The second night of the GOP Convention pulled back the frenetic tone of the first, featuring softer and more measured speeches by Trump family members and average voters; but several speeches and speakers attracted significant public controversy.
First Lady Melania Trump’s keynote address at the White House Rose Garden raised concerns that White House aides assisting with the speech may have run afoul of the Hatch Act, which prohibits government officials performing political tasks in their official capacities.
The first lady’s speech also came under fire for the fact that, within the crowd of around 100 people, few were wearing masks or social distancing, a potential violation of Washington, D.C.’s coronavirus restrictions, which require social distancing of at least 6 feet and prohibit public gatherings of more than 50 people.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech, which was pre-recorded in Jerusalem during an official trip to the Middle East, faced even more severe scrutiny, with the House Foreign Affairs Committee announcing an investigation into a possible Hatch Act violation on Tuesday.
Anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson came under significant heat shortly before her speech after the resurfacing of comments in which she said police officers would be “smart” to racially profile her adopted biracial son because “statistically, my brown son is more likely to commit a violent offense over my white sons.”
Also speaking on Tuesday was former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who was the center of one of Trump’s major scandals in the 2016 campaign when it emerged that he donated $25,000 to her campaign around the time she opted not to open an investigation into Trump University.
In her speech, Bondi, who served on Trump’s legal team during the House’s impeachment proceedings, accused Biden of “corruption,” alleging he fired Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin because he was investigating Hunter Biden’s business – a debunked claim that led Trump to allegedly push for the Ukrainian President to investigate Biden, which in turn led to his impeachment.
“He was not investigating the company or much of anything,” CNN fact checker Daniel Dale said of Shokin on CNN Tuesday night.
One other controversy that threatened to derail the night led to a speech being cancelled altogether. Mary Ann Mendoza, the mother of a slain police officer, was pulled from the lineup after tweets emerged in which she touted anti-Semitic, QAnon conspiracy theories. According to prepared remarks sent by the GOP, Mendoza planned to laud Trump as “the first political leader we’ve ever seen take on the radical Left to finally secure our border and to end illegal immigration since day one.”
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
More controversy may lie ahead for the Republican Convention. Upcoming speakers include First Daughter Ivanka Trump, who is accused of violating ethics laws by promoting Goya beans; Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, who faced allegations of misspending government funds on lavish office furniture; Burgess Owens, a House candidate in Utah accused of plagiarism; and Madison Cawthorn, a 25-year-old House candidate in North Carolina facing sexual misconduct allegations. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), slated to speak Wednesday, has been a lightning rod of criticism from the left in recent months for calling for military intervention to quell protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, proposing a bill to prohibit teaching the 1619 project in public schools and calling slavery a “necessary evil.”