The Key Moment From Night Three of the Republican Convention
I was tempted to say that the most important part of the third night of the Republican National Convention was that it meant the convention was more than halfway over. The feeling of relief and joy wasn’t nearly as much as what comes from the third Sunday in Advent, but it was of a similar type.
I expected to say that the critical moment in the night came with Vice President Mike Pence accepting his renomination. After all, the man would have to be feeling quite the release after his four years of slavish devotion to Donald Trump finally paid off with him maintaining his position as the Next In Line. Pence showed his gratitude with an avalanche of half-truths and mistruths, but there was nothing that the Trump campaign hadn’t tried before (including from other speakers that night).
I feared that the moment to remember would be one of the numerous references to urban violence. Certainly, a number of speakers tried to leave all of that at Joe Biden’s feet, but Biden himself made it clear he was no fan of Kenosha-like violence (NBC News), once again neutralizing the issue.
In fact, the key moment of Night Three came from someone I did not expect: former Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell. For reasons that made sense only to him (and perhaps to Trump), Grenell departed from the themes of the night to bring the conversation back to Russia. No, I’m not kidding (New York Post).
I saw the Democrats’ entire case for Russian collusion. And what I saw made me sick to my stomach. The Obama-Biden administration secretly launched a surveillance operation on the Trump campaign and silenced the many brave intelligence officials who spoke up against it. They presented bogus information as facts. They lied to judges. Then they classified anything that undermined their case.
With this paragraph, Grenell made several mistakes at once.
First, he made Russia an issue again at the one place no Republican wanted it to be: their own convention. Democrats can now gleefully refer to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report which described in lurid detail how Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort worked with a Russian intelligence agent to align the Kremlin’s efforts to support Trump with Russian objectives in Ukraine, and to develop disinformation about the aforementioned alignment.
Second, while Grenell may have been aiming at the Democrats, he also hit every Republican on the Intelligence Committee. Susan Collins can now be asked if she agreed with the report of her own committee, or with Grenell. Ditto for John Cornyn. Even Thom Tillis – who is not on the committee – may be asked about it, given that his colleague (Richard Burr) is.
Third, Grenell makes it more likely that Trump himself will bring this up in his own acceptance speech tomorrow, which would give it even further life. Odds are good that Trump doesn’t need Grenell to remind him to complain about “the Russia hoax,” but every little bit hurts.
Finally, and I think most seriously, would be the fact that Grenell basically threw the intelligence community under the bus. Lest we forget, it was someone in the intelligence community who blew the whistle on Trump for trying to strong-arm Ukraine into smearing Joe Biden. Many within the IC will recoil at Grenell’s nonsense – and some of them will respond the way angry IC personnel always do … with a well-timed leak.
Before last night, Russia was a problem for Trump, but not an urgent and immediate one. Rather, it was one that the Democrats would have needed to bring back to the fore.
Richard Grenell did all that work for them in six sentences.
More from D.J. McGuire: