Washington — President Trump formally accepted the Republican nomination for president on Thursday, closing out the final night of the Republican National Convention on the South Lawn of the White House, where hundreds of people were seated closely together with few wearing face masks in the midst of a pandemic that has claimed more than 180,000 American lives.
Using the White House as a backdrop for a political event like no president has before, Mr. Trump said he was "brimming with confidence in the bright future we will build for America over the next four years," while warning that Joe Biden would enact a liberal Democratic agenda if elected.
"This election will decide whether we will defend the American way of life, or whether we allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it," the president said.
Earlier speakers, as well as the president, focused heavily on unrest that has broken out in American cities in recent months, painting a dark picture of criminals running rampant in the streets while sidestepping the underlying racial injustices that sparked mass protests in the first place.
Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor, said that voting for Biden and other Democrats "creates the risk that you will bring this lawlessness to your city, to your town, to your suburb." Patrick Lynch, the head of the New York's largest police union, said "Democratic politicians have surrendered our streets and institutions." House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Democrats want to "dismantle our institutions, defund our police and destroy our economy."
"There is violence and danger in the streets of many Democrat-run cities throughout America," Mr. Trump himself said later. "This problem could easily be fixed if they wanted to."
Mr. Trump's acceptance address came as protests continued to roil Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Jacob Blake, a Black man, was, and a White teenager allegedly shot at a protest days later.
Rows and rows of chairs spaced just inches apart were set up on the South Lawn of the White House, where attendees waited in the heat for the president's remarks. Reporters counted roughly 1,900 seats arranged on the South Lawn, with just 50 to 100 seats left vacant during the night's programming.
Highlights from the final night of the RNC
Trump casts election in stark terms in lengthy acceptance speech
President Trump accepted his party's nomination for president in a lengthy speech that stretched nearly an hour and a half, painting a contrast between his vision for the country and Joe Biden's.
"My fellow Americans, tonight, with a heart full of gratitude and boundless optimism, I profoundly accept this nomination for president of the United States," he boomed from the podium. The address was written primarily by White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, according to Trump officials involved in the process.
The president said he stands "before you tonight honored by your support, proud of the extraordinary progress we have made over the last four incredible years and brimming with confidence in the bright future we will build for America over the next four years."
Mr. Trump, like his daughter Ivanka, began his address by noting the Americans impacted by Hurricane Laura and said he will be visiting those impacted this weekend.
Speaking before a crowd of more than 1,800 supporters who gathered on the South Lawn, the president attempted to paint a portrait of a stark choice between himself and Biden.
"This election will decide whether we save the American dream, or whether we allow a socialist agenda to demolish our cherished destiny," he said. "And this election will decide whether we will defend the American way of life, or whether we allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it."
Echoing the claims of several other speakers across the four-day convention, Mr. Trump warned that Biden "is a Trojan horse for socialism" and painted him as a weak candidate who, unable to take on the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, will not stand up for the American people.
"He takes his marching orders from liberal hypocrites who drive their cities into the ground while fleeing far from the scene of the wreckage," the president said of Biden.
Mr. Trump insisted that he's kept his promises, although PolitiFact estimates he's broken roughly half of them.
"From the moment I left my former life behind, and a good life it was, I have done nothing but fight for you. I did what our political establishment never expected and could never forgive, breaking the cardinal rule of Washington politics: I kept my promises," he said.
The president listed off some of the promises he has kept, like pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord. He also emphasized how he's tried to be tough on China.
"We have spent the last four years reversing the damage Joe Biden inflicted over the last 47 years," Mr. Trump said.
After making the case for his reelection by listing his domestic and foreign policy accomplishments, Mr. Trump attacked Biden's 47 years in office, calling the former vice president's record "a shameful roll call of the most catastrophic betrayals and blunders in our lifetime."
It took roughly 30 minutes for the president to mention the coronavirus pandemic still ravaging the nation. As of the president's speech, 180,000 Americans had died from COVID-19 and there have been more than 5.8 million confirmed cases.
The president touted how his administration made sure personal protective equipment reached hospitals, and the nation's case fatality rate. The president also touted the financial recovery package signed into law in the early months of the pandemic, as millions of workers lost their jobs.
In contrasting his administration's handling of the coronavirus crisis with Biden's plan to defeat COVID-19, Mr. Trump claimed that a shutdown of the economy proposed by Biden — if recommended by scientists — "would be measured in increased drug overdoses, depression, alcohol addiction, suicides, heart attacks, economic devastation and more."
"Joe Biden's plan is not a solution to the virus, but rather a surrender," the president said.
The president inaccurately claimed that Biden called his ban on travel from China in January "xenophobic."
"When I took bold action to issue a travel ban on China, Joe Biden called it hysterical and xenophobic. If we had listened to Joe, hundreds of thousands more Americans would have died," he said.
But Biden has not called that specific move xenophobic. He has called the president's handling of China and the virus xenophobic in other respects. The virus had already reached American shores and was spreading across the country by the time of the president's ban on travel from China.
The president claimed the U.S. has "pioneered" the case fatality rate, or the proportion of people who die after being infected with the virus. But the U.S. does not have the lowest case fatality rate. Chile, Armenia, South Africa, Luxembourg, Argentina and Bahrain are among the countries with a lower case fatality rate.
Mr. Trump reiterated his support for law enforcement and claimed that under a Biden administration, "no one will be safe."
"We must remember that the overwhelming majority of police officers in this country are noble, courageous and honorable," he said. "We have to give law enforcement, our police, back their power. They are afraid to act. They are afraid to lose their pension. They are afraid to lose their jobs, and by being afraid, they are not able to do their jobs. And those who suffer most are the great people who they want so desperately to protect."
He acknowledged the justice system must hold police officers who commit wrongdoing accountable. He did not, however, make mention of George Floyd, a Black man who died in late May after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck. Those incidents, as well as deaths and other violence perpetrated against other Black men and women at the hands of law enforcement, have sparked a nationwide reckoning on the need to end police brutality and address racial inequities in the justice system., the 29-year-old Black man who was shot in the back by a police officer in Kenosha on Sunday, or
Mr. Trump stressed that the GOP "in the strongest possible terms" condemns the looting, arson and violence that has occurred in Wisconsin and elsewhere and issued a forceful denunciation of the violence in major U.S. cities, including Portland, where he deployed federal law enforcement this summer, Chicago and New York.
"As long as I am president, I will defend the absolute right of every American citizen to live in security, dignity and peace," he said.
Mr. Trump attempted to paint a grim landscape of the country if Biden wins in November and claimed that if he loses reelection and Democrats win control of both chambers of Congress, "they will apply their disastrous policies to every city, town and suburb in America."
Tying in the theme of the Republican National Convention, "Honoring the Great American Story," Mr. Trump said that in November, voters "must turn the page forever on this failed political class" and with him in office for a second term "write the next chapter of the great American story."
The president then laid out the broad contours of his second-term agenda, which includes expanding Opportunity Zones, shifting medical supply chains back to the U.S. and slashing taxes and regulations. Mr. Trump also vowed to create 10 million jobs in the next 10 months and said he would push for more stringent penalties for assaults on law enforcement.
Looking to space, the president pledged to land the first woman on the moon and vowed to make the U.S. the first country to plant its flag on Mars.
"This is the unifying national agenda that will bring our country together," he said.
Mr. Trump concluded his address by reflecting on the country's trailblazers and looking to what will come in the future.
"For America, nothing is impossible," Mr. Trump said as he closed his remarks. "Over the next four years, we will prove worthy of this magnificent legacy. We will reach stunning new heights. And we will show the world that, for America, no dream is beyond your reach. Together, we are unstoppable. Together, we are unbeatable."
Ivanka Trump: "Washington has not changed Donald Trump. Donald Trump changed Washington"
The president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, was the first speaker of the evening to address Americans on the Gulf Coast who have been impacted by Hurricane Laura, which slammed into Louisiana late Wednesday night.
"Our hearts are with you," she said. "The president will continue to support you every step of the way."
Trump, a senior adviser at the White House, reminisced about introducing her father four years ago at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, and said on the final night of the gathering now four years later — where she again is introducing him before he delivers a speech accepting the GOP presidential nomination — "I stand before you as the proud daughter of the people's president."
The president's oldest child, Ivanka Trump sought to paint for the American people a picture of the president behind-closed-doors and said while his rhetoric is harsh, Mr. Trump arrived in Washington with the singular focus of making America great again.
"My father has strong convictions. He knows what he believes, and says what he thinks," he said. "Whether you agree with him or not, you always know where he stands. I recognize that my dad's communication style is not to everyone's taste. And I know his tweets can feel a bit unfiltered. But the results, the results speak for themselves."
Ivanka Trump said the president is "so unapologetic about his beliefs that he has caused me and countless Americans to take a hard look at our own convictions, and ask ourselves, what do we stand for? What kind of America do we want to leave for our children?"
Reflecting on the president's career in real estate, Ivanka Trump said her father has alway been a builder and is unafraid to buck the status quo in Washington, which she said has served Americans well during the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 180,000 in the U.S.
"The grief, sorrow, and anxiety during this time is felt by us all," she said. "I've been with my father and I've seen the pain in his eyes when he receives updates on the lives that have been stolen by this plague."
Ivanka Trump said the president "rejects the cynical notion that our greatest achievements are behind us" and "believes in the potential of each individual."
Citing his decision to grant clemency to Alice Johnson, Ivanka Trump said that while Mr. Trump did not campaign on the issue of criminal justice reform, he undertook the effort "because he has a deep compassion for those who have been treated unfairly."
In addition to the issue of criminal justice reform, Ivanka Trump heralded the economic gains under the Trump administration before the coronavirus pandemic crippled the economy, as well as the tax reform package passed by the GOP-controlled Congress in late 2017. She made little mention of Biden and Kamala Harris, and instead focused primarily on Mr. Trump's record across his first term.
"Many of the issues my father has championed are not historically Republican priorities, yet where Washington chooses sides, our president chooses common sense," she said. "Where politicians choose party, our president chooses people."
She also noted his support for the U.S. military, legislation he has signed addressing human trafficking and decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
"For the first time in a long time, we have a president who has called out Washington's hypocrisy, and they hate him for it," Ivanka Trump said. "Dad, people attack you for being unconventional, but I love you for being real, and I respect you for being effective."
Ivanka Trump said across his first term in office, "Washington has not changed Donald Trump. Donald Trump changed Washington."
"America doesn't need another empty vessel who will do whatever the media and the fringe of his party demands," she said in closing. "Now more than ever, America needs four more years of a warrior in the White House."
Alice Johnson, commuted by Trump, says she's alive and free because of him
Johnson, a grandmother whose life sentence was commuted by Mr. Trump, lauded the president for his work on criminal justice reform and thanked him for wiping clean the remainder of her sentence.
"He saw me as a person," Johnson, whose case was championed by reality TV personality Kim Kardashian, said of Mr. Trump. "He had compassion, and he acted."
Johnson highlighted the president's signing of the First Step Act, which she called "real justice reform" that brought "joy, hope and freedom" to thousands.
"By the grace of God and the compassion of President Donald John Trump, I stand before you tonight, and I assure you, I'm not a ghost. I am alive, I am well and most importantly, I am free."
Johnson, a great-grandmother, was convicted in 1996 and sentenced for a nonviolent drug offense. She served nearly 22 years in prison before Mr. Trump commuted her sentence.
Giuliani: Biden will bring "lawlessness to your city, to your town, to your suburb"
Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump's personal attorney, lamented the recent uptick in crime in New York City, where he served as mayor, and urged voters not to "let Democrats do to America what they have done to New York" — echoing a common argument from Mr. Trump about the unrest in major U.S. cities.
Giuliani attacked Biden, casting him as a candidate who lacks principles and as a "Trojan horse" for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
Referring to the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May, Giuliani said that as calls for police reform grew louder from Democrats and Republicans alike, the possibility of unity "was very dangerous to the left."
"They had a president to beat and a country to destroy, and although an agreement on action against police brutality would be very valuable for the country, it would also make President Trump appear to be an effective leader. They could have none of that," Giuliani said. "So, BLM and ANTIFA sprang into action and in a flash, they hijacked the protests into vicious, brutal riots."
House Democrats passed a police reform bill in June, but talks between the parties broke down in the Senate on a GOP-backed proposal, and efforts to reform the nation's police forces remain stalled.
"It is clear that a vote for Biden and the Democrats creates the risk that you will bring this lawlessness to your city, to your town, to your suburb," Giuliani said. "There is no question that this awesome job of restoring safety for our people cannot be done from your basement, Joe. There's also no question that President Trump will fight with all his strength to preserve the American system of government and our way of life."
Giuliani said the November election, and a victory for Mr. Trump, will give the president a mandate to crack down on the unrest in Democratic-led cities.
"President Trump, with his boundless love of our country and all our people, his disciplined work ethic, his exceptional ability to inspire and his deep understanding of our system of government and the strength of American values is the man we can trust to preserve and even improve our way of life," he said.
White House aide Ja'Ron Smith: Trump has shown "deep empathy" for Black Americans killed by police
Ja'Ron Smith, deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of American Innovation, shared his story of how he turned his life around, worked hard in school, and eventually went on to work for the president of the United States. Smith is one of the few high-ranking Black officials in the Trump administration.
"Growing up, I'd never really known a Republican. I believed all the stereotypes. It took meeting Republicans who shared my values to show me I was wrong," he said.
Smith shared a rarely seen personal side to the president, insisting that he has shown empathy in the wake of the deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police.
"In the wake of the murder of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and LeGend Taliferro — a moment of national racial consciousness — I have seen his true conscience. I just wish every American could see the deep empathy he showed to families whose loved ones were killed in senseless violence," he said.
"For a New Yorker, he's got a lot of Cleveland heart," Smith said of the president.
McConnell says D.C. shouldn't be a state because it would add 2 Democratic senators
In a 2-minute address, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking from a field in his home state of Kentucky, pointed out that he's the only top party leader on Capitol Hill not from New York or California. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy are from California, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is from New York.
McConnell was blunt about why Republicans don't want the District of Columbia to become a state — because that would likely tip the balance of the Senate to Democrats.
"With two more liberal senators, we cannot undo the damage they've done," McConnell said.
McConnell suggested Democrats want to control every aspect of Americans' lives, including "how many hamburgers you can eat."
Ben Carson urges Americans to "come together in love of our fellow citizens"
Carson opened by extending his condolences to the family of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was shot by a police officer in Kenosha on Sunday, as well as others "who've been impacted by the tragic events in Kenosha." He urged Americans to "come together in love of our fellow citizens."
"History reminds us that necessary change comes through hope and love, not senseless and destructive violence," Carson said.
In turning to the reelection of Mr. Trump, Carson said the president "believes in the people" and "is one of us."
"We have a choice," the HUD secretary said. "Do we want big government that controls our lives from cradle to grave or do we believe in the power and wisdom of the people and their ability to self-govern with help from a limited federal government?"
Carson highlighted Mr. Trump's support of historically Black colleges and universities, as well as the Trump administration's work on criminal justice reform, adding that he is the "most pro-life president in our country's history."
Tom Cotton says it's OK for America to "stand alone"
Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, tried to make the case that Joe Biden would make America "weak," and argued that America standing alone is not a bad thing.
"'Stands alone.' That was the motto my old Army unit, the 506th Infantry — the original Band of Brothers," Cotton said. "From the Normandy beaches to the Iraqi desert, we fought alongside each other, but we were always prepared to stand alone. And so it is with our nation. We lead the free world. But we'll stand alone if we must to defend America."
Cotton aimed to contrast Biden's record with Mr. Trump's.
"Joe Biden sent pallets of cash to the ayatollahs. President Trump ripped up the dangerous Iran nuclear deal," Cotton said. "Joe Biden treated Israel like a nuisance. President Trump moved our embassy to Jerusalem and brokered peace deals in the Middle East. Joe Biden coddled socialist dictators in Cuba and Venezuela. President Trump fights against communism—in America's backyard and around the world. And on the Communist Party of China, there is no comparison."
Cotton, a China hawk, said the president has been tough on China, and would continue to be.