Politics

Here are the highlights from Night 2 of the Republican National Convention

Key Points
  • The second night of the Republican National Convention featured a varied lineup of speakers, including first lady Melania Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
  • The speakers focused on a range of issues, including the economy, foreign policy and social issues in their push for President Trump's reelection.
US First Lady Melania Trump addresses the Republican Convention during its second day from the Rose Garden of the White House August 25, 2020, in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

The second night of the Republican National Convention featured a varied lineup of speakers who focused on the economy, foreign policy  and social issues in their push for President Donald Trump's reelection.

The Republican largely virtual convention broke with a number of norms.

First lady Melania Trump spoke from the White House, which has not been used in modern conventions by either party. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speech from Jerusalem has come under investigation from Democrats who question whether the top U.S. diplomat can lawfully participate in the convention.

Trump's big convention speech is scheduled for Thursday night. But the president has already spoken on numerous occasions throughout the convention proceedings. He appeared on Tuesday in two videos that were released ahead of the evening's scheduled speakers.

Here are the top moments:

Melania Trump expresses sympathy for coronavirus victims

VIDEO25:5125:51
First Lady Melania Trump: It's been inspiring to see what the people of our great nation will do for one another

The first lady, speaking in the newly renovated White House Rose Garden, offered condolences for those who have died or are struggling from the coronavirus pandemic.

"My deepest sympathy that goes out to everyone that has lost a loved one and my prayers with those that are ill or suffering," she said in the speech, which marked some of her longest public remarks since Trump took office.

The U.S. has more confirmed cases and deaths from Covid-19 than any other country: More than 5.75 million cases and at least 177,773 deaths from the virus have been reported, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Melania Trump's remarks addressed the deadly impact of the pandemic more directly than most of the other speakers during the convention's first two nights. Her expression of empathy for Covid victims also stood in contrast to statements from her husband, who has rarely addressed the human toll from the pandemic.

The first lady also issued a call for reflection amid the wave of racial unrest that continues to polarize Americans.

"Take a moment, pause, and look at things from all perspectives. I urge people to come together in a civil manner so we can work and live up to our standard American ideals," she said.

Pompeo credits Trump for China, North Korea policies

VIDEO3:4203:42
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: This president has led bold initiatives in nearly every corner of the world

The secretary of State took time from an official U.S. diplomatic trip to the Middle East to virtually address the Republican National Convention.

Speaking in recorded comments from Israel, Pompeo outlined several foreign policy initiatives under the Trump administration. He discussed the relaxation of tensions on the Korean peninsula, the U.S. handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the ongoing fight to eliminate the ISIS caliphate, the NATO alliance and the U.S. departure from the landmark Iranian nuclear deal. 

"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," Pompeo said. "As a soldier, I saw, first hand, people desperate to flee to freedom. The way each of us can best ensure our freedoms is by electing leaders who don't just talk, but deliver." 

Pompeo's speech, which was recorded in Jerusalem while on official State Department travel, raised concerns from lawmakers, former diplomats and foreign policy experts of American diplomacy and its entanglement in partisan battles at home.

The decision to address the convention upends decades of precedent and ethics guidelines and is currently under investigation by the House Foreign Affairs Committees' subpanel on oversight. The subcommittee's chairman, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, called the speech "highly unusual and likely unprecedented" and suggested, "it may also be illegal."

The State Department said before Pompeo's remarks aired that he would address the convention in "his personal capacity." It also said that no resources from the agency would be used, including staff, who would not have a role in preparing Pompeo's remarks.

"The State Department will not bear any costs in conjunction with this appearance," a State Department representative added. 

Larry Kudlow says the U.S. is 'coming back' from the pandemic

VIDEO2:4402:44
Larry Kudlow: We inherited a stagnant economy on the front end of recession

Kudlow, a top White House economic advisor, acknowledged in his speech that the pandemic continues to loom large over the U.S. but expressed confidence that brighter days are ahead.

"Hardship and heartbreak were everywhere," Kudlow said, but "right now, our economic health is coming back."

Kudlow also claimed that Trump had inherited "a stagnant economy on the front end of recession." But a wide array of key economic metrics under President Barack Obama's second term and Trump's first years in office — including GDP growth and unemployment rates — undermine Kudlow's claim

Kudlow talked up the president's response to the pandemic and said Biden's proposals would raise taxes just as the U.S. was emerging from the Covid-19 crisis.

"Our economic choice is very clear: Do you want economic health, prosperity, opportunity and optimism? Or do you want to turn back to the dark days of stagnation, recession and pessimism?" Kudlow said.

Kudlow happened to be speaking on the six-month anniversary of some of his most widely criticized remarks about the coronavirus. On Feb. 25, Kudlow claimed to CNBC that the U.S. had contained the virus "pretty close to airtight."

TWEET

Mary Ann Mendoza's speech cut after she retweets anti-Semitic, QAnon conspiracies

Immigration Reform Advocate Mary Ann Mendoza speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump listens during a veto signing in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, March 15, 2019.
Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Mary Ann Mendoza, an "angel mom" who has previously appeared alongside Trump, was set to deliver a speech at the RNC on Tuesday — but her video was cut from the lineup after she promoted anti-Semitic and QAnon conspiracy theories on Twitter.

The appearance of Mendoza, the mother of a police officer killed by an undocumented immigrant who was driving drunk, was axed hours after she shared a long thread of conspiracy theories. She had urged her 40,000-plus Twitter followers in a tweet to "do yourself a favor and read this thread." Her tweet appears to have been removed.

"We have removed the scheduled video from the convention lineup and it will no longer run this week," Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in a statement.

The thread said the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a notoriously fraudulent document that claimed Jews were conspiring to enslave the world, was not a fabrication.

One of the tweets in the thread also includes the hashtag #QAnon – a reference to the baseless pro-Trump internet conspiracy that imagines the president as being locked in clandestine battle against "deep state" factions of powerful satanic pedophiles who are plotting against him and his supporters.

Before the RNC speeches began Tuesday evening, Mendoza tweeted, "I retweeted a very long thread earlier without reading every post within the thread. My apologies for not paying attention to the intent of the whole message. That does not reflect my feelings or personal thoughts whatsoever."

Trump gives a pardon

U.S. President Donald Trump, next to Jon Ponder and his wife, and former FBI agent Richard Beasley, shows a signed document after he announced that he is pardoning Ponder, during the largely virtual 2020 Republican National Convention broadcast from Washington, U.S. August 25, 2020.
Republican National Convention | via Reuters

About two hours before the second night of speeches was set to begin, the White House released two videos, both featuring Trump.

In the first, Trump pardoned Jon Ponder, an ex-convict and founder of Hope for Prisoners, a nonprofit group that works to help transition prisoners back into society upon their release.

Touting the pardon during the Republican convention raised questions about the politicization of the president's clemency powers.

Trump has previously hosted Ponder at the White House, and earlier this year hinted that the president was considering clemency. "We are giving him absolute consideration, and I have a feeling he's going to get that full pardon," Trump said of Ponder in February.

Ponder had reportedly been arrested as a teenager for armed robbery and had later been incarcerated for other crimes including assault.

"I will continue to give all Americans including former inmates, the best chance to build a new life and achieve their own American dream," Trump said in the video released Tuesday evening.

VIDEO4:4304:43
President Trump pardons convicted bank robber Jon Ponder

Ponder and Rich Beasley, who as an FBI arrested Ponder before becoming a close friend, both spoke Tuesday night at the RNC.

The second video showed the president participating in a naturalization ceremony at the White House for five new U.S. citizens. Featured in the video is acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, whom Trump earlier in the day announced would be nominated to become the permanent secretary of DHS. Trump has made anti-immigration policy a hallmark of his presidency. 

Nicholas Sandmann says Trump is the greatest 'victim of unfair media coverage'

VIDEO4:3104:31
Nick Sandmann: No one has been a victim of unfair media coverage more than President Trump

Nicholas Sandmann, the teenager who won settlements in lawsuits against multiple news outlets in the wake of their coverage of his viral confrontation with protesters in Washington, decried "cancel culture" and praised Trump for calling out the media.

"I look forward to the day that the media returns to providing balanced, responsible and accountable news coverage. I know President Trump hopes for that, too," Sandmann said.

"I know you'll agree with me when I say no one in this county has been a victim of unfair media coverage more than President Donald Trump," he said.

Sandmann had been the target of significant criticism after a video went viral featuring him standing in front of an Omaha tribe leader at the 2019 March for Life rally in Washington. But later videos and additional reporting showed Sandmann and other students from Covington Catholic High School being taunted and jeered at by other people at the protest.

Sandmann ended his speech by quoting Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again" and donning one of the signature red baseball caps bearing the same phrase. Sandmann had worn the same hat in the video that swept through social media last year.

-- CNBC's Amanda Macias contributed to this report.