POLITICS

Republicans Nominate Trump, Who Flings Baseless Attacks at Biden

President Trump was formally renominated for a second term on Monday and immediately accused Democrats of leveraging the coronavirus crisis “to steal the election,” using the first day of the Republican convention to level the sort of inflammatory, and often misleading, charges he has increasingly turned to as he tries to make up ground against Joseph R. Biden Jr.

As his party gathered in North Carolina and Washington for a hastily designed conclave that is mixing online and in-person appearances, Mr. Trump appeared before delegates in Charlotte, N.C., to trumpet the economy while blistering Mr. Biden, former President Barack Obama and the state’s governor, a Democrat who he claimed had sabotaged the Republican convention for political purposes.

“You have a governor who is in a total shutdown mood,” the president said of Gov. Roy Cooper, who has restricted large gatherings to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The president asserted that the governor would lift such measures after the election, saying, “I guarantee you on Nov. 4, it will all open up.”

Mr. Trump’s stew of false claims, hyperbole and invective dismayed some Republicans, who were hoping he and the party would use this week to stick to more scripted attacks on Mr. Biden as a tool of the left. But most Republicans recognized heading into the week that the convention would be Mr. Trump’s show and that there was little chance of redirecting his energies during a convention that from the start put on display his personal dominance of the party.

Charlotte was the original site of the convention before Mr. Trump pulled the bulk of it out of the city because of his disagreements with the governor over health restrictions. The in-person roll-call vote on Monday morning, making his nomination official, was a stark contrast with the Democratic convention, which was conducted completely online.

Mr. Trump is planning on speaking each day during the four-day convention, and party officials were still scrambling over the weekend to fill in the schedule. It seemed inevitable, though, that the president would overwhelm his own convention, given his television-honed obsession with stagecraft and his total control of the Republican Party.

The planned speakers for Monday night reflected the Trumpified Republican Party. A few of his allies in Congress, including Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, were scheduled to speak. So was his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and the younger Mr. Trump’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox News host turned campaign fund-raiser.

There were several other figures whom highly engaged Republicans like to use to taunt equally well-informed liberal activists. Among them were the conservative activist Charlie Kirk and the St. Louis couple who pointed guns at Black Lives Matter marchers.

In an effort to show some diversity, and to lessen the sting of Mr. Trump’s racial demagogy, there were some Black speakers, including a Democratic state lawmaker from Georgia, a long-shot Republican candidate for a House seat in Maryland and the former football star Herschel Walker.

The most prominent person of color speaking was Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only Black Republican in the Senate. Polls show Black voters overwhelmingly oppose Mr. Trump.

Nikki R. Haley, the former South Carolina governor and an Indian-American, whom the president appointed as United Nations ambassador, was also set to speak.

Much as the Democrats sought to do last week with their parade of Republicans at Mr. Biden’s convention, G.O.P. officials were hoping that the presence of such diverse voices would provide something of a permission structure for centrist voters to back Mr. Trump.

The numerous pro-Trump voices were more disciplined than the president about reading from their teleprompters. They were expected to use their remarks to harshly criticize Mr. Biden, the former vice president, and to link him and Democrats to the violence and looting that occurred in some cities in the aftermath of initially peaceful protests against police brutality.

The speakers were not expected to say much about Mr. Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis or his second-term agenda, a rough outline of which the president’s campaign issued in an emailed news release on Sunday evening. In interviews, Mr. Trump has repeatedly struggled to articulate his plans were he to be elected to serve four more years.

More revealing was the organizers’ decision not to release a party platform. Platform documents are typically toothless, and few delegates even read them. But that Republicans would skip the process entirely illustrates the degree to which their identity is shaped more by Mr. Trump, and his critics, than by any set of policy proposals.

In this spirit, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution defending its decision not to craft a platform that hailed Mr. Trump while criticizing Democrats and the news media.

“Resolved, that the 2020 Republican National Convention calls on the media to engage in accurate and unbiased reporting, especially as it relates to the strong support of the R.N.C. for President Trump and his administration,” the resolution read.

The degree to which Mr. Trump has reshaped the Republican Party in his own image was on display even in the Democratic Party’s counterprogramming on Monday. Mr. Biden’s campaign used the start of the convention to release a list of Republican dissenters and outcasts who are opposing Mr. Trump’s re-election and backing the former vice president as a suitable alternative.

The most prominent new name on the list, which heavily featured long-retired lawmakers with little to lose through their dissent, was former Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. Mr. Flake, a 57-year-old conservative, was pushed into retirement after just one term because his persistent criticism of Mr. Trump enraged Republican voters.

“If we are honest, there is less of a conservative case to be made for re-electing the president than there is a blatant appeal for more rank tribalism,” Mr. Flake said in a prepared speech on Monday, in language that lined up neatly with Mr. Trump’s opening remarks in North Carolina.

The convention was originally to be held in Charlotte. Then, after it became clear that Mr. Cooper would not allow such an event, organizers sought to switch the gathering to Jacksonville, Fla., where the mayor is a Republican and the state’s governor is, too. Yet after a summer flare-up of the coronavirus in the state, Mr. Trump grudgingly decided to cancel the rescheduled convention there.

On Monday, Mr. Trump used his speech at the original venue, where only party business was being conducted, to focus on the strength of the stock market and to hurl all manner of attacks at Democrats.

He repeated his unfounded allegations that Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden had spied on his campaign in 2016. “We caught them doing really bad things,” he said. “Let’s see what happens. They’re trying it again.”

Though shutdowns caused by the pandemic have left millions of Americans unemployed, and new rounds of relief have been held up in Washington, Mr. Trump focused on what he depicted as his economic successes.

“We just broke a record on jobs, an all-time record,” he said. “There’s never been three months when we’ve put more people to work. We’re just about ready to break the all-time stock market record.”

Mr. Trump offered his remarks to a crowd that frequently broke into applause, a feature that was noticeably absent from the Democratic convention last week. The Republicans have made their decision to hold an in-person convention a political statement in itself.

The president continued his monthslong assault on voting by mail and repeated unfounded accusations that it was part of a plot by Democrats to hand the election to Mr. Biden.

Yet he said far less about the virus itself. Inside the convention center, where delegates were seated at socially distanced chairs, attendees crowded together toward the front of the room near the stage to hear the party’s standard-bearer.

While the Democrats at their convention made the U.S. death toll from the pandemic — now past 175,000 — a centerpiece of their case, and tried to lay the blame for it at Mr. Trump’s feet, the president mentioned the virus’s victims almost as an afterthought at the end of his rambling, hourlong speech.

“We will never forget the 175,000 people — that will go up,” he said, claiming, as he has previously, that the toll would have been millions more without travel bans he put in effect.




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