Trump said: ‘If I happen to be president and I see somebody doing well and beating me very badly, I say go down and indict them’
Donald Trump has suggested he would use the FBI and justice department to go after political rivals should he return to the White House next year in a move which will further stoke fears of what a second period of office for Trump could mean.
Trump made the comments during an interview with the Spanish-language television network Univision. Host Enrique Acevedo asked him about his flood of legal problems saying: “You say they’ve weaponized the justice department, they weaponized the FBI. Would you do the same if you’re re-elected?”
“They’ve already done it, but if they want to follow through on this, yeah, it could certainly happen in reverse,” Trump replied. “They’ve released the genie out of the box.”
“When you’re president and you’ve done a good job and you’re popular, you don’t go after them so you can win an election. They’ve done indictments in order to win an election. They call it weaponization,” Trump added. “But yeah they have done something that allows the next party, I mean if somebody, if I happen to be president and I see somebody who’s doing well and beating me very badly, I say go down and indict them, mostly they would be out of business. They’d be out. They’d be out of of the election.”
Prosecuting political rivals is a hallmark of authoritarian regimes and Trump’s remarks are the most candid public revelations so far of the anti-democratic power he would bring to a second term as president.
Trump is the overwhelming frontrunner in the Republican race for the 2024 nomination and no rival has yet emerged to seriously challenge him. In recent national polls against Joe Biden, Trump has also frequently been shown to be ahead – unnerving many Democrats.
The Washington Post reported earlier this month that Trump and his allies are already discussing how to use the justice department to prosecute and exact revenge against people who have spoken out against Trump, including former attorney general Bill Barr and his former chief of staff John Kelly.
He is also reportedly considering invoking the Insurrection Act on his first day in office, should he win, which would allow him to deploy the military against domestic protesters.
Trump faces four separate criminal cases, including two different federal ones dealing with his handling of classified documents and his efforts to overturn the election. Both of those cases were brought by Jack Smith, a justice department special counsel appointed by attorney general Merrick Garland, to insulate the cases from political pressure.
If Trump wins the election, he would almost certainly fire Smith if the investigation is still ongoing, or pardon himself if he has been convicted.