital, but it has worked,” he said.

The convention is scheduled to run through Thursday for two hours each night, starting at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

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