Trump, Republicans attack Biden amid coronavirus crisis, street protests

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 28: (AFP-OUT) (L-R) Second lady Karen Pence, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, first lady Melania Trump and President Donald Trump attend the cermonies as the late evangelist Billy Graham lies in repose at the U.S. Capitol, on February 28, 2018 in Washington, DC. Rev. Graham is being honored by Congress by lying in repose inside of the U.S. Capitol Rotunda for 24 hours. Graham was the nation's best know Christian evangelist, preaching to millions worldwide, as well as being an advisor to US presidents over his 6 decade career. (Photo by Shawn Thew-Pool/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, Aug 27 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump prepared to attack Democratic rival Joe Biden in front of a large crowd on the South Lawn of the White House on Thursday, as Republicans warned of a lawless and dangerous America if Biden wins the November election.

By Jeff Mason and Joseph Ax

Trailing in national opinion polls, Trump will accept his party’s nomination on the Republican National Convention’s final night with a speech asserting that a Biden victory would only worsen the crises besieging the country.

“At no time before have voters faced a clearer choice between two parties, two visions, two philosophies, or two agendas,” Trump was expected to say, according to excerpts provided to Reuters ahead of the evening.

“We have spent the last four years reversing the damage Joe Biden inflicted over the last 47 years,” he said, referring to Biden’s career as a U.S. senator and vice president.

Though an incumbent seeking a second four-year term, Trump remains a self-styled outsider, an approach that won him the White House, his first elected office, in 2016 on a promise to end the crime and violence he said was afflicting the country.

With the country reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and a wave of anti-racism protests, several speakers on Thursday argued that state and city Democratic leaders, not the Trump administration, were to blame for the racial strife convulsing U.S. cities, including Kenosha, Wisconsin, where this week police shot and paralyzed a Black man.

“It is clear that a vote for Biden and the Democrats creates the risk that you will bring this lawlessnesss to your city, to your town, to your suburb,” said former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a close Trump confidant. Like other Republicans, Giuliani falsely accused Biden of embracing calls to “defund the police,” a position the Democrat has rejected.

As the night unfolded, Biden struck back on Twitter, writing, “When Donald Trump says tonight you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America, look around and ask yourself: How safe do you feel in Donald Trump’s America?”

Trump’s decision to speak from the White House lawn to a crowd of more than 1,000 drew criticism that he was using the official residence for partisan purposes and ignoring the risk of coronavirus transmission.

The crowd, seated in white chairs inches apart, showed little evidence of social distancing or face masks despite health experts’ recommendations. The coronavirus prompted both political parties to scale back their conventions and make events mostly virtual.

The Trump campaign said it had taken appropriate health precautions.

Attendees could hear strains of music and chanting from a group of hundreds of anti-Trump protesters gathered on Black Lives Matter Plaza nearby.


More than 180,000 people have died in the United States from the coronavirus – more than any other country, according to a Reuters tally – amid a fresh wave of protests over the latest high-profile police shooting of a Black American.

In Kenosha, relative calm returned after three nights of civil strife ending on Tuesday, including arson, vandalism and deadly shootings.

Trump, a former New York real estate developer, is seeking to turn around a re-election campaign that has been largely overshadowed by a health crisis that has put millions of Americans out of work.

While his approval rating among Republican voters remains high, dissent is mounting within the party. In three open letters being published on Thursday and Friday, Biden won endorsements from more than 160 people who worked for Republican former President George W. Bush or for past Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and John McCain, the New York Times and Politico reported.

Earlier this week, 27 former Republican lawmakers endorsed Biden while the Lincoln Project, among the most prominent Republican-backed groups opposing Trump, said a former Republican Party head had joined it as a senior adviser.

Thursday’s program aimed to counterbalance those defections, featuring a video showcasing former Democratic voters who say they now support Trump and remarks from U.S. Representative Jeff Van Drew, who abandoned the Democratic Party to join the Republicans after voting against Trump’s impeachment this year.

“Joe Biden is being told what to do by the radicals running my former party, the same radicals trying to install him as their puppet president,” he said.

The program also included several emotional appeals, including from the parents of Kayla Mueller, an aid worker who died after being held captive for months by Islamic State militants in Syria. The Mueller parents said they blamed the Obama administration for failing to rescue Mueller.


Trump, a former reality television host, and his advisers have set up his speech with a producer’s eye. His use of the White House as his backdrop has irked critics who say holding a political event there is a potential violation of the law.

Fireworks were expected over Washington’s nearby monuments at the conclusion of Trump’s speech.

The Republican convention has attracted fewer television viewers than its Democratic counterpart on two of its three nights so far, including on Wednesday, according to early Nielsen Media Research.

A total of 17.3 million people watched the third night of the mostly virtual Republican National Convention on Wednesday, according to Nielsen, fewer than the 22.8 million viewers for the third night of last week’s Democratic convention.

Trump kicked off the week on Monday by accusing Democrats of seeking to steal the election by advocating for mail-in voting. His previous high-profile speeches have also emphasized grim themes, including his inaugural address in January 2017 that described “American carnage.”

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Joseph Ax; Additional reporting by Jason Lange, Trevor Hunnicutt and Jonathan Landay; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Howard Goller)


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