Donald Trump has announced on the second night of the Republican National Convention that he will officially pardon a convicted bank robber who later turned into an activist while making his case for re-election.
The president described the story of Jon Ponder, founder of the nonprofit group Hope for Prisoners, as “a beautiful testament to the power of redemption” during a video statement that was taped at the White House ahead of Tuesday night.
“He has created one of the most [successful re-entry programmes], Hope For Prisoners, in Las Vegas,” the president said in the video, which aired Tuesday night during the RNC. “Hope for prisoners is a movement that began as a dream, in a tiny prison cell, and is now making a difference in the lives of thousands, truly bringing hope that there is an opportunity and a community that is waiting and willing to offer them a second chance.”
Download the new Independent Premium app
Sharing the full story, not just the headlines
Ponder, who was scheduled to speak at the second night of the convention, was sent to federal prison after robbing a bank. He later turned to religion and founded his nonprofit organisation in 2009, before he was granted clemency by the Nevada Pardons Board earlier this year.
Meanwhile, a Republican congressional nominee from Georgia who supports the QAnon conspiracy theory and was congratulated by Mr Trump on her primary victory has also been invited to the Republican National Convention.
Marjorie Taylor Greene posted a photo of the invitation to her Twitter account on Tuesday.
She wrote that she was “honored and thrilled to be invited to attend President Trump’s acceptance speech Thursday evening at the White House”.
A person familiar with Ms Greene’s invitation says it is legitimate. The person was not authorised to speak publicly on the matter and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Mr Trump praised Ms Greene as a “future Republican Star” after she won her primary earlier this month. He has courted the support of QAnon believers, saying, “I heard that these are people that love our country.”
Other Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence and Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy, have rejected the conspiracy theory, which focuses on an alleged anonymous, high-ranking government official known as “Q” who shares information about an anti-Trump “deep state” often tied to satanism and child sex trafficking.
Democrats have criticised many of the speakers during the weeklong Republican convention, unloading on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ahead of his planned address on Tuesday night from Jerusalem.
An aide to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden who has worked for the State Department calls Mr Pompeo’s Tuesday speech “flat out disgraceful.” Aide Bill Russo also said it’s “an abuse of taxpayer money.”
Another top Biden deputy, Kate Bedingfield, blasted Mr Pompeo as the president’s “errand boy” and said he has a record of “repeated and blatant use of his office for overtly political purposes”.
Secretaries of state regularly travel abroad on behalf of a US administration’s agenda, but Mr Pompeo’s speech to a party convention from foreign soil is an outlier.
Mr Russo mocked Mr Pompeo’s explanation that he will address the GOP convention on personal time. Mr Russo noted that the speech is still part of “official travel” and that taxpayer money “got him there” and is “paying for his protection” and for the “the staff on the ground” with him.
Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Mr Pompeo’s move “violates his own policy”. The senator referred to Mr Pompeo’s “memos and instructions” sent recently to his department’s employees.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press