Mike Pence, the US vice-president, will take aim at Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, on the third night of the Republican National Convention, which will take place against the backdrop of escalating unrest in Wisconsin following two fatal shootings.
Mr Pence is expected to defend the President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and his economic record during a speech broadcast live from Fort McHenry in Baltimore, which played a crucial role in the War of 1812 and served as the inspiration for the US national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner.
Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, said Mr Pence planned to give a “stirring” and “optimistic” speech that focused on Mr Trump’s accomplishments on the economy and foreign policy as well as his handling of coronavirus.
However, Mr Murtaugh said the vice-president was also expected to attack Mr Biden directly. “He will lay out a contrast — based on policies and accomplishments — between the Trump Administration and Joe Biden,” he added.
The Republican convention has coincided with multiple nights of violent unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, after a police officer shot a black resident Jacob Blake Jr seven times On Sunday, leaving him paralysed, according to the family’s attorney.
On Tuesday night, two people were shot and one person was injured not far from the demonstrations. The police have arrested a 17-year-old suspect in connection with the killings.
It is not clear whether the Republicans intend to directly address the unfolding events in Wisconsin at their convention on Wednesday evening, although the party has made “law and order” a key theme of the four-day event.
The Republicans have tried to contrast Mr Trump’s uncompromising tough-on-crime attitude with Mr Biden, who they have accused of turning a blind eye to protests that turn violent.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Mr Trump said the administration would “not stand for looting, arson, violence, and lawlessness on American streets”, adding that he had offered to send federal assistance, which the governor of Wisconsin had accepted.
Mr Biden released a video on Wednesday in which he said he had been sickened by the shooting of Mr Blake while denouncing violent unrest.
“Protesting the brutality is a right . . . but burning down communities is not protest — it’s needless violence [that] endangers lives and shutters businesses,” he said.
Mr Murtaugh said the White House was keeping abreast of the events in Wisconsin and that Mr Trump had been briefed multiple times.
“I think it’s apparent to anyone who has seen the videotape of the shooting that a very, very troubling and disturbing situation — a horrific scene — plays out in that videotape,” Mr Murtaugh said, referring to a recording of the shooting of Mr Blake.
“I know that the Blake family has recently called for calm and urged people not to engage in violent protests, and we would wish that everyone would hear those words and think twice about reacting in ways that cause further destruction in the community.”
Mr Pence’s speech will follow remarks from Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law, Kayleigh McEnany, White House press secretary, and Kellyanne Conway, the outgoing counsellor to the president.
The convention will also feature Chen Guangcheng, the blind legal activist from China who sought sanctuary at the US embassy in Beijing in 2012 to escape house arrest.
Mr Chen has praised Mr Trump’s strategy towards China, writing in a Washington Post op-ed last year that the president was “trying to break down the systems, and the concessions, that have allowed the [Communist party] to operate unchecked for too long.”