RNC 2020: Trump warns Republican convention of ‘rigged election’

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US President Donald Trump has warned his fellow Republicans their opponents may “steal” November’s election, as his party anointed him as their candidate.

“They’re using Covid to defraud the American people,” Mr Trump told delegates on the first day of the party convention in North Carolina.

Mr Trump repeated his much-disputed claims that mail-in ballots could lead to voter fraud.

Opinion polls suggest he currently trails Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

Addressing delegates in person at a party conference that has been dramatically scaled back by Covid-19, Mr Trump accused Democrats of “using Covid to steal an election”.

“The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election,” he said. “We’re going to win.”

Mr Trump also warned of a “rigged” election in 2016, as he trailed Hillary Clinton in the polls.

As a formality, Mr Trump was officially nominated to be the Republican nominee on Monday at his party’s convention in the city of Charlotte.

The president is due to give a speech to the party convention on Thursday. It is unusual for a candidate to address the convention before their formal acceptance speech.

Supporters at the convention cheered Mr Trump’s remarks, and chanted: “Four more years!”

“Now if you really want to drive them crazy, you say 12 more years,” the president interjected. The 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified in 1951, says US presidents are only permitted to serve two terms, for a total of eight years in office.

Are mail-in ballots safe?

Mr Trump has repeatedly asserted that expanded mail-in voting – which is expected to be more prevalent this year due to the coronavirus pandemic – will lead to “the most corrupt election” in US history.

But there is scant evidence of widespread voter fraud, and very few examples of prosecutions for the crime.

Ellen Weintraub, commissioner of the Federal Election Commission, has said: “There’s simply no basis for the conspiracy theory that voting by mail causes fraud. None.”

Mail-in voting has been around since the US Civil War, and is used by the US military, and even Mr Trump himself and members Trump seeks to cast doubt on election integrityof his family.

But a recent slowdown in mail deliveries due to cost-saving measures in the US postal system has led to concerns that ballots will not be returned to state officials by election day.

Several states have sought to change their election laws to allow ballots to be counted days after the forthcoming presidential vote, which some analysts fear could lead to delays in determining the presidential winner.

A primary election in New York City this June took weeks to determine a winner after poll officials were deluged with 10 times the normal number of mail-in ballots. There was no allegation of fraud, but the debacle raised fears of a lengthy recount this November.

Earlier this month, New Jersey officials ordered a new election after finding evidence of voter fraud in an all-mail-in election that saw four people arrested, including a local city councilman and councilman-elect. The case has been frequently touted by the Trump campaign.

Republicans offer their case for Trump

The first night of the Republican National Convention was a two-and-a-half hour rebuttal to the accusations Democrats levelled at Donald Trump during the four nights of their convention last week.

Did the president mishandle the coronavirus pandemic? The Republicans offered slick videos and first-hand accounts of the steps the president took to speed medical research, provide protective supplies and implement economic relief.

Is the president enflaming racial divisions in the US? Former football star Herschel Walker spoke of his 37-year friendship with Mr Trump. Tim Scott, the first black Republican senator since the late 19th Century, touted the president’s work on sentencing reform and tax breaks for economically distressed communities.

Does the president lack empathy? Congressman Jim Jordan spoke of how Mr Trump offered sympathies when a relative died, and the president himself held a pre-taped White House forum where he offered words of support for coronavirus survivors and healthcare workers.

Polls suggest American voters have serious doubts about the president on all these issues – doubts that predated the Democratic convention attacks. Republicans have four days to assuage these concerns, chip away at Democratic opponent Joe Biden’s lead and remind supporters what they like about Mr Trump’s presidency.

It’s an imposing task, but the Republicans have identified what work has to be done.

What else happened on the convention’s opening night?

Republicans said Monday night’s theme was “Land of Promise” and pledged their convention would be less “negative” than the Democrats’ conference last week.

But many of the Republican speakers warned in doom-laden tones what would happen in Americans voted in a President Biden and his Democrats.

Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, a top Trump defender in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, warned of a “horror movie” if Democrats win the White House.

“They’ll disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home, and invite MS-13 to live next door,” he said referring to a Central American immigrant street gang.

Charlie Kirk, 26, who runs conservative student group Turning Point USA, told viewers: “Trump was elected to protect our families – our loved ones – from the vengeful mob that wishes to destroy our way of life, our neighbourhoods, schools, church and values.”

Mr Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr said Mr Biden was “basically the Loch Ness monster of the swamp”.

How was race addressed?

After Mr Biden implied in last week’s speech to his party convention that Mr Trump was a racist, the Republican conference sought to deflect that charge back on Democrats.

In a bid to woo a constituency that is crucial to Democratic electoral hopes, the Republicans lined up African American speakers who praised the president.

The headline speaker for Monday’s event was South Carolina Senator Tim Scott – the only black Republican senator. He said his grandfather was forced out of school so he could pick cotton, but lived long enough to see his grandson elected.

“Our family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime,” he told delegates.

Former football player Herschel Walker, who is African American, said: “It hurt my soul to hear the terrible names that people call Donald. The worst one is ‘racist’.

“I take it as a personal insult that people would think I’ve had a 37-year friendship with a racist.”

Kim Klacik, a black Republican candidate for Maryland’s Baltimore district, accused Mr Biden of believing that black people “can’t think for ourselves – that the colour of someone’s skin dictates their political views”.

“We’re not buying the lies anymore – you and your party have ignored us for too long,” said Ms Klacik, who featured in a viral campaign ad earlier this month.

Former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley described facing discrimination as an Indian-American growing up in the South.

“I was a brown girl in a black and white world,” she said, adding that she rejects the idea that “America is a racist country”.

 

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