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When is plagiarism not plagiarism? The saga over Melania Trump’s convention speech took another turn today with a letter released by Donald Trump’s campaign. Someone called Meredith McIver, who described herself as “an in-house staff writer from the Trump Organization” and a “longtime friend and admirer of the Trump family”, said she had written portions of Mrs Trump’s Monday evening address.
Ms McIver attempted to explain the similarities with a Michelle Obama speech in 2008: “Over the phone, she read me some passages from Mrs Obama’s speech as examples. I wrote them down and later included some of the phrasing in the draft that ultimately became the final speech. I did not check Mrs Obama’s speeches.”
At least there is an acknowledgement of a direct link between the two texts. Ms McIver said she tendered her resignation to Trump but he refused to accept it. “Mr Trump told me that people make innocent mistakes and that we learn and grow from these experiences.”
Philosophically she may be right but is such a basic mistake acceptable in a presidential campaign? Throughout both the convention and the White House race, Trump has struggled to prove his team can meet the demands of the campaign (as we argue in an FT editorial). The letter also highlights the overlap between Trump’s political and professional organisations — Ms McIver works for the Trump Organisation, not the Trump campaign. She is therefore not directly accountable to anyone in the Republican party.
Elsewhere in Cleveland, senator Ted Cruz arrived and attempted to rally some support. But hours before he was scheduled to speak at the convention, Trump was trolling him from the skies. At a thank you party for supporters, Cruz had just finished telling people that out of a pool of 17 ‘talented, dynamic’ Republican candidates, he had beaten 15 – just not 16 – rivals when something very funny happened. Take a look for yourself.
On the first couple of days, the convention defied expectations by being surprisingly peaceful; the mood on the streets was orderly and cheerful. But today, there was one sign of the underlying tension when a demonstrator decided to burn an American flag outside the gates of the convention centre.
The move immediately attracted a big crowd of reporters – and an even larger group of heavily armed security officials, who were funnelled together into a potentially dangerously small space, trapped in an alley just next to the centre. Some of the pro-Trump crowd started chanting “USA, USA!” as the demonstrators shouted “America was never great!” After a few minutes it seemed that the security officials had got the situation under control, and the demonstration started to disperse.
The incident illustrates the tensions that continue to bubble under the surface in Cleveland. The police, meanwhile, have a ubiquitous presence here but have clearly been told to operate with a low-key, non-confrontational approach, in sharp contrast to some earlier conventions.
Hope Hicks, Mr Trump’s spokeswoman, was also taking a less confrontational approach than new Hampshire state senator Al Baldasaro, an adviser to the campaign on veterans’ affairs, who called for Hillary Clinton to face a firing squad over her use of a private email server. “Mr. Trump and the campaign do not agree,” Ms Hicks assured reporters.
Thanks for reading. - Sebastian Payne, Digital Comment Editor
Click here for full FT coverage of the 2016 race.
On the trail
Trump faces test of uniting GOP Republicans hope the nominee’s convention speech can mend bridges after a bitter campaign. (FT)
The most powerful VP in history Donald Trump Jr allegedly told a senior adviser to John Kasich that Mr Kasich had the opportunity to be in charge of both domestic and foreign policy as Trump’s vice-president. (NYT Magazine)
The wizard behind the curtain How Fox News creator Roger Ailes fuelled the success of many Republican politicians. (FT)
The old cassettes that explain Mike Pence Trump’s running mate learned everything he needed to know about politics from behind a studio mic. (Politico)
A good and faithful servant Embracing Evangelical Christianity, a young Mike Pence broke with his family. (NYT)
Chart of the day
Trump won the Republican nomination with the eighth lowest delegate percentage in the party’s history, according to the Washington Post. About 30.2 per cent of delegates opposed the nomination, the highest since the contested convention of 1976. (WaPo)
Number of the day
96 Number of times Hillary Clinton was mentioned in prepared text of speeches today at the Republican convention, according to Politico.
“Maybe what we should do is ban Republican representatives at a state level from being in bathrooms, if we’re trying to protect people” – Caitlyn Jenner, the world’s most famous transgender woman, telling her fellow Republicans in Cleveland to drop the bathroom gender debate.
Donald Trump’s flawed Cleveland convention (FT View)
Trump’s success is not the same as Brexit (Sebastian Payne, FT)
Voters are still waiting on your tax returns, Mr. Trump (Editorial Board, WaPo)
Magical economic thinking at the GOP convention (John Cassidy, The New Yorker)
The best way to avoid future Trumps? (Hans Noel, NYT)
Corey Lewandowski, mischief maker Some Trump allies are convinced that the former campaign manager is trying to sabotage the campaign. (Politico)
Today’s RCP poll average
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