WASHINGTON-US President Donald Trump formally accepted the Republican nomination Thursday night before a crowd of supporters on a White House lawn, launching searing attacks against Joe Biden, his Democratic challenger in the November 3 election,  and calling him a “Trojan horse for socialism.”

“This is the most important election in the history of our country. At no time before have voters faced a clearer choice between two parties, two visions, two philosophies, or two agendas,” Trump said after he “profoundly” accepted his party’s nomination. With America gripped by the deadly coronavirus pandemic, a deep recession and racial unrest, Trump offered an opaque agenda for a second term, focusing instead on savaging Biden by name 41 separate times. In accepting the Democratic presidential nomination last week, Biden never mentioned Trump by name.

“At the Democrat national convention, Joe Biden and his party repeatedly assailed America as a land of racial, economic, and social injustice,” Trump said. “So tonight, I ask you a very simple question: How can the Democrat party ask to lead our country when it spends so much time tearing down our country?” Trump delivered his speech in front of a line of flags on a red-carpeted stage at the White House, a decision that raised ethics concerns and called into question whether doing so would be violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity while on duty. The president is exempt from that law. But over the past four days during the Republican National Convention (RNC) events Trump and officials have made numerous appearances from the White House in unorthodox ways.

Ethics expert Norm Eisen described Trump’s convention speech at the White House as “the greatest mass Hatch Act transgression in US history.” The RNC has notably lacked some key party figures and the presence of the last Republican president, George W. Bush. Meanwhile, Democrats’ convention included speeches by former Republican elected officials who have emerged as outspoken critics of the president. On Thursday, aides to the previous two Republican nominees for president, the late John McCain and the Utah senator Mitt Romney, released statements endorsing Biden. The Biden campaign hopes that support will motivate moderates and Republicans to support the centrist Democrat.

Biden, a former vice President, is leading President Trump across six key battleground states with less than three months to go before Election Day, according to a new CNBC-Change Research poll released Wednesday. In his lengthy speech Trump accused his opponent of “catastrophic betrayals and blunders,” and  warned of “left-wing anarchy and mayhem” if the Democrats retake the White House even as he stoked fears of the widespread protests this summer over systemic racism and police abuses. “Joe Biden is not a saviour of America’s soul,” Trump said. “He is the destroyer of America’s jobs. And if given the chance, he would be the destroyer of American greatness.”

He repeatedly portrayed Biden as a captive of the party’s left wing, including Senator Bernie Sanders, a left-wing politician. “Joe Biden is weak,” Trump said. “He takes his marching orders from liberal hypocrites who drive their cities into the ground while fleeing far from the scene of the wreckage.”

Leveraging all the trappings of the presidency, Trump addressed a crowd of more than 1,500 people, ignoring ethics rules about using the White House for partisan events and public health guidelines about social distancing and avoiding large gatherings during the coronavirus crisis. Sitting close together in narrow rows of chairs, the crowd was mostly unmasked and only slightly larger than the number of Americans who died of coronavirus on Wednesday. In a winding speech that lasted more than 70 minutes, Trump made an extraordinary pitch for black voters who have largely shunned his racially charged rhetoric and policies.

“I say very modestly that I have done more for the African American community than any president since Abraham Lincoln, our first Republican president,” Trump said. But he also stoked the fears of white voters, claiming again that Democrats “will demolish the suburbs” and that Biden seeks to defend law enforcement, something the former vice president has repeatedly said he opposes. 

Offering few specific proposals of his own at the close of a four-day convention that did not produce a party platform, Trump instead denounced the Democrats’ platform, which he called “the most extreme set of proposals ever put forward by a major party nominee.”

He sought to separate his administration’s accomplishments from his polarizing personality and to convince a fractious, nerve-jangled country that his presidency has succeeded. But the Trump campaign’s new slogan tacitly acknowledges the need for a do-over: “Make America Great Again. Again.” The speakers ahead of Trump largely highlighted scary stories about rampaging mobs, and ignored the pandemic that has killed more than 180,000 Americans and put up to 30 million Americans out of work. Several high-profile speakers, mostly Republicans, shared the evening’s under card, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senato Tom Cotton , House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the president’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump, and Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor and the president’s personal attorney.

Trump took the stage hours after Hurricane Laura hit parts of Louisiana and eastern Texas, leaving at least four dead and widespread damage, and as the capstone of a convention where not a single  speaker acknowledged the growing danger of human-caused global warming, a phenomenon that Trump has dismissed. His remarks also came as protests, and scattered vandalism, intensified this week after police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, seven times at close range in front of his children. Although the protests erupted on Trump’s watch, the speakers uniformly blamed Democrats, warning that Biden would make the country less safe.

“You can have four more years of President Trump,” said Patrick Lynch, president of New York City’s police union, “or you can have no safety, no justice, no peace.” As President Trump accepted the Republican nomination for reelection on the South Lawn, hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the White House barricades to protest racism and police brutality. Meanwhile, Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Devi Harris both gave forceful rebukes of Trump’s handling of the pandemic and of race relations on Thursday, effectively prebutting the president’s address in afternoon appearances.

Mrs. Harris delivered a systematic indictment of what she called the president’s “catastrophic” mismanagement of the virus. The former prosecutor marshaled evidence as if in a courtroom to argue that Trump had demonstrated “reckless disregard for the well-being of the American people” by failing to take the coronavirus more seriously in January and February. “Instead of rising to meet the most difficult moment of his presidency, Donald Trump froze,” Mrs. Harris said. “He was scared, and he was petty and vindictive.”