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RNC Day 1: Controversy erupts over Melania Trump’s speech

Donald Trump escorts his wife Melania after her

Donald Trump escorts his wife Melania after her speech on the first day of the 2016 Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on July 18, 2016. Credit: EPA / Michael Reynolds

The model’s model

Donald Trump’s de-facto campaign manager pushed back Tuesday morning on allegations that prospective first lady Melania Trump and her team had lifted passages from a 2008 speech by Michelle Obama and used them in remarks Trump made on the opening night of the national GOP gathering in this Midwestern city.

Paul Manafort said Trump wasn’t “cribbing” Obama’s address, Newsday’s Emily Ngo reports.

“There’s no cribbing of Michelle Obama’s speech. These were common words and values. She cares about her family,” Manafort said in an interview on CNN’s “New Day.” “To think that she’d be cribbing Michelle Obama’s words is crazy.”

A man of ‘simple goodness’

When Melania Trump addressed the Republican convention Monday night, she described a man unrecognizable from the candidate repeatedly called out by leaders of his own party as appealing to racism, misogyny and other forms of bigotry.

Donald Trump “gets things done,” she said, and would work on behalf of Christians, Jews, Muslims, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and the poor. She spoke of “the simple goodness” of her husband’s heart.

Still, Trump and those vouching for him face a tall order to undo in a four-day convention the impressions he has made over more than a year of campaigning and during decades of serial belligerence at those who got on his wrong side.

Newsday’s Michael Gormley covered the day’s main events.

That was fast

Trump’s decision to appear on stage on the convention’s first day was unusual, and his campaign manager, asked earlier on CNN whether he would be brief or not in introducing his wife, said, “I’m not sure.”

As it turned out, Trump spoke for barely more than a minute, sparing his wife the extended heel-cooling time inflicted on running mate Mike Pence when the candidate introduced him Saturday.

The take-away: Testimonial din

Look for more gushing tributes Tuesday from both conventional sources — Trump children Tiffany and Donald Jr. — and the flamboyant, such as Dana White, president of Ultimate Fighting Championship, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

Giuliani’s time arrives

Rudy Giuliani, who failed to win a single delegate in his own 2008 presidential race, electrified the convention audience, ripping Hillary Clinton as soft on terrorism and negligent on Benghazi.

With a crank-up-the-volume fire rarely heard on his own behalf, Giuliani went beyond expected themes, including law and order, to give Trump a glowing character reference as “a man with a big heart who loves people, all people.”

“I am sick and tired of the definition of Donald Trump by the media and the Clinton campaign,” the former New York mayor said. Gormley covered the speech.

Trump bigfoots Benghazi mom

Pat Smith, the mother of one of four men killed at Benghazi, tried to do what an 11-hour congressional hearing did not: turn more voters against Clinton for her handling of the 2012 terror attack on the Libyan outpost and its aftermath.

With raw anguish, Smith said, “I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son,” Foreign Service information management officer Sean Smith. “If Hillary Clinton can’t give us the truth, why should be give her the presidency?”

CNN and MNSBC carried Smith’s emotionally gripping story live, but Fox News did not. That’s because Trump was doing a live interview with Bill O’Reilly.

‘There’s something going on’

Trump was back in his conspiracy-theorist voice earlier Monday, speaking about President Barack Obama’s comments Sunday after the killings of three police officers in Baton Rouge.

“I watched the president and sometimes the words are OK,” Trump said in a morning call-in to Fox News. “But you just look at the body language. There’s something going on.”

Pressed to explain what he meant, Trump said, “There’s just a bad feeling, a lot of bad feeling about him.”

Clinton: Stop the ‘madness’

Clinton spoke to the NAACP convention in Cincinnati Monday and called for an end to the “madness” after the Baton Rouge police shootings, Newsday’s Laura Figueroa reports.

“They represent the rule of law itself; if you take aim at that and at them, you take aim at all of us,” Clinton said. “We have difficult, painful, essential work ahead of us to repair the bonds between our police and our communities, and between and among each other.” (Video here.)

#NeverTrump’s last gasp

Anti-Trump Republicans lost what appeared to be their last stand on the convention floor Monday afternoon when, over loud and angry protests, they were refused a roll-call vote in their effort to change convention rules, Gormley reports.

The chair declared the rules favored by Trump and Republican National Committee leaders had prevailed in a voice vote. The rules mean delegates bound to Trump must vote for his nomination even if they favor another candidate.

How’s that unity thing going?

Trump’s allies took swipes by name at Republican no-shows.

Campaign chairman Paul Manafort said Ohio Gov. John Kasich is “making a big mistake” by not attending the convention and “embarrassing his state, frankly.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said the Bush family is “behaving childishly.” He called out Mitt Romney and George Pataki, too, saying, “I’ve never seen so many bad losers.”

Table for three

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton may not be the only candidates on the presidential debate stage this fall if enough unhappy voters are still looking for an alternative, writes Newsday’s William Goldschlag.

The Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, needs to score an average of 15 percent support in the most recent major polls after Labor Day to get his invitation. It’s not a far-fetched possibility.

Day 2: What to see Tuesday

The theme of the day is “Make America Work Again.”

The scheduled speakers will include the top two Republicans in Congress — House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — who have been frequent critics of Trump.

Also, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was openly disappointed he was not chosen as Trump’s running mate, and Ben Carson. See a full speakers list here.

What else is happening

  • Omarosa Manigault, a star contestant on Trump’s NBC show “The Apprentice,” announced that she had been named the campaign’s director of African-American outreach.
  • Thousands showed up in Cleveland to demonstrate for and against Trump. The protests were fiery but peaceful, says Newsday’s Darran Simon.
  • Clinton said her campaign will launch an effort to register at least 3 million new voters, Newsday’s Laura Figueroa reports.
  • Democratic National Party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is in Cleveland trolling the GOP convention and says it will serve as a “great recruiting tool” for Clinton’s campaign, Newsday’s Emily Ngo reports.
  • Ngo and Gormley report that Gingrich encouraged New York Republicans to use tools such as social media to expand and seek diversity. He also urged them to confront an uncomfortable truth: “No white American understands the pressure of being an African-American.”
  • Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) tells Gormley in an interview that congressional Republicans now feel they can work with a President Trump, who spent much of his campaign criticizing them.
  • Clinton will be campaigning in Florida Friday and Saturday, around the time she’s expected to announce her pick for vice president.
  • Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter for Trump’s 1987 book, “The Art of the Deal,” tells The New Yorker he feels “a deep sense of remorse” in helping to depict Trump as “more appealing than he is.” Today, he’d rename the book “The Sociopath.”

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