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Venturing to Mexico, Donald Trump defends right to build huge wall

On Mexican soil for the first time as the Republican presidential nominee, a firm but measured Donald Trump defended the right of the United States to build a massive border wall along its southern flank, standing up for the centerpiece of his immigration plan in a country where he is widely despised.

Trump, who previously derided Mexico as a source of rapists and criminals, praised Mexicans Wednesday as “amazing people” following a closed-door meeting at the official residence of the country’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto. Trump and the Mexican president, who has compared the New York billionaire to Adolf Hitler, addressed reporters from adjacent lecterns before a Mexican flag.

The trip, 10 weeks before America’s presidential Election Day, came just hours before Trump was to deliver a highly anticipated speech in Arizona about illegal immigration. That has been a defining issue of his presidential campaign, but also one on which he’s appeared to waver in recent days

With political risks high for both men, Trump stayed on script, declining to repeat his promise to force Mexico to pay for a wall along the border between the two countries when pressed by reporters.

While he and Pena Nieto talked about the wall, Trump said they didn’t discuss who would pay for a cost of construction pegged in the billions.

“Having a secure border is a sovereign right and mutually beneficial,” Trump said, reading from prepared remarks. “We recognize and respect the right of any country to build a physical barrier or wall on any of its borders to stop the illegal movement of people, drugs and weapons. Cooperation toward achieving this shared objective — and it will be shared — of safety for all citizens is paramount to both the United States and to Mexico.”

Trump’s presence on Wednesday, his first meeting with a head of state abroad as a presidential candidate, sparked anger and protests across Mexico’s capital city. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox bluntly told the celebrity businessman that, despite Pena Nieto’s hospitality, he was not welcome.

“We don’t like him. We don’t want him. We reject his visit,” Fox said on CNN, calling the trip a “political stunt.”

Pena Nieto was less combative as he addressed reporters alongside Trump. He acknowledged the two men had differences and defended the contribution of Mexicans working in the United States, but he described the conversation as “open and constructive.” He and Trump shook hands as the session ended.

Pena Nieto’s performance came in for immediate condemnation from his many critics in Mexico.

“Pena ended up forgiving Trump when he didn’t even ask for an apology,” said Esteban Illades, the editor of Nexos magazine. “The lowest point of the most painful day in the history of the Mexican presidency.”

After saying during his Republican primary campaign he would use a “deportation force” to expel all of the estimated 11 million people living in the United States illegally, Trump suggested last week he could soften that stance.

But he still says he plans to build a huge wall — paid for by Mexico — along the two nations’ border. He is under pressure to clarify just where he stands in the Wednesday night speech, which had been rescheduled several times.

Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, told CBS earlier in the day that Trump would make clear “that there will be no path to legalization, no path to citizenship. People will need to leave the country to be able to obtain legal status or obtain citizenship.”

The buildup to the speech was abruptly interrupted Tuesday night by the news that Trump would visit Mexico, accepting on short notice an invitation offered last week by Pena Nieto. The newspaper El Universal wrote in an editorial that Trump “caught Mexican diplomats off guard.”

Campaigning in Ohio earlier in the day, Democrat Hillary Clinton jabbed at Trump’s Mexican appearance as she promoted her own experience working with foreign leaders as the nation’s chief diplomat.

“People have to get to know that they can count on you, that you won’t say one thing one day and something totally different the next,” she told the American Legion in Cincinnati. “And it certainly takes more than trying to make up for a year of insults and insinuations by dropping in on our neighbors for a few hours and then flying home again.”

Trump has promised, if elected, to deport millions of immigrants who are in the United States illegally, force Mexico to pay for the construction of a wall to secure the nearly 2,000-mile border and renegotiate the NAFTA trade agreement to make it more favorable to the United States.

Pena Nieto suggested there was room to improve the trade deal, which Trump described as unfair to American workers. The New York businessman promised to promote trade deals that would keep jobs in the Western Hemisphere.

Pena Nieto made his invitation to both Trump and Clinton, who met with him in Mexico in 2014. The inclusion of Trump puzzled many in Mexico, who said it wasn’t clear why their own unpopular president would agree to meet with someone so widely disliked in his country.

Pena Nieto has been sharply critical of Trump’s immigration policies, particularly the Republican’s plans to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it. In a March interview, he said that “there is no scenario” under which Mexico would do so and compared Trump’s language to that of dictators Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

Pena Nieto did not repeat such criticism on Wednesday, but acknowledged Trump’s comments had “hurt and affected Mexicans.”

“The Mexicans deserve everyone’s respect,” he said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Lady Gaga hits stage for invite-only show for DNC delegates

Lady Gaga hit the stage at an invitation-only concert Thursday for delegates to the Democratic National Convention, covering classic songs from Woody Guthrie, Neil Young, the Beatles and others.

Gaga opened with a jazzy version of Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” and then Young’s “Old Man.” She was introduced by Democratic U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, who called her a star who’s not afraid to speak out about sexual violence and mental health.

She closed out her set with the Beatles’ “Come Together” and then sang Edith Piaf‘s “La Vie en Rose” as an encore.

Lenny Kravitz, who also performed inside the convention on Wednesday night, ended his set Thursday by shouting, “We, the people! We, the people! We, the people!” DJ Jazzy Jeff spun tunes in between their sets.

The show gives Camden, one of the country’s most impoverished cities, time in the Democratic convention spotlight.

George Norcross and Susan McCue, president of General Majority PAC and a former chief of staff to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, hosted the “Camden Rising” event, held hours before Hillary Clinton formally accepts the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.

Norcross is credited with working with Republican Gov. Chris Christie to help in redevelopment efforts in Camden, many partially funded through state grants and tax credits. The insurance executive is a Democratic superdelegate along with his brother, U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross. Both are supporting Clinton.

Clinton delegate Suzanne Perkins, 47, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, said she thinks celebrities can help influence delegates and voters.

After Kravitz’s set, she said Bernie Sanders supporters in her delegation who like his music and politics heard his support for Clinton and might think, “Maybe I ought to open my mind. Here’s a guy whose politics I agree with and he endorsed her.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

At 2016 RNC, yesterday’s weirdness is tomorrow’s reason why

The great Hunter S. Thompson observed, “the genetically vicious nature of presidential campaigns in America is too obvious to argue with, but some people call it fun, and I am one of them.”

Pity he’s dead. He’d love the 2016 Republican Convention.

There are grown people wearing the lavishly decorated hats usually seen only on mules plodding down Main Street in the town parade. There are buttons proclaiming “Life’s a Bitch, Don’t Vote for One,” and T-shirts with “Trump 2016″ decorated with large, somewhat hirsute, American flag, er, testicles. They don’t just announce their delegate votes, they deliver surreal state commercials:

“Madam Chairman, the commonwealth of Virginia, home of the CIA, a law school named for Justice Antonin Scalia, and Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s stuffed horse, casts 17 votes for Donald J. Trump, 16 votes for the midget senator from Florida, and four votes for Chloe the pot-bellied pig at the Richmond Zoo!”

There are speeches. Or things called speeches. Antonio Sabato, Jr. (you know, from Celebrity Wife-Swap?) assured the nation Barack Obama really, truly, definitely is a TOTAL SECRET MUSLIM. Patriotic do-ragged Willie Robertson, of the mansion-dwelling, multi-millionaire Louisiana Duck Dynasts, said the problem with the lamestream media is that they don’t hang with “regular folks like us.”

Rocking a chin-curtain and the kind of milk-curdling scowl a Klingon would envy, Milwaukee County sheriff David Clarke called Black Lives Matter “Marxists.” A gaggle of ex-military gents with very broad necks expressed pervy fantasies about seeing Hillary Clinton in prison stripes or maybe an orange jumpsuit.

Melania, Frau Drumpf, dressed in bright, white, and quite tight Roksanda Ilincic, delivered herself of charmingly accented address, only partially plagiarized from a speech Michelle Obama gave in 2008.

That was just the first night.

On the second night, Mark Burns, an African American preacher from South Carolina, delivered the invocation: “Lord, we’re so thankful for the life of Donald Trump. We’re thankful that you are guiding him — that we, together, can defeat the liberal Democratic Party, to keep us divided and not united, in Jesus’ name — if you believe it, shout amen!”

The very, very white people in the Quicken Loans Arena hollered “Amen!” and looked pleased. See? Republicans aren’t racist: they just interacted with a Genuine Negro!

The he-Trumps, Eric and Donald Jr., applauded lustily. The she-Trumps applauded demurely. Ivanka, Vanessa, Lara and Tiffany — en masse they look like the audition-pool for a Gossip Girl spin-off, all center-parted blondes with tall shoes and lips like hotel pillows.

Tiffany spoke, calling her father “friendly.” Donald Jr. spoke, telling how his father “hung out with the guys on construction sites, pouring sheet rock and hanging — pouring concrete and hanging sheet rock,” He marveled at how a “boy from Queens” with only $35 million in his pocket, could “change the skyline of New York.”

Gov. Chris Christie, the Most Disappointed Man in America, got up and prosecuted Hillary Clinton, Stalinist show trial-style, for murdering the U.S. ambassador in Benghazi with her bare hands, inviting Russia to hack her email account, kicking Bo the White House dog, and wearing white shoes after Labor Day.

Christie had the mob hollering “Guilty!” which was a nice change. Before, they’d all been screaming “Lock her up!”

Cleveland is heaven for journalists right now. Very heaven.

Yet even with all this richness, these manifestations of the messed-up American soul, the story that keeps going like that Ray Banned rabbit drummer isn’t Christie’s kangaroo court, isn’t Donald Jr.’s Horatio Alger fantasy, it isn’t even the New Hampshire legislator and campaign advisor, an ex-Marine Trump refers to as his “favorite veteran,” who said – over and over – that Hillary Clinton ought to be “shot for treason.”

No, it’s poor Melania’s cribbed speech. Even though some Trump minion has come forth to take the blame, explaining that Melania just really “admires Michelle Obama,” be-suited pundits have suggested, not entirely jokingly, that Herr Drumpf fire his wife.

Hey, he’s done it twice before. But Trump partisans say that’s a terrible idea: it would be really hard to replace her.

True: there are some jobs Americans just won’t do.

Or, as Hunter S. Thompson said in The Curse of Lono: “Yesterday’s weirdness is tomorrow’s reason why.”

Diane Roberts’s book “Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America” will be out in paperback this fall. She teaches at Florida State University.

Joe Henderson: RNC Day 2 — Starting to get the message

OK, I think we get the message.

Republicans spent the first two days of their convention in Cleveland trying to get one point across: They hate Hillary Clinton. Check that. To them, she is Satan in a pantsuit, but without the charm.

To break it down, they believe she is a godless, soulless, flesh-eating monster responsible for every bad thing that has happened on Earth, probably starting at the Garden of Eden. We’re still trying to confirm that last item, but I think I heard it on a far right-wing talk radio show and that’s good enough. Either that, or Ben Carson said it.

More on that later.

We will, of course, hear the same stuff directed at Donald Trump next week at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia. I don’t know about you, but I will be glued to Twitter all week just to catch The Donald’s response to all the things they will say about him.

Being a bit of a policy wonk, though, I would imagine Hillary and her supporters will lay out more specifics about what she wants to do if elected. I’m still waiting to find out what Trump would actually do to Make America Great Again!!

We are only halfway through the convention, though, so there is still time. Meanwhile, here are some takeaways from Day 2 of the GOPfest along Lake Erie.

RYAN (SORT OF) GETS ON BOARD:  I wonder how many in the audience were secretly wishing that the speech House Speaker Paul Ryan delivered Tuesday would have been his acceptance of the presidential nomination.

Agree with him or not, but Ryan was forceful, articulate and clearly spelled out a GOP vision. That skill has thus far eluded many other Republicans. His attacks on Clinton were more policy-based, and I guess you could say he endorsed Trump – tepidly.

But, take it however you can get it.

A JOB FOR CHRISTIE: If Trump wins, I think New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wrapped up the job of attorney general. His rousing prosecution of Clinton was manna for the hungry hordes inside the convention hall – although the repeated chants of “Lock Her Up” are starting to sound more than a little creepy.

Hatred, stoked to the level we have seen in this convention, can do the nation no good going forward. By the way, Democrats, that means you, too.

NOT SO GENTLE BEN: When Ben Carson was a candidate for president, I was far from the only one who though he was this generation’s Chauncey Gardner – the memorable, bumbling character played so well by Peter Sellers in the 1979 movie “Being There.”

Like Gardner, Carson says things that sound deep but upon examination make no sense. He hasn’t stopped. In his speech Tuesday, he went “there” – connecting dots between a thesis that the then-Hillary Rodham wrote while in college about author Saul Alinsky.

Alinsky was an anti-establishment rebel who believed in social change. He had a single reference to Lucifer in his book “Rules for Radicals” where he referred to the demonic one as the original radical. He also hat-tipped Thomas Paine, by the way.

The New York Times read Clinton’s paper and concluded that while she agreed with Alinsky’s very-Republican ideal that antipoverty programs tend to be ineffective and bureaucratic, she said one of his core ideals “ran counter to the notion of change within the system.”

No matter.

That, Carson told the crowd, meant Clinton had in essence endorsed Satan.

“So are we willing to elect someone as president who has as their role model somebody who acknowledges Lucifer?” he asked.

Good grief.

Donald Trump triumphs as GOP nominee, completing stunning climb

United for a night, Republicans nominated Donald Trump Tuesday as their presidential standard-bearer, capping the billionaire businessman’s stunning takeover of the GOP and propelling him into a November faceoff with Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“I will work hard and never let you down!” Trump quickly wrote on Twitter following the roll call vote.

Trump’s campaign hoped the formal nomination would both end the discord surging through the Republican Party and overshadow the convention’s chaotic kickoff, including a plagiarism charge involving Melania Trump‘s address on opening night.

There were flurries of dissent on the convention floor as states that Trump did not win recorded their votes, but he far outdistanced his primary rivals. His vice presidential pick, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, was also formally nominated.

Trump was put over the top by his home state of New York. Four of his children joined the state’s delegation on the convention floor for the historic moment and appeared overwhelmed with emotion.

“Congratulations, Dad, we love you,” declared Donald Trump Jr.

Some delegates emphasized a need for a televised display of unity after the deeply divisive GOP primary. “United we stand, divided we fall,” said Johnny McMahan, a Trump delegate from Arkansas.

But Colorado’s Kendal Unruh, a leader of the anti-Trump forces, called the convention a “sham” and warned party leaders that their efforts to silence opposition would keep some Republicans on the sidelines in the fall campaign against Clinton.

This week’s four-day convention is Trump’s highest-profile opportunity to convince voters that he’s better suited for the presidency than Clinton, who will be nominated at next week’s Democratic gathering. A parade of Trump’s campaign rivals and Republican leaders lukewarm about his nomination were taking the stage Tuesday night to vouch for the real estate mogul, including House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Still, the plagiarism controversy and other unforced errors by the campaign cast a shadow over the convention and raised fresh questions about Trump’s oversight of his campaign, which gives voters a window into how a candidate might handle the pressures of the presidency.

The plagiarism accusations follow Monday night’s speech by Trump’s wife. Two passages from her address — each 30 words or longer — matched a 2008 Democratic convention address by Michelle Obama nearly word-for-word.

Trump’s campaign failed to quell the controversy on Day 2 of the convention by insisting there was no evidence of plagiarism, while offering no explanation for how the strikingly similar passages wound up in Mrs. Trump’s address. The matter consumed news coverage from Cleveland until the evening vote, obscuring Mrs. Trump’s broader effort to show her husband’s softer side.

Clinton pounced on the tumult, saying the Republican gathering had so far been “surreal,” comparing it to the classic fantasy film “Wizard of Oz.”

“When you pull back the curtain, it was just Donald Trump with nothing to offer to the American people,” Clinton said during a speech in Las Vegas.

Top Trump adviser Paul Manafort said the matter had been “totally blown out of proportion.”

“They’re not even sentences. They’re literally phrases,” Manafort told The Associated Press.

Conventions are massive organizational undertakings, with thousands of attendees to manage and dozens of speakers to oversee. But the weeklong gathering pales in comparison to the scope of a president’s responsibilities as head of the U.S. government.

It was unclear whether there would be much if any effect on how voters view Trump. The businessman has survived numerous politically perilous moments that might have doomed other candidates.

Manafort, a longtime Republican operative, has been a central figure in Trump’s Cleveland operations. He led efforts to successfully tamp down a rebellion on the convention floor Monday, though the campaign still had to contend with angry outbursts from anti-Trump delegates.

The campaign chairman also upended Republicans’ unity message by slamming Ohio Gov. John Kasich in his home state. He called Kasich “petulant” and “embarrassing” for not endorsing Trump or attending the convention, drawing quick condemnation from other GOP leaders worried about angering the popular governor of one of the most important election states.

Trump’s campaign hoped the convention would also highlight a kinder, gentler side of the brash candidate. Mrs. Trump was the first in a series of family members and friends who were taking the stage to vouch for the man they know.

Mrs. Trump was widely praised for her success in doing just that, despite the plagiarism charges. She spoke of her husband’s “simple goodness” and his loyalty and love of family — while noting the “drama” that comes with Trump in politics.

Tiffany Trump, the candidate’s 22-year-old daughter from his marriage to Marla Maples, and Donald Jr., his eldest son and an executive vice president at The Trump Organization, were to speak about their father Tuesday night.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Former rivals, military leaders, actors to take stage at RNC

Former presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio — the latter by video link — are among those set to speak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Military leaders, members of Congress, actors, faith leaders and family members of presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump are also set to speak in what the Republican National Committee calls “an unconventional lineup” that will challenge the status quo and press for Trump’s agenda.

Speaker highlights at the four-day convention, which begins Monday at the Quicken Loans Arena.

MONDAY

Theme: Make America Safe Again

Headliners: Trump’s wife, Melania; Lt. Gen. (ret.) Michael Flynn, U.S. Army; Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; and Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont.

Others: Willie Robertson, star of “Duck Dynasty”; former Texas Gov. Rick Perry; Marcus Luttrell, retired U.S. Navy SEAL; Scott Baio, actor; Pat Smith, mother of Sean Smith, killed in the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya; Mark “Oz” Geist, member of a security team that fought in Benghazi; John Tiegen, member of Benghazi security team and co-author of the book “13 Hours,” an account of the attacks; Kent Terry and Kelly Terry-Willis, siblings of Brian Terry, a Border Patrol agent whose shooting death revealed the botched “Fast and Furious” gun-smuggling operation; Antonio Sabato Jr., actor; Mary Ann Mendoza, Sabine Durden and Jamiel Shaw, immigration reform advocates; Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas; David Clarke, sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wis.; Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis.; Rachel Campos-Duffy, LIBRE Initiative for Hispanic economic empowerment; Darryl Glenn, Senate candidate in Colorado; Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Karen Vaughn, mother of a U.S. Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan; Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani; and Jason Beardsley of Concerned Veterans for America.

___

TUESDAY

Theme: Make America Work Again

Headliners: Tiffany Trump, candidate’s daughter; Kerry Woolard, general manager, Trump Winery in Virginia; Donald Trump Jr.; Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; former GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson; and actress Kimberlin Brown.

Others: Sharon Day, co-chairwoman of Republican National Committee; Dana White, president, Ultimate Fighting Championship; Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson; Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge; former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey; Andy Wist, founder of Standard Waterproofing Co.; Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.; Chris Cox, executive director, NRA Institute for Legislative Action; golfer Natalie Gulbis; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

___

WEDNESDAY

Theme: Make America First Again

Headliners: Former presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio; Eric Trump, son of the candidate; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump’s pick to be vice president.

Others: radio host Laura Ingraham; Phil Ruffin, businessman with interests in real estate, lodging, manufacturing and energy; Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi; retired astronaut Eileen Collins; Michelle Van Etten, small business owner; Kentucky state Sen. Ralph Alvarado Jr.; Darrell Scott, senior pastor and co-founder of New Spirit Revival Center Ministries, Cleveland; Harold Hamm, oil executive; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; Lynne Patton, vice president, Eric Trump Foundation; Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. (by video); Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Callista Gingrich, wife of Newt Gingrich.

___

THURSDAY

Theme: Make America One Again

Headliners: Peter Thiel, co-founder PayPal; Tom Barrack, CEO of Colony Capital; Ivanka Trump, daughter of the candidate; and Donald Trump, GOP nominee for president.

Others: Brock Mealer, motivational speaker; Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin; Dr. Lisa Shin, owner of Los Alamos Family Eyecare in New Mexico; RNC Chairman Reince Priebus; Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University and evangelical leader.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

GOP team addresses America Saturday

After frenzied, final decision-making, Donald Trump announced Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate Friday, adding an experienced politician with deep Washington connections to the Republican presidential ticket.

Trump’s pick was aimed in part at easing some Republicans’ concerns about his temperament and lack of political experience. Pence spent 12 years in Congress before being elected governor and his demeanor is as calm as Trump’s is fiery. While some conservatives are skeptical of Trump’s political leanings, Pence has been a stalwart ally on social issues.

Yet Pence is largely unknown to many Americans. And his solidly conventional political background runs counter to Trump’s anti-establishment mantra.

The two men scheduled a news conference for Saturday in New York to present themselves to America as the Republican team that will take on Hillary Clinton and her Democratic running mate in November. The duo will head to Cleveland next week for the Republican National Convention.

As Pence arrived for a private meeting with Trump Friday, he told reporters he “couldn’t be more happy for the opportunity to run with and serve with the next president of the United States.”

In choosing Pence, Trump appears to be looking past their numerous policy differences. The governor has been a longtime advocate of trade deals such as NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, both of which Trump aggressively opposes. Pence also has been critical of Trump’s proposed temporary ban on foreign Muslims entering the United States, calling the idea “offensive and unconstitutional.”

The reaction to the Pence choice from Republican officials was overwhelmingly positive — no small feat for Trump, given how polarizing he’s been within his own party.

“It was a pick that clearly shows he is pivoting to the general election,” said GOP chairman Reince Priebus, who was in the midst of an interview with The Associated Press when Trump announced his decision. “He is choosing a person who has the experience inside and outside Washington, Christian conservative, very different style that I think shows a lot of maturity.”

Pence, a staunchly conservative 57-year-old, served six terms in Congress before being elected governor and could help Trump navigate Capitol Hill. He is well-regarded by evangelical Christians, particularly after signing a law that critics said would allow businesses to deny service to gay people for religious reasons.

Clinton’s campaign moved quickly to paint him as the “most extreme pick in a generation.”

“By picking Mike Pence as his running mate, Donald Trump has doubled down on some of his most disturbing beliefs by choosing an incredibly divisive and unpopular running mate,” said John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman.

Clinton spent Friday holding meetings in Washington about her own vice presidential choice. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a favorite of liberals and one of the Democrats’ most effective Trump critics, and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, were seen in separate cars that left Clinton’s home. Housing Secretary Julian Castro also met with Clinton, according to a person familiar with the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private gathering.

Trump spent weeks weighing vice presidential contenders, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and only zeroed in on Pence in recent days. In fact, the selection process appeared on the verge of sliding out of control in the final hours before the announcement, sparking speculation that Trump might be changing his mind.

Word that Pence would be joining the Republican ticket began trickling out in news reports Thursday before Trump had made a final decision or called Pence to offer him the job, according to a Republican familiar with the situation. Trump was in California for fundraisers, separated from his closest aides, and was fuming about leaks that he viewed as an attempt to pressure him into the decision.

Still, Trump called Pence Thursday afternoon to offer him the job and ask him to fly to New York for a Friday morning news conference. Pence accepted and boarded a private plane, along with his wife.

A few hours later, a huge truck barreled through a crowded holiday celebration in Nice, France, killing more than 80 people. With Pence sitting in a New York hotel, Trump decided to postpone the announcement.

The billionaire businessman then went on Fox News to say he had not yet settled on his “final, final” choice. He also held a midnight conference call with his top aides to discuss the situation, according to two people with knowledge of the call.

By Friday, plans were back on track.

Trump sent out a Twitter message saying he was pleased to announce Pence as his running mate. Moments later, one of Pence’s aides filed paperwork with the Indiana Secretary of State’s office withdrawing him from the governor’s race.

Pence was up for re-election, and state law prohibits candidates from being on ballots in two contests. Trump’s formal announcement came about an hour before Pence’s noon Friday deadline for withdrawing.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, strongly rejected suggestions that the candidate considered changing his mind about Pence.

“Never waffled once he made his decision,” Manafort wrote in an email.

Gingrich, one of the finalists for the vice presidential spot, said he was “very comfortable” with Trump’s decision and praised Pence as someone who could help unite the party.

But as of Friday afternoon, Gingrich had yet to share his support with Trump himself. He told The Associated Press he had not received a call from Trump telling him he wasn’t getting the job.

Meanwhile, Trump did speak with Christie, according to a person familiar with their conversation. Ironically, Christie traveled with Trump to Indiana in April to help introduce the candidate to Pence when Trump was trying to win his endorsement ahead of India’s primary.

Pence endorsed Trump’s rival Ted Cruz instead.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Tim Tebow: Speaking slot at Republican convention ‘a rumor’

Thursday morning he was among the biggest stars featured on Donald Trump‘s convention lineup. Thursday night, Tim Tebow declared his attendance at next week’s Republican National Convention was nothing more than “a rumor.”

“I wake up this morning to find out that I’m speaking at the Republican National Convention,” Tebow said in a video posted on Facebook. “It’s amazing how fast rumors fly. And that’s exactly what it is, a rumor.”

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to questions about Tebow’s departure from a convention program the New York billionaire’s team had long teased would be an extraordinary display of political entertainment. But instead of sports stars and celebrities, as promised, the campaign is relying heavily on the party’s establishment for the four-day convention, which begins Monday.

The presumptive presidential nominee has approved a convention program featuring at least 20 current or former elected officials, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a primary rival.

Still, there is no shortage of political outsiders.

Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder, may be the first-openly gay speaker featured at a national Republican convention. His appearance comes as party leaders refuse to soften the GOP’s formal opposition to gay marriage.

Other speakers will include four of Trump’s children, Las Vegas casino owner Phil Ruffin, and actor and former underwear model Antonio Sabàto Jr.

Mark Geist and John Tiegen, survivors of the deadly 2012 attack on the American diplomatic consulate in Benghazi, Libya, will speak.

“This impressive lineup of veterans, political outsiders, faith leaders and those who know Donald Trump the best — his family and longtime friends — represent a cross-section of real people facing the same challenges as every American household,” said Trump spokesman Jason Miller.

Some of the GOP’s biggest names are declining to participate in the convention.

Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and the party’s two most recent presidential nominees, John McCain and Mitt Romney, plan to skip the event, as does Ohio Gov. John Kasich, another Trump primary challenger.

Shrugging off such absences, Trump’s team suggested the convention lineup would help highlight Trump’s outsider appeal.

“We are totally overbooked. We have great speakers, we have winners, we have people that aren’t only political people,” Trump told Fox News Channel on Tuesday. “We have a lot of people that are just champions and winners.”

He acknowledged in recent days that he’d stick a little closer to tradition.

“Look, I have great respect for the institution of the conventions. I mean to me, it’s very important. So we’re not going to change the wheel,” he said on Fox.

Tom Brady was initially floated as a possible speaker, but he won’t appear. Neither will former Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight or boxing promoter Don King, a Cleveland resident and passionate Trump supporter.

The program will feature people such pro golfer Natalie Gulbis, retired astronaut Eileen Collins, and Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White. Former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, author of the book, “Lone Survivor,” about a 2005 firefight in Afghanistan, will make an appearance, along with a Wisconsin sheriff, David Clarke, who is a vocal critic of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The convention will highlight religious leaders such as Jerry Falwell Jr. and Haskel Lookstein, the New York rabbi who converted Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, to Judaism.

Trump does not forget his business relationships, giving speaking slots to real estate investor Tom Barrack and even the general manager for Virginia’s Trump Winery, Kerry Woolard.

In a nod toward party unity, Trump will feature several former presidential competitors, including Cruz, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Ben Carson and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Two finalists in Trump’s search for a running mate made the list as well: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich. The other finalist, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, was not included in the program obtained by the AP.

Donald Trump postpones VP announcement, citing France attacks

Donald Trump abruptly postponed plans to announce his vice presidential pick following a day of rampant speculation, citing the “horrible attack” in Nice, France, that left scores dead.

Trump had planned to hold his first event with his yet-to-be-named running mate Friday morning in New York. He announced the change of plans Thursday evening on Twitter.

The stunning announcement raised questions about the status of Trump’s selection process. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence had emerged as a late favorite for the job, though Trump said he had not finalized the pick and advisers cautioned he could change his mind.

“I haven’t made my final, final decision,” Trump said on Fox News.

After spending much of Thursday in Indianapolis, Pence flew to New York late in the day, according to a Republican familiar with the process. Indianapolis television station WTHR posted a video showing Pence arriving at a private airport in New Jersey early Thursday evening.

Trump did not say when he planned to announce his running mate. He’s up against a clock: The Republican convention kicks off in Cleveland Monday.

In addition to Pence, Trump’s shortlist included former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, according to people familiar with the candidate’s thinking.

In tapping Pence, a staunch conservative with six terms in Congress, Trump would likely ease GOP leaders’ concerns about his own political inexperience and volatile temperament.

Pence has influential allies in Trump’s inner circle. But some of Trump’s children, who have been closely advising their father, are said to favor different candidates.

Campaign chair Paul Manafort was among those urging caution in assuming any decision on Thursday, saying on Twitter that Trump’s choice “will be made in the near future.”

As the day began, it appeared the decision would come quickly. Gingrich, the fiery Republican who helped define the political battles of the 1990s, told The Associated Press Trump was supposed to let him know something in the afternoon. But by early evening, Gingrich told the AP he had heard nothing from Trump or others in the campaign.

Other Republicans with knowledge of the process said there had been no calls to Pence or Christie, either.

The top contenders have been vetted by a top Washington lawyer and all have spent time with Trump in recent days. But the final decision rests with the candidate, who is known for making decisions more on instinct than other factors — and for sometimes changing his mind.

Trump was in California Thursday for several fundraisers. His schedule put him at a distance from many of his closest advisers, including Manafort and his three oldest children.

Pence is running for re-election, but Indiana law prevents him from seeking two offices at once. He faces a Friday deadline to withdraw from the governor’s race.

The paperwork has been drawn up for him to take that step, according to a Republican, who insisted on anonymity because that person was not authorized to publicly discuss the plans. However, those documents have not been filed.

Christie, in New Jersey, said in an interview with MSNBC: “No matter what phone call (Trump) makes to me today, I will take a deep breath and prepare for tomorrow.” The interview came hours before David Samson, whom Christie appointed to chair the powerful Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, pleaded guilty to scheming to get United Airlines to run direct flights between New Jersey and South Carolina where he has a vacation home.

Gingrich was the most visible of the contenders. As speculation about his future swirled, he calmly answered questions about the selection process on Facebook Live, including saying he had told Trump the choice was between having “two pirates on the ticket or a pirate and a relatively stable, more normal person.”

Each of Trump’s top contenders would add significant political experience to the GOP ticket. Trump has said for weeks that he wanted a running mate who could help him work with Congress.

Beyond their political backgrounds, the finalists bring different strengths to the ticket.

Pence, 57, has deep ties to evangelical Christians and other conservatives, particularly after signing a law last year that critics said would have allowed businesses to deny service to gay people for religious reasons. But the move alienated some moderates in the party.

Trump took notice of Pence during the Indiana primary, noting the governor had high praise for him despite endorsing one of his rivals.

Gingrich is something of a rabble-rouser who has spent decades in Washington. The 73-year-old would be the oldest candidate ever to become vice president.

Gingrich has been a steadfast Trump defender for months and has become a trusted adviser to the businessman.

So, too, has Christie. The New Jersey governor quickly endorsed Trump after ending his own presidential bid, stunning many of his supporters.

A former U.S. attorney, Christie, 53, is widely seen as one of his party’s most talented politicians and has proven himself an effective “attack dog” on the trail. He has also taken on the important role of heading Trump’s transition planning.

Dan Coats says Donald Trump hasn’t made up his mind on VP

The Latest on the 2016 presidential campaign ahead of the Republican and Democratic national conventions (all times EDT):

1:30 p.m.

Indiana Sen. Dan Coats says Donald Trump hasn’t made up his mind about who to select as his running mate.

Coats told The Associated Press Wednesday that he spoke with Gov. Mike Pence late Tuesday — one of the names on Trump’s shortlist of potential running mates — and Pence told him there’s still no decision.

“I think he’s the front-runner,” Coats said, adding, “I think he ought to be the front-runner.”

Coats said Pence is “pretty calm about the whole thing.”

He added that Trump is cognizant that he needs to make a decision by Friday given gubernatorial succession rules in Indiana.

But he concluded that “reading Donald Trump’s mind is not the easiest thing to do.”

___

1:20 p.m.

Hillary Clinton says the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln has been transformed into “the party of Trump.”

Rattling off a series of attacks against her GOP rival, Clinton says Trump is “dangerous,” ”divisive,” ”fear-mongering” and is “pitting American against American.” Even stalwart Republicans, she says, should be alarmed by Trump’s policies and racist rhetoric.

Clinton is casting Trump as ignorant of the Constitution, dismissive of U.S. law and lacking the character to be trusted with American security.

“Imagine if he had not just Twitter and cable news to go after his critics and opponents, but also the IRS – or for that matter, our entire military,” she says. “Do any of us think he’d be restrained?”

___

1:07 p.m.

Hillary Clinton is calling on the country — including herself — to “do a better job of listening” rather than fueling political and other divisions after a series of high-profile shootings.

Clinton says the country must address both gun violence, criminal justice reform and find ways to better support police departments.

“I know that just saying these things together may upset some people,” she says. “But all these things can be true at once.”

Clinton is speaking in the Illinois Old State House chamber in Springfield, the site of Abraham Lincoln’s his famous address about the perils of slavery. She is trying to use the symbolic site to contrast her call for civility with what she sees as rival Donald Trump’s polarizing campaign.

Clinton said she has work to do, as well.

She says that as someone “in the middle of a hotly fought political campaign, I cannot claim that my words and actions haven’t sometimes fueled the partisanship that often stands in the way of our progress.”

Clinton adds, “I recognize that I have to do better too.”

___

12:29 p.m.

Donald Trump is meeting with finalists for the job of his vice presidential running mate.

Trump met Tuesday with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his family. Early Wednesday, Trump and his children met with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and his family. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also was said to be a finalist.

All three have auditioned for the job by opening for Trump at campaign rallies over the past week.

Trump was expected to make an announcement on Friday.

___

10:20 a.m.

Republican Donald Trump huddled with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence at the governor’s mansion in Indiana on Wednesday morning amid swirling speculation about Trump’s vice presidential deliberations.

Pence and Trump walked out of the residence together just before 10:30 a.m. The pair was joined inside by Pence’s wife, Karen, as well as Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and his son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Trump is said to have narrowed his short list down to a trio of top contenders, including Pence.

Pence joined Trump at a fundraiser and a rally on Tuesday where he received a warm reception from the crowd.

___

10:15 a.m.

The lead super PAC backing Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has begun targeting Spanish-speaking voters in Colorado, Nevada and Florida as part of a $35 million online effort it announced earlier this year.

An online ad from Priorities USA features video clips of Trump calling Hispanics “drug dealers” and “criminals” and leading his supporters in the chant: “Build that wall! Build that wall! Build that wall!”

In Spanish, an on-screen message declares that “hatred is growing in our country.”

The ad campaign also includes a website: unidoscontratrump.org, which means “united against Trump.” The same message will appear in banner ads on social media.

The three targeted states all have significant Latino populations. Trump insists he can do better among Hispanics than the less-than-30 percent Republican Mitt Romney drew in 2012 after calling for “self-deportation” for immigrants in the country illegally.

___

7:35 a.m.

Bernie Sanders says he agrees with the harsh remarks that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has made about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The Vermont senator declined to say whether it is appropriate for a sitting Supreme Court justice to openly criticize a White House contender. But he tells ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he agrees Trump is a “total opportunist” and said “the record clear is quite clear that he lies just a whole lot of the time.”

Ginsburg in a series of interviews with The Associated Press, The New York Times and CNN has called Trump unqualified to be president and joked that she would move to New Zealand if he won. Trump said in a tweet that Ginsburg should resign.

Sanders’s comments came a day after he formally endorsed Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee for president.

Asked if he is open to being her running mate, Sanders said, “I doubt that will happen.” He said his focus is on helping Clinton win. He says, “We cannot have a man with Trump’s temperament with the nuclear code and running this country.”

5:25 a.m.

Hillary Clinton is turning to the symbolism of Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech to argue that the nation needs to repair its divisions after high-profile shootings in Texas, Louisiana and Minnesota.

Clinton’s campaign says the Democratic presidential candidate will talk about the importance of uniting the country at the Old State House in Springfield, Illinois, later Wednesday. It’s the site of Lincoln’s famous address in 1858.

Clinton plans to say the nation needs to determine ways to close the divides exposed in the recent shootings.

But she will say that the problems facing the country are much broader and show the need to heal divisions in the nation’s politics and culture.

Heading into the Democratic convention, Clinton has tried to present herself as a unifying figure against Republican Donald Trump.

12:40 a.m.

Donald Trump is urging Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to resign in the wake of harsh remarks she’s made about his presidential campaign.

“Justice Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court has embarrassed all by making very dumb political statements about me,” he tweeted on @realDonaldTrump.

Ginsburg had said that she felt Trump was unqualified for the position. In an interview with The Associated Press last week, she said she didn’t want “to think about that possibility.”

In his Twitter post, Trump said, “Her mind is shot — resign.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that it was “totally inappropriate” for Ginsburg to criticize Trump.

McConnell said that members of the Supreme Court shouldn’t weigh in on American elections.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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