Trumps conviction intensifies his calls for retribution in a second term


(WASHINGTON) — Former President Donald Trump continues to center his third presidential campaign on retribution against his political allies, saying in a recent interview that at times revenge is “justified” — comments that President Joe Biden’s campaign seized on Friday to point to Trump’s focus on personal and political retribution.

“Donald Trump is back on [the] trail — now a convicted felon but still unhinged and consumed by his obsession with revenge,” the Biden campaign’s Ammar Moussa said in a statement to ABC News.

Trump is a “diminished, small man who only cares about himself, his billionaire donors, and his own revenge,” Moussa said in the statement.

In an interview with television host Dr. Phil McGraw — best known as “Dr. Phil,” Trump was asked about his calls for retribution, and his claims of taking action against some political opponents. Though Trump originally said he would work on forgiving and forgetting, he quickly changed his tune after McGraw, referencing the pope, said forgiveness was necessary in order to avoid revenge.

“Well revenge does take time. I will say that, and sometimes revenge can be justified,” Trump said in the interview that aired Thursday night.

“You know the word ‘revenge’ is a very strong word, but maybe we have revenge for success. But that’s what I’d like to see. I want to see the country survive, because this country is not going to survive like this.”

Trump’s calls for retribution started the month he was indicted — first mentioned while he was rallying his most fervent supporters at CPAC in March.

“In 2016, I declared ‘I am your voice.’ Today I add: ‘I am your warrior. I am your justice, and for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution,"” Trump said at the political conference.

Now, Trump’s calls for retribution have intensified on the campaign trail after his 34-count conviction in his Manhattan hush-money trial.

“We’re going to show them that we’re going to fight,” Trump said in a speech at Trump Tower the day after his guilty verdict.

Since then, Trump has floated the idea of the potential that Democrats could be subject to investigations and possible imprisonment because they have gone after him.

“It’s a very terrible thing, it’s a terrible precedent for our country,” said Trump in an interview with Newsmax earlier this week. “Does that mean the next president does it to them? That’s really the question, you know.”

“So you know, it’s a terrible, terrible path that they’re leading us to, and it’s very possible that it’s going to have to happen to them.”

Then, on Thursday, during an interview with KNXV, a Phoenix ABC station, Trump repeatedly declined to rule out prosecuting Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who brought the hush-money payment case to court. It’s not known how Trump would order that prosecution.

​​​​”Alvin Bragg did some very bad things,” Trump said when asked if he’d prosecute Bragg, repeating his claims that the district attorney is backed by Democrats and that the judge in the case was “highly conflicted.”

Again pressed if he would prosecute Bragg, Trump said “I’m not going to say anything one way or the other,” adding “we’re going to see what happens.”

When the interviewer noted he didn’t jail his political opponents during his first term and asked if that approach has changed now that he’s convicted, Trump responded that he thought it would be a “horrible thing” to arrest and jail the wife of a former president of the United States — referring to Hillary Clinton who was his rival in the 2016 general election. He went on to say, “The world is different now. They’re doing things that were never done.”

After receiving backlash, Trump has modified his language, pivoting his sentiments to argue that he was claiming he was talking about retribution as a form of “success,” not revenge — saying “my revenge will be success.”

However, his conviction has only motivated him and his base to more frequently use rhetoric that leaves the door open to violence.

In an interview with Fox News last weekend, his first sit-down interview since his conviction, Trump struggled to say whether he’d pursue revenge in his possible second administration, saying he wants to bring the country together, but also repeatedly saying his political opponents are “bad” and “evil” people.

“It’s a really tough question, in one way, because these are bad people — these people are sick and things that are so destructive,” Trump said when asked about his previous comments about revenge.

“My revenge will be success,” he added, saying he would bring the country together, but again railed against “evil people” that are going after him.

Trump’s retribution comments haven’t just involved his own legal battles. He has also attacked entities that have gone after his political allies, most recently the House committee that investigated the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

This week, a judge ruled former Trump adviser Steve Bannon must report to prison by next month, which led the former president to defended Bannon by calling for the Jan. 6 committee to be indicted, pushing unfounded claims that they deleted and destroyed evidence.

“The unAmerican Weaponization of our Law Enforcement has reached levels of Illegality never thought possible before,” Trump wrote in a post on his social media network. “INDICT THE UNSELECT J6 COMMITTEE FOR ILLEGALLY DELETING AND DESTROYING ALL OF THEIR ‘FINDINGS!"”

At times, some have attempted to steer Trump away from his violent rhetoric, as Democrats have used his words against him. Still, Trump has doubled down.

McGraw argued that Trump wouldn’t “have time to get even” if he were elected for a second term. He also presented to Trump a “what if” scenario in an attempt to allow the former president to potentially shift the conversation in a more positive direction.

“What if when you win this election, you said, ‘Enough is enough. Too much is too much. This is a race to the bottom, and it stops here. It stops now,"” McGraw asked.

Trump said he was “OK with that,” but then made claims about those who “spied” on his campaign — referencing that the FBI intercepted communications of someone associated with his campaign who communicated with Russian agents during 2016 election.

“What they’ve done is bad,” Trump said.

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