Former President Donald Trump repeatedly declined to say that he wouldn’t abuse power or retaliate against his political enemies should he be elected to another four-year presidential term next year, adding he planned to act like a “dictator” only on “day one” of a new administration.
Trump spoke with Fox News host Sean Hannity during a town hall event in Iowa on Tuesday. Hannity repeatedly asked the former president about recent attacks on him, including from former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who said the country was “sleepwalking into a dictatorship” through its support of Trump.
“Do you in any way have any plans whatsoever if reelected president to abuse power, to break the law, to use the government to go after people?” Hannity asked.
“You mean like they’re using right now?” Trump replied.
Hannity later tried to ask the question again.
Hannity: The media has been focused on this and attacking you: Under no circumstances, you are promising America tonight, you would never abuse power as retribution against anybody.
Trump: Except for day one... Look, he’s going crazy.
Trump: I want to close the border, and I want to drill, drill, drill.
Hannity quickly attempted to rein in Trump’s remarks, saying: “That’s not retribution.”
“He says: ‘You’re not going to be a dictator are you?’” Trump replied. “I said no, no, no, other than day one. We’re closing the border and we’re drilling, drilling, drilling. After that I’m not a dictator.”
The former president remains the far-and-away front-runner for the Republican nomination for president in 2024, and recent polls show him leading in a potential match-up against President Joe Biden. While such polls are notoriously unreliable so far from an election, Trump has maintained a vise grip on core blocs of the Republican Party. His recent appearances have sparked concern from moderates about his appeal to the far-right and his pledge to oust his political enemies.
“The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous and grave than the threat from within,” he said recently, calling his opponents “vermin” who needed to be “rooted out.”
Those comments, on Veterans Day, have sparked comparisons to the rhetoric of fascist dictators and totalitarian leaders.
“He’s told us what he will do. It’s very easy to see the steps that he will take,” Cheney said last week. “People who say ‘Well, if he’s elected, it’s not that dangerous because we have all of these checks and balances’ don’t fully understand the extent to which the Republicans in Congress today have been co-opted.”