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By Ginger Gibson and Emily Stephenson

CLEVELAND (Reuters) – Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, in her first major political speech on Monday, portrayed her husband as a talented, compassionate and unrelenting leader who would unify rather than divide the country if elected to the White House.

The Slovenian-born jewelry designer and former model spoke to a cheering crowd at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland after a one-minute introduction from Trump.

The presumptive Republican nominee made a dramatic entrance, silhouetted in a white background and to the accompaniment of Queen’s 1977 rock anthem “We Are the Champions.”

“I have been with Donald for 18 years and I have been aware of his love for this country since we first met,” the aspiring first lady told the convention. “He’s tough when he has to be, but he’s also kind and fair and caring.”

“Donald wants prosperity for all Americans,” she said, reading from a teleprompter, as people applauded.

Her comments were an attempt to soften the image of the New York businessman-turned-politician, who has been accused of bigotry and callousness for his calls to suspend Muslim immigration and deport millions of undocumented immigrants if elected. He has also been criticized for insults directed at women, political opponents and journalists.

Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, accuses Trump, 70, of lacking the experience and temperament needed to work in the Oval Office. On Monday, Clinton, 68, used an address to a largely black audience to cast Trump as someone who would divide the country along racial, ethnic and religious lines.

The convention’s opening night featured a string of emotional speakers attacking Clinton’s record as secretary of state under President Barack Obama, many arguing she had made Americans vulnerable to Islamist militancy.

“I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son,” said Pat Smith, the mother of an information management officer who was among the four Americans killed in an attack on a U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose administration has been credited with sharply reducing crime in the city during the 1990s and who oversaw the city’s response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center and killed almost 3,000 people, gave a highly charged speech slamming Clinton and making the case for Trump.

“What I did for New York, Donald Trump will do for America!” he said.

REBELLION QUASHED

The convention erupted in chaos earlier in the day when Trump opponents inside his party stormed out of the room and others chanted in a failed attempt to force a vote opposing his candidacy.

The turmoil threatened efforts by the Trump campaign to show the party had united behind him and distracted from the day’s theme of “Make America Safe Again”.

The anti-Trump forces wanted to change the party’s nominating rules to allow delegates to support alternative Republican candidates over Trump.

Party leaders held a voice vote, then declared the opponents lacked enough support, triggering pandemonium on the floor of the Cleveland basketball arena where Trump is due to be formally nominated this week for the Nov. 8 election.

“This entire system is rigged to force the vote for Donald Trump,” said Kendal Unruh, a delegate from Colorado.

Trump’s son and adviser, Donald Trump Jr., threatened the leaders of the attempted revolt, saying: “Your careers are finished” in a message posted on Twitter.

While delivering a jolt to the highly scripted program, the rebellion by the anti-Trump forces was quashed.

But the furor, an embarrassment to Trump, put a spotlight on the deep divisions within the party that have emerged over his candidacy. A string of senior Republicans, worried about Trump’s temperament and policies, were already avoiding the convention.

KILLINGS OVERSHADOW CONVENTION

The gathering opened on Monday afternoon in the shadow of racially tinged killings of police officers and black men, and as protesters for and against Trump faced off in a plaza a few blocks from the convention, shouting slogans at each other, separated by a wall of police.

The protests were largely peaceful, with law enforcement officers outnumbering demonstrators.

Sunday’s shooting of three policemen in Baton Rouge, Louisiana – a targeted attack that may have been in retaliation for a series of police killings of black Americans – hung over the gathering.

Trump lashed out at Obama early on Monday over the shootings, saying the Democratic president “doesn’t have a clue.”

The Baton Rouge shootings happened nearly two weeks after police fatally shot a black man there, and after another such death near St. Paul, Minnesota, both of which sparked nationwide protests.

Five policemen were also killed in an ambush in Dallas this month.

Trump has sought to position himself as the law-and-order candidate in an echo of Republican Richard Nixon’s successful presidential campaign of 1968.

 

Additional reporting by Amy Tennery, Michelle Conlin, Scott Malone, Daniel Trotta and Jonathan Allen; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Howard Goller and Peter Cooney

Photo: The delegates of the Republican National Convention pose for a group photo at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

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Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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