Election Live Updates: Trump Grants Full Pardon to Woman Who Praised Him at Convention

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Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump employed his power of clemency on Friday for the second time this week in connection with his nominating convention, issuing a full pardon to Alice Marie Johnson, a onetime drug convict, a day after she appeared in a campaign video praising his leadership.

Mr. Trump had already commuted Ms. Johnson’s sentence in 2018, but he said he decided to elevate the action to a full pardon after seeing her in the audience outside the White House on Thursday night when he delivered his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.

“You were out there, I saw you in the audience last night, and I asked the folks if you could bring Alice over,” the president told her during a hastily arranged event in the Oval Office. “We’re going to give a full pardon. We’re going to do it right now. That means you have been fully pardoned. That’s the ultimate thing that can happen. That means you can do whatever you want in life and just keep doing the great job you’re doing.”

Ms. Johnson, who had been locked up in federal prison in Alabama since 1996 on cocaine-distribution and money-laundering charges, has been a symbol of the national movement to reduce what many in both parties view as excessive sentences for nonviolent drug crimes.

In her speech that aired at the Republican convention, Ms. Johnson hailed Mr. Trump as a caring man who had intervened to stop an injustice.

“By the grace of God and the compassion of President Donald John Trump, I stand before you tonight,” she said.

She added: “Free in body thanks to President Trump, but free in mind thanks to the almighty God. I couldn’t believe it. I always remembered that God knew my name, even in my darkest hour. But I never thought a president would.”

The commutation Mr. Trump issued in 2018 reduced Ms. Johnson’s sentence and freed her without wiping out her conviction. The pardon he gave her on Friday does not signify innocence, but removes any civil limits imposed because of her conviction, like restrictions on the right to vote or sit on a jury. It may also be helpful in obtaining licenses or employment.

On Monday, the president pardoned Jon Ponder, a convicted bank robber who runs a nonprofit organization for prisoners, and a video of the pardoning was shown that evening at the convention. Critics complained that Mr. Trump was brazenly using the power of his office to stage an event for a partisan political gathering, while the White House said it was legal because it was an official event shown on a government website and the campaign then used video that was available to the public.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

For four days, the Republican National Convention projected the image of a nation that had beaten the coronavirus thanks to the quick, powerful and effective response of President Trump.

The truth is another story.

With more than 180,000 Americans dead and the economy still mired in recession, no issue threatens Mr. Trump’s re-election like the coronavirus. To make the post-pandemic imagery stick, speaker after speaker — especially the president — had to paint a narrative that rewrote history and was resplendent with distortions, exaggerations and outright falsehoods.

From the start of the pandemic, Mr. Trump played down the coronavirus. He said in an interview in January that “we have it totally under control,” speculated in February that it “could maybe go away,” and on March 15, as daily cases continued to increase, said the virus was “something we have tremendous control of.”

These dismissals, however, did not stop one speaker, a nurse named Amy Ford, from declaring on Monday that “President Trump recognized the threat this virus presented for all Americans early on and made rapid policy changes” or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from claiming that “the president has held China accountable for covering up the China virus.”

Mr. Trump did place restrictions on travel from China on Jan. 31, effective Feb. 2, but they only applied to foreign nationals and included exceptions. The porous “ban” ultimately allowed 40,000 to travel from China to the United States from the end of January to April. It wasn’t until March 13 that similar restrictions were placed on travel from Europe, and by then, a virulent European strain of the virus was already widespread in New York City.

The federal government was slow to develop testing at the scale necessary to monitor the pandemic. Myriad failures in testing in the critical early days of the pandemic — a botched kit from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, restrictions on who could be tested and delays in monitoring — left the country blind.

The way Mr. Trump cited the data on virus deaths in the country also presented a false picture. In April, the number of average daily deaths peaked at between 2,000 and 2,200. Cases and deaths fell and plateaued as spring turned into summer, before roaring back as a number of states relaxed social distancing rules and began reopening their economies. Average daily deaths increased from 400 to 500 in July to over 900 today. And the country is now reporting more new cases each day than it did when they first peaked in April.

Despite the uptick, Mr. Trump celebrated the 80 percent decline in the number of deaths since April — cherry-picking the peak and comparing it to a low point that has since passed — and falsely claimed again that the United States had “among the lowest case fatality rates of any major country anywhere in the world.” (It ranks in the top third around the world.)

Credit…Travis Dove for The New York Times

Four people at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. — two attendees, and two people who worked on the event — have tested positive for the coronavirus, Mecklenburg County officials announced.

The announcement served as a reminder that for all the Republican convention’s efforts to minimize the pandemic — Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser, spoke about it in the past tense in his speech — the coronavirus remains a very real threat in many parts of the country.

Unlike the Democrats, Republicans chose to have some delegates gather in person in Charlotte for their roll-call vote. Democrats held their convention’s roll call remotely with videos taken around the nation so as not to endanger delegates by making them travel and gather during the pandemic.

President Trump was especially keen on having a large, in-person gathering. When North Carolina officials made it clear that they would enforce social distancing and use of masks, Mr. Trump tried to move the convention to Jacksonville, Fla. Then, as the outbreak in Florida flared and became one of the worst in the nation, he abandoned that plan.

In the end, Republicans decided to have a scaled back gathering in Charlotte — where Mr. Trump addressed delegates on Monday — and a series of events in Washington, culminating with Mr. Trump’s address Thursday night on the White House lawn before a tightly packed, largely maskless crowd.

In Charlotte, masks were technically required until people stepped up to the microphone to speak, but many delegates shed their face coverings upon entering the ballroom, where they mingled and posed for pictures unmasked and with their arms around one another.

Republican officials said they had “diligent safety protocols in place” in Charlotte.

“Out of roughly 1,000 tests administered, two R.N.C. attendees, despite having negative tests prior to travel, and two Charlotte locals who planned to serve as event support staff tested positive upon arrival,” Michael Ahrens, the communications director for the Republican National Committee, said in a statement. “All were sent home.”

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Candidates always use family members as campaign props and deploy relatives, especially their wives (and occasionally their husbands) to testify to their good qualities. Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s wife, Jill, spoke at the Democratic convention earlier this month; Mr. Biden accepted the Democratic nomination for president after a video tribute from a passel of grandchildren.

But Mr. Trump, perhaps even more than most politicians, places a high value on appearance, particularly on how things play on television. And it is no secret that he believes it is the job of his family to promote the family business — which is, for all intents and purposes, himself. Even still, it was striking how many family members had prime spots at the Republican convention, and how many of them were women.

All four of Mr. Trump’s adult children spoke at the convention this week — Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Tiffany Trump — but Ivanka, as usual, got prime position as the one to introduce her father Thursday night. In a weeklong hagiographic spectacle that deviated from political norms so much that at times it felt less like a political convention than a competitive exercise in hyperbolic fealty to a single person, it made perfect sense that two other family-adjacent figures with jobs in the Trump campaign also had convention slots: Eric’s wife, Lara Trump; and Donald Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle.

Visually, the Trump women come across as variations on a theme, in the Fox News mold — long glossy hair, high spiky heels, clingy outfits, sparkling teeth — but their job is to help improve Mr. Trump’s standing among women. They are there to prove that despite all the unpleasant stories, despite the decision to roll back equal pay regulations, despite the “Access Hollywood” tape, despite the many women who have accused him of harassment and assault, despite the fact that he cheated on his pregnant wife with an adult-film star and then paid her (the star) to keep quiet, Mr. Trump is a champion of their gender.

He said so himself, in a video on that very theme on Tuesday night. “Women have played a very, very big role,” in his administration, he said. “The level of genius is unbelievable, frankly.”

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

President Trump staged a reality TV-style show for his keynote address at the Republican National Convention on Thursday. But Joseph R. Biden Jr. ended up with the ratings crown.

About 23.8 million people watched Mr. Trump’s 70-minute acceptance speech, which was made with plenty of pomp to a packed, largely maskless crowd on the South Lawn of the White House, according to Nielsen. Mr. Biden’s address last week, delivered in a near-empty hall directly to a camera, attracted 24.6 million viewers.

Fox News accounted for the largest proportion of live TV viewers by far, bringing in a viewership of 9.2 million. Roughly two out of five television viewers who watched Mr. Trump on Thursday were tuned to Fox News.

Neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Biden could match the television audience for the 2016 conventions, a sign of Americans’ increasing reliance on streaming services to follow live events, and perhaps that the limits put in place by the pandemic made for less compelling television. Nielsen ratings only capture those who watched on traditional TV networks.

In 2016, Mr. Trump’s acceptance speech was seen by 32.2 million viewers; Hillary Clinton’s address drew 29.8 million.

Mr. Biden’s team won the overall convention ratings race, as well. Last week, the Democratic National Convention was seen on TV by an average of 21.6 million viewers each night. The Republicans’ average this week was about 19.4 million viewers.

Mr. Trump, who has been keenly attentive to Nielsen ratings since his days as the star of “The Apprentice,” posted a pre-emptive tweet on Friday morning, before the overnight numbers had been released. “Great Ratings & Reviews Last Night,” the president wrote. “Thank you!”




‘There’s a Knee Upon the Neck of Democracy’: Protesters Rally in D.C.

Thousands gathered in Washington at the Lincoln Memorial on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech to call for racial justice and encourage voting and census participation.

“George Floyd. George Floyd. George Floyd. George Floyd. “Over the weeks ahead culminating on Election Day, we need to vote as if our lives and our livelihoods, our liberties depend on it because they do. There is a knee upon the neck of democracy, and our nation can only live so long without the oxygen of freedom.” “Demonstration without legislation will not lead to change. We didn’t come out and stand in this heat because we didn’t have nothing to do. We come to let you know if we will come out by these numbers in the heat and stand in the heat, that we will stand in the polls all day long.” “What we need is change. And we’re at a point where we can get that change. But we have to stand together. We have to vote.” Crowd: “Breonna Taylor. Say her name: Breonna Taylor. Say her name: Breonna Taylor.” “I wish George were here to see this right now. Everybody out here right now, our leaders, they need to follow us while we are marching to enact laws to protect us.” “Jacob Blake!” Crowd: “Jacob Blake!” “Jacob Blake!” Crowd: “Jacob Blake!” “There are two systems of justice in the United States. There’s a white system. And there’s a Black system. The Black system ain’t doing so well. But we’re going to stand up. I ask everyone to stand up. No justice!“ Crowd: “No peace!”

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Thousands gathered in Washington at the Lincoln Memorial on the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech to call for racial justice and encourage voting and census participation.CreditCredit…Michael A. McCoy for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Hours after President Trump commanded the South Lawn of the White House to rail against what he called agitators bent on destroying “the American way of life,” thousands of Americans streamed on Friday morning to the Lincoln Memorial, not a mile away, for what frequently seemed a forceful reply.

The Commitment March, as its organizers called it, was devised in part to build on the passion for racial justice that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. summoned when he delivered his “I Have a Dream” address on that same spot 57 years ago.

In a video message commemorating the anniversary of the 1963 march, Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, said, “Let’s march on in the name of our ancestors, and in the name of our children and grandchildren.”

Other speeches delivered by union leaders, civil rights advocates and Black ministers cast Mr. Trump as the prime obstacle to their goal, and voting to remove him as the first step toward a solution.

“November is coming and we have work to do,” said Kyra Stephenson-Valley, a policy adviser at the National Action Network, a civil rights group founded by one organizer of the march, the Rev. Al Sharpton. She asked attendees to scan their tickets to check their voter-registration status.

Frank Nitty was one of a group of Black civil rights advocates who marched 750 miles from Milwaukee to be at Friday’s demonstration. “My grandson isn’t going to be marching for the same thing my granddaddy marched for,” he told the crowd. “We’ve got to vote Trump out of office, right?”

King’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom drew a quarter of a million people. Today’s protest was expected to attract a small fraction of that, in part because of social distancing rules and the city’s quarantine requirement for visitors from 27 states.

The event included speeches by relatives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Eric Garner — all people of color whose deaths at the hands of the police sparked protests across the nation.

Goals of the protest, organizers said, included increasing voter registration and participation in the 2020 census; enacting a new version of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and pushing for passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would overhaul law enforcement training and conduct rules to limit police misconduct and racial bias. The proposed act has the support of House Democrats and the Congressional Black Caucus.

Credit…Travis Dove for The New York Times

The last two presidential re-election campaigns followed a similar playbook: Define the opposition early on the most important issue, emphasize a few cultural wedge issues to rally the base while appealing to a few swing voters and reinvigorate supporters at the convention. It was enough for George W. Bush in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2012 to flip their approval ratings from negative to positive, and to win re-election.

With that history in mind, this week’s Republican convention was one of the last, best opportunities for President Trump to revitalize his political standing.

Heading into the convention, the president’s approval rating was still weak, with a majority of Americans expressing disapproval. But it was showing some signs of improvement in the FiveThirtyEight average of registered or likely voters. Only a few more points would bring the president back to the point where he could hope for a polling error and a relative advantage in the Electoral College to give him another upset victory.

We’ll have to wait until mid-September — when polls stabilize after any convention bumps — before it’s clear whether Mr. Trump has succeeded. But judged against its predecessors, this year’s Republican National Convention differed from the traditional playbook in ways that raise doubts about whether Mr. Trump will be able to make a breakthrough.

The 2004 and 2012 re-election campaigns are probably best remembered for their success in defining the opposition. In each case, the convention offered a clear and simple answer to the question, “Who is the opponent?” And the answer reflected poorly on the ability of that opponent to address the central challenges facing the country.

Trump strategists have struggled to send a similarly focused message about Joe Biden.

Credit…Evan Vucci/Associated Press

The House Foreign Affairs Committee announced on Friday that it would move to hold Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in contempt of Congress for defying the panel’s subpoenas related to the State Department’s compliance with a Senate Republican investigation targeting the Bidens about Ukraine.

The move, announced on Friday by Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the panel, would amount to a rare and stinging rebuke of the nation’s top diplomat. In a statement, Mr. Engel cited what he said was Mr. Pompeo’s “unprecedented record of obstruction and defiance of the House’s constitutional oversight authority.”

Mr. Engel said he had sought records from Mr. Pompeo regarding “his transparently political misuse of department resources” to aid the Senate Republicans’ investigations and as related to his recent address to the Republican National Convention from Jerusalem.

The announcement came the morning after President Trump accepted his party’s renomination at a rally-like political event on the South Lawn of the White House, turning the building into a partisan prop as no politician has ever done before.

The speech capped a Republican National Convention that broke decades of norms by repeatedly blurring the lines between governing and politics, including by having Mr. Pompeo, a sitting secretary of state, speak at all.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

“Donald J. Trump could not truthfully appear at the Republican National Convention as a president who got America safely through the Covid-19 pandemic,” James Poniewozik, the chief television critic for The New York Times, wrote of the convention’s final night. “But he could play one on TV.” Mr. Poniewozik’s Critic’s Notebook continued:

Thursday night, Mr. Trump slowly walked down the steps of the White House with his wife, Melania, just he as came down the escalator of Trump Tower in 2015 — treating it, in much the same way, like his personal property. He walked to a campaign lectern with a presidential seal and looked out on a crowd of faces. Unmasked faces.

Denied a traditional convention in a Charlotte hall, he created his own at home. And denied a reality in which the virus had faded away the way he said it would in its early days, he created that too, by stage-directing it.

Mr. Trump’s 70-minute renomination speech dwelled, for a few minutes here and there, on the pandemic and his administration’s response. But its setting, like much of his convention, told a simpler story visually: That the coronavirus didn’t exist, or at least was no big deal.

The chairs were packed in tightly on the White House lawn. Hundreds of people in the crowd had not been tested for the coronavirus upon attending.

The mostly maskless guests were seated cheek by jowl for hours, like the teeming crowd for the big finale of a pandemic reality show: The Celebrity Appestilence.

In the midst of a plague that has reshaped American life for half a year, the R.N.C. spent as much time effacing its evidence as the Democrats did highlighting it. The imagery of masks, already politicized, maps easily on our partisan differences. The premise, that I wear a mask to protect you and vice versa, meshes badly with the Republican rhetoric of individualism.

The video intro for the final R.N.C. night made that point clear. Over a photo of Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Kamala Harris wearing masks, it warned of Democrats “telling you what to wear.”

Credit…Pool/Ashley Landis

The N.B.A. announced a plan to convert some of its arenas into polling locations for the November election as part of an agreement with its players’ union to resume the playoffs on Saturday, union and league officials said in a joint statement Friday.

“We had a candid, impassioned and productive conversation yesterday between N.B.A. players, coaches and team governors regarding next steps to further our collective efforts and actions in support of social justice and racial equality,” said the statement signed by the league’s commissioner, Adam Silver, and Michele Roberts, the executive director of the players’ union.

The announcement came two days after N.B.A. players staged a dramatic work stoppage in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., on Sunday. Some staff members in the N.B.A.’s league office also chose not to work on Friday to focus on social causes, though it was not clear exactly how many people participated in the action.

The N.B.A. and union’s joint plan also includes, according to the statement, the creation of “a social justice coalition, with representatives from players, coaches and governors, that will be focused on a broad range of issues, including increasing access to voting, promoting civic engagement, and advocating for meaningful police and criminal justice reform.”

Establishing more polling locations was a key goal of More Than a Vote, the initiative led by Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James and other athletes aimed at protecting voter rights and increasing civic engagement, particularly among Black people.


Republicans set out to run the convention messaging as if it were still January — when the economy was booming, Senator Bernie Sanders was leading the polls and there was no pandemic.

A majority of the speakers made only passing reference to the coronavirus — unless it was a revisionist history of conquering it, even as cases break records in multiple states and Americans continue to die each day. Nor did many spend much time on the current economic crises. And the political enemy remained socialism, even though the Democratic opponent — Mr. Biden — is a moderate.

Altogether, the Trump clan and those in his orbit took up nearly half of the total speaking time during the convention. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, and Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, together had less speaking time than any Trump family member.

But much as with the Democrats, speeches were significantly shorter than in 2016.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

In his latest analysis of the political landscape, our technology columnist Kevin Roose writes about how right-wing influencers are dominating the political discussion on Facebook, raising questions about whether that will translate into electoral success in November.

Since the 2016 election, I’ve been obsessively tracking how partisan political content is performing on Facebook, the world’s largest and arguably most influential media platform. Every morning, one of the first browser tabs I open is CrowdTangle — a handy Facebook-owned data tool that offers a bird’s-eye view of what’s popular on the platform. I check which politicians and pundits are going viral. I geek out on trending topics. I browse the previous day’s stories to see which got the most reactions, shares and comments.

Most days, the leader board looks roughly the same: conservative post after conservative post, with the occasional liberal interloper. (If you want to see these lists for yourselves, you can check out @FacebooksTop10, a Twitter account I created that shows the top 10 most-interacted-with link posts by U.S. Facebook pages every day.)

It’s no secret, he adds, that despite Mr. Trump’s claims of Silicon Valley censorship, Facebook has been a boon to him and his allies, and hyperpartisan Facebook pages are nothing new.

But what sticks out, when you dig in to the data, is just how dominant the Facebook right truly is. Pro-Trump political influencers have spent years building a well-oiled media machine that swarms around every major news story, creating a torrent of viral commentary that reliably drowns out both the mainstream media and the liberal opposition.

The result is a kind of parallel media universe that left-of-center Facebook users may never encounter, but that has been stunningly effective in shaping its own version of reality. Inside the right-wing Facebook bubble, President Trump’s response to Covid-19 has been strong and effective, Joe Biden is barely capable of forming sentences, and Black Lives Matter is a dangerous group of violent looters.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Even after a warning from the U.S. Postal Service that it may not be able to meet deadlines for delivering last-minute mail-in ballots, many states still have not changed their policies, risking the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters whose ballots could arrive too late to be counted in November, an expert planned to tell Congress today.

“More than 20 states allow for a voter to request a ballot be mailed to them within seven days of an election — after the time that U.S.P.S. recommends the ballot be mailed back,” Tammy Patrick, the Democracy Fund’s senior adviser for elections, planned to tell the House Committee on Homeland Security at a hearing on the integrity of the voting process.

In July, the Postal Service warned states that it might not be able to meet their deadlines for delivering last-minute mail-in ballots, urging those with tight schedules to require that residents request ballots at least 15 days before an election — rather than the shorter periods currently allowed under the laws of many states. In response, some states, including Pennsylvania and Michigan, have called for extensions on counting late-arriving ballots in the November election.

The July warning fueled a partisan clash over mail-in voting that pitted Democrats against President Trump and his postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, who backed off some service cuts he had implemented amid a firestorm of criticism. Mr. DeJoy testified to Congress last week, “We will do everything in our power and structure to deliver the ballots on time.”

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany refuses as a rule to comment on the internal affairs of other countries or pass judgment on their leaders. But that hasn’t stopped her from letting her face do the talking, reflecting confusion, befuddlement or exasperation regarding President Trump as the situation required. On Friday, she was at it again.

Asked during her annual summer news conference about a claim made at the Republican National Convention by Richard Grenell, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany, that he had “watched President Trump charm the chancellor of Germany,” Ms. Merkel drew her eyebrows together, tilted her head and leaned toward the reporter.

“He did what?” she asked.

“Charmed,” repeated Marina Kormbaki, a journalist with the German reporting collective R.N.D.

“Ah, OK,” Ms. Merkel said. Then she added with a laugh, “I don’t talk about internal discussions.”

The claim that Mr. Trump had charmed Ms. Merkel, even as he was insisting that Germany pay more as a member of NATO, brought derision on both sides of the Atlantic. Social media lit up with compilations of images of the chancellor’s reactions to Mr. Trump from their meetings over the past four years, including a photo of Ms. Merkel leaning over a table toward a defiant Mr. Trump that spawned social media memes.

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