Democrats are planning to broaden their attacks on Donald Trump at their convention on Tuesday night, when party stalwarts will line up to accuse the president of failing to defend American troops while using his office for personal gain.
John Kerry, the former Democratic secretary of state, will appear alongside former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter on the second night of the virtual convention where Joe Biden will be formally nominated as the party’s candidate for the presidency.
Cindy McCain, the widow of John McCain, the Arizona senator who was the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, will also vouch for Mr Biden in a video about his relationship with her husband, although she is expected to stop short of offering an explicit endorsement.
Mrs McCain’s participation is an attempt to build on the inclusive theme of Monday night’s convention programme, when four prominent Republicans including former Ohio governor John Kasich endorsed Mr Biden over Mr Trump.
Mr Kerry will point to recent reports that Mr Trump was aware that Russian operatives had offered to pay Taliban-linked militants to kill US troops in Afghanistan.
“Donald Trump pretends Russia didn’t attack our elections. And now, he does nothing about Russia putting a bounty on our troops. So he won’t defend our country,” Mr Kerry will say, according to excerpts released by the Democratic party earlier on Tuesday.
“He doesn’t know how to defend our troops. The only person he’s interested in defending is himself.”
Sally Yates, the former US attorney-general who was dismissed by Mr Trump after she opposed his ban on people from predominantly Muslim countries entering the United States, will accuse the president of using his position of power to “benefit himself rather than our country”.
“He’s trampled the rule of law, trying to weaponise our Justice Department to attack his enemies and protect his friends,” Ms Yates will say. “We need a president who respects our laws and the privilege of public service, who reflects our values and cares about our people.”
Mr Carter — who at 95 rarely makes public appearances — and Mr Clinton are also expected to attack Mr Trump’s character while praising Mr Biden’s.
“Joe has the experience, character, and decency to bring us together and restore America’s greatness,” Mr Carter will say, according to pre-released remarks. “We deserve a person with integrity and judgment, someone who is honest and fair, someone who is committed to what is best for the American people.”
Mr Clinton will describe Mr Biden as a “down-to-earth, get-the-job done guy”.
This year, Democrats are holding their quadrennial convention virtually due to the coronavirus crisis. Unlike in previous years, the convention will not feature a rising star within the party in a standalone keynote speaker slot.
In 2004, Barack Obama then a little-known state senator from Illinois, launched his national career on the convention stage, just four years before he would accept the party’s nomination for president.
Tuesday night will instead feature a taped montage of more than a dozen younger figures in the party, including Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia governor candidate, and Conor Lamb, the congressman who won a special election outside of Pittsburgh in 2018.
Another rising star, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, will speak separately, before a roll call where delegates from each state will declare their vote for the party’s presidential nominee.
Mr Biden will formally accept the party’s nomination on Thursday evening. His wife, Jill Biden, will also speak on Tuesday night.
Monday night’s broadcast, which concluded with an impassioned plea from First Lady Michelle Obama, attracted 18.7m television viewers, according to Nielsen, down more than a quarter from the first night of the 2016 convention. The Biden campaign said an additional 10m viewers tuned in on digital platforms.
Mr Trump responded to Mrs Obama on Wednesday, saying she was “in over her head” and should have spoken live, rather than in a taped address.
“She gets these fawning reviews. If you gave a real review, it wouldn’t be so fawning,” the president said. “I thought it was a very divisive speech, extremely divisive.”
Mr Trump will formally accept his party’s presidential nomination at next week’s Republican National Convention, which will also be held virtually.