Former President Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event on December 2, 2023 in Ankeny, Iowa.

(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Trump Pledges to Be a Dictator on 'Day One'

The former president's remarks came as his allies are reportedly preparing specific plans to wield the federal government to target political enemies, including journalists.

Amid mounting alarm over his authoritarian ambitions for a second term, former President Donald Trump said during a Fox News town hall on Tuesday that he would be a dictator only on "day one," pledging to unilaterally close the U.S.-Mexico border and accelerate fossil fuel drilling.

Trump's remarks came in response to a question from host Sean Hannity, who asked the former president if he would promise to never "abuse power as retribution against anybody."

"Except for day one," Trump replied. "I want to close the border and I want to drill, drill, drill... We're closing the border and we're drilling, drilling, drilling. After that, I'm not a dictator."

"The moment for resisting Trump is right now, not waiting until January 21, 2025."

President Joe Biden's 2024 campaign immediately highlighted Trump's comments, posting a clip on social media and saying in a statement that the former president "has been telling us exactly what he will do if he's reelected."

"Tonight he said he will be a dictator on day one," said Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez. "Americans should believe him."

Trump's remarks Tuesday were just the latest evidence that the former president is preparing to aggressively wield executive power and arms of the federal government to pursue a far-right agenda and target his political enemies if he wins another White House term next year.

The Washington Postreported last month that Trump and his allies "have begun mapping out specific plans for using the federal government to punish critics and opponents... with the former president naming individuals he wants to investigate or prosecute and his associates drafting plans to potentially invoke the Insurrection Act on his first day in office to allow him to deploy the military against civil demonstrations."

"Much of the planning for a second term has been unofficially outsourced to a partnership of right-wing think tanks in Washington," the Post noted. "Dubbed 'Project 2025,' the group is developing a plan, to include draft executive orders, that would deploy the military domestically under the Insurrection Act."

During a speech in New Hampshire last month, Trump promised to "root out" those he dubbed "radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country," a threat that critics likened to Nazi rhetoric.

The former president, who is currently facing more than 90 felony charges, also pledged that his administration would carry out "the largest domestic deportation operation in American history," revive the Muslim ban, slash taxes for the wealthiest even further, and accelerate pipeline approvals.

The New York Timesreported Tuesday that a Trump confidant who is "likely to serve in a senior national security role in any new Trump administration" threatened to "target journalists for prosecution if the former president regains the White House."

Kash Patel, who served as Trump's counterterrorism adviser on the National Security Council, said during an appearance on former Trump strategist Steve Bannon's podcast that "we will go out and find the conspirators, not just in government but in the media."

"Yes, we're going to come after the people in the media who lied about American citizens, who helped Joe Biden rig presidential elections—we're going to come after you. Whether it's criminally or civilly, we'll figure that out," Patel said. "We're actually going to use the Constitution to prosecute them for crimes they said we have always been guilty of but never have."

In a column published Tuesday, The Philadelphia Inquirer's Will Bunch expressed concern about what he described as the lack of mass mobilization against Trump's 2024 presidential campaign, given his openly fascistic threats and behind-the-scenes planning.

"Trump is back, and no one calls him a demagogue anymore—because that's too polite," Bunch wrote. "The 47th presidency he envisions is tyrannical, even dictatorial—siccing zealous MAGA prosecutors on his political enemies and the media, pardoning 2021's insurrectionists, mass detention camps for deporting migrants, and calling out troops to put down protests, perhaps as early as his Inauguration Day. And yet he is all but guaranteed the GOP nomination, and an even-money bet against President Joe Biden next fall."

"As I write this on Monday night, 'dictator' is a trending topic on X/Twitter. It could be trending nightly if the too-silent majority of Americans who believe in democracy don't take a more forceful stand," Bunch warned. "The moment for resisting Trump is right now, not waiting until January 21, 2025."

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