CLEVELAND — Republican delegates officially nominated Donald Trump as their party standard-bearer Tuesday night. But the night’s speeches, grouped under the economic theme “Make America Work Again,” were focused squarely on Hillary Clinton.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie led the assault, presenting a mock trial of Clinton during his address in one of the most spirited moments of the night. Christie turned the delegates into the jury and asked them to judge her “guilty” or “not guilty” on various charges of his devising, including supporting the overthrow of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Each time, the delegates shouted “guilty!”
Though Christie said he was presenting the case against her “performance and her character,” the delegates began yelling for Clinton to be literally thrown in jail. They drowned out Christie by chanting “Lock her up!” Christie nodded as the delegates yelled.
This wasn’t the only time Clinton has been accused of crimes at the RNC. On Monday night, the mother of a State Department official who was killed in the Benghazi terror attack in 2012 said she held Clinton “personally responsible” for her son’s death as many delegates wiped tears away from their eyes.
The FBI and Justice Department recently announced they did not find any criminal wrongdoing in Clinton’s use of private email servers while she was secretary of state, and a lengthy House Republican investigation into how the State Department handled the Benghazi terror attack turned up no clear evidence of professional misconduct. But speakers and delegates insist Clinton is guilty of something, and a theme that she is above the law permeates the convention. (Vendors outside the arena sell “Hillary for Prison” buttons.) “She needs her comeuppance,” said Wisconsin delegate Barb Finger, who believes Clinton mishandled the aftermath of the Benghazi attack. “I don’t know if you could indict her criminally, but it’s something she should be punished for.”
Other speakers railed on Clinton as untrustworthy — hitting on a theme that dogged the former secretary of state during the Democratic primary.
“Not since Baghdad Bob has there been a public figure with such a tortured relationship with the truth,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell, who barely mentioned Trump in his speech.
Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin introduced himself to the crowd as the man who got under Clinton’s skin in the House hearings on Benghazi. “If we can’t trust her to tell the truth, how can we possibly trust her to lead America?” Johnson asked.
National Rifle Association official Chris Cox argued that voting for Clinton would mean voting for the end of the Second Amendment. (The Clinton campaign called Cox’s claim false, saying she wants “common sense gun safety measures consistent with the Second Amendment,” such as universal background checks.)
Perhaps the most extreme Clinton slam of the night came from former presidential candidate Ben Carson, who warned that the nation should be “one nation under God,” not “one nation under Lucifer.” He implied that Clinton felt an allegiance to the devil because she wrote her senior thesis on community organizer Saul Alinsky. “Are we willing to elect someone as president who has as their role model someone who acknowledges Lucifer?” Carson asked.
One of the few speakers who did not raise the specter of a Clinton presidency was Trump himself, who addressed the crowd in a video from Trump Tower in New York. (He’s taking the unusual tack of addressing the convention every night, instead of just the final night.) “’This is a movement, but we have to go all the way,” he said on the convention Jumbotron.