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Trump says Democrats' convention was 'gloomiest' in history

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — President Donald Trump sought to cast a more positive light on his presidency Friday after four days of bashing at the Democratic National Convention, saying that where Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden sees “American darkness," he sees “American greatness.”

Trump was anxious for his turn in the spotlight after the four-day Democratic National Convention, which was culminated by Biden describing “a perfect storm" hitting the nation under Trump's watch as a result of the pandemic, the jolt to the economy that it delivered and racial unrest after the killing of George Floyd. It comes as Republicans are still finalizing plans for Trump's four-night show next week — in part in response to the virtual Democratic event.

“Over the last week, the Democrats held the darkest and angriest and gloomiest convention in American history,” Trump said in a speech to the GOP-aligned Council for National Policy in Arlington. “They spent four straight days attacking America as racist, a horrible country that must be redeemed. ”

Biden, in his nomination acceptance speech, portrayed Trump as someone who tries to divide Americans. “United we can and will overcome this season of darkness in America,” he said. Trump, in recent speeches, has sought to find political advantage in images of unrest and violence in American cities and has positioned himself as a defender of law and order. He did so again on Friday, saying that if he loses, “no one will be safe in our country and no one will be spared."

Trump and the Democrats agreed on one thing, however. Just as the Democrats had repeatedly contended Thursday night, Trump declared, “The future of our country and indeed our civilization is at stake on Nov. 3.”

He chided the Democrats, saying their convention did not address the threat that China posed to the U.S. or bringing safety to Democratic-run cities. He also jabbed at former President Barack Obama, saying, “You can’t be a great president when much of what he has done we have undone.”

As preparations for Trump's unprecedented acceptance speech were underway on the South Lawn of the White House, Republican Party planners were still finalizing the sequencing of next week's Republican National Convention. Organizers and Trump himself were said to be closely monitoring the Democratic event for what worked and what didn't, hoping that will provide them an advantage in putting together the Republican convention.

While most of the program has yet to be announced, some details were emerging. First lady Melania Trump is to speak on Tuesday evening from the White House Rose Garden, while Vice President Mike Pence will speak Wednesday from Baltimore's Fort McHenry. Other speakers include Trump-allied GOP lawmakers, as well as the St. Louis couple who waved firearms at Black Lives Matter protesters outside their home in June.

Patricia and Mark McCloskey, who are white, have claimed they were protecting themselves from protesters marching on their private street, but they were each charged by a local prosecutor with one felony count of unlawful use of a weapon. Trump has been critical of their treatment and has spoken out in defense of the couple.

Trump, a former reality television host, has high production standards, though meeting them will be a challenge for the GOP. Trump resisted efforts to move to a virtual convention, going so far as to shift venues in an effort to carry on with an in-person gathering, so Republicans have had less time to plan than their rivals did.

Trump repeatedly criticized Democrats' reliance on pretaped videos, rather than live addresses, and GOP organizers were adjusting their plans to accommodate. “Live, by the way, is always much more exciting," he said Tuesday.

Pence said in an interview Friday that the RNC next week will focus on what Trump has accomplished, including on the economy and with his coronavirus response. Pence promised a heavy focus on GOP support for law and order and said the Democrats had failed to acknowledge violence plaguing some U.S. cities.

“We're going to make sure that the American people see the choice here,” Pence said. Both Trump and Pence have blamed outbreaks of violence on a radical left, which they have sought to associate with Biden and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris.

Trump made clear after the killing of Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, and the protests that called for changes to policing that he sides with law enforcement. He said there are always going to be “bad apples."

“We're with them and they're with us, and they've done a fantastic job," Trump said. Trump also gave his starkest warnings yet about the impact that mail-in voting could have on the election, saying the final results may not be known for an extended period.

“I don’t think you’ll know two weeks later. I don’t think you’ll know four weeks later," Trump said. Pence appeared on morning TV talk shows to counter Democrats and promote the Republican viewpoint hours after Democrats wrapped their four-day convention. He promised a “great lineup of leaders” next week, along with a “great number of voices from all across the country to talk about what this president has done.”

The Democrats argued at their convention that Trump is unfit to lead the country for another four years. Obama, a frequent target of Trump's broadsides, warned that democracy itself is at risk under Trump.

Pence said, “I didn't watch much of it and, frankly, I couldn't watch much of it. There was so much negativity, nothing but ad hominem attacks.”

Superville reported from Florida and Miller from Washington.

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