Former President Trump participated in a town hall hosted by Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Tuesday, a night before the fourth Republican primary debate that the GOP frontrunner is once again skipping.
The former president was asked questions by only Hannity of a variety of topics, from reports that cast his second term as a dictatorship, President Biden’s age and health and Trump’s stances on foreign policy and energy issues before a friendly crowd that largely cheered Trump on when he took the stage.
The event comes just weeks ahead of the Iowa caucus on Jan. 15, 2024, the first in the nation caucuses in the primary calendar and in a state Trump is leading his main GOP rivals by double-digits, according to recent surveys.
Here are five takeaways from Trump’s town hall with Hannity.
Trump answers ‘dictator’ question
In one of Hannity’s early questions of Trump, he asked the former president about media reports from over the weekend that cast a potential second-term as a dictatorship, something Trump’s allies later fired back on.
“They want to call you a dictator,” Hannity said referring to the media reports. “To be clear, 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?”
“You mean like they’re using right now,” Trump initially responded, before pivoting to speaking about the criminal indictments he faces.
Hannity again revisited the question just before a commercial break, asking: “[U]nder no circumstances. You are promising America tonight. You would never abuse power as retribution against anybody?”
“Except for day one,” Trump responded.
“Except, what? Hannity asked, before Trump said “He’s going crazy. Except for day one.”
“Meaning?” Hannity asked.
“I want to close the border and I want to drill, drill, drill,” Trump responded.
“That’s not retribution,” Hannity said.
“I love this guy, he says, ‘you’re not going to be a dictator are you?’ 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,” Trump said to the Fox News host.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) and President Biden’s reelection campaign quickly seized on the comments, with the campaign sharing a video of the remarks and the DNC sharing the video with the caption “And there you have it.” The Biden campaign also blasted out an email to its supports right after the town hall wrapped with the subject line: “Donald Trump: Day One Dictator.”
Trump swipes at Biden’s ‘cognitive state’
Trump bashed Biden after being asked about the current president’s “cognitive state” amid concerns about the president’s age and health as he runs for reelection for another four years.
Trump initially responded that it’s “not for me to say,” but went on to suggest that Biden “doesn’t know he’s alive” and contended he doesn’t think the president can “physically” make it through another term.
“Nuclear weapons are the biggest problem we have. And we have a man that can’t put two sentences together. We have a man that doesn’t know he’s alive. And he’s backed up by the media,” the former president added.
At 81, Biden is the oldest sitting president in the country’s history, and would be 86 at the end of a second term — which has prompted concerns about his health and whether he’s too old for reelection.
Trump is just a few years younger, at 77.
Hannity noted Biden criticism from some Democrats — including from former President Obama’s senior adviser David Axelrod, who recently suggested Biden drop out of the 2024 race — and asked Trump whether he thinks the incumbent will be the Democrats’ nominee in 2024.
“I personally don’t think he makes it. I haven’t said that, I’ve been saving it for this big town hall,” Trump said, adding that he thinks Biden is in “bad shape physically” and joking that if he blew on Biden, the president would fall over.
“I personally don’t think he makes it physically,” Trump said. “Mentally, I would say he’s equally as bad and maybe worse.”
Trump likens himself to Al Capone
The former president likened himself to infamous gangster Al Capone in talking about the slew of criminal indictments he faces both on the federal and state levels involving the potential mishandling of classified documents and election interference.
“I’ve often said, Al Capone, he was one of the greatest of all time, if you like criminals. He was a mob boss, the likes of which — Scarface, they call him. And he got indicted once. I got indicted four times,” Trump said to laughter from the crowd. “I wonder what my father and mother would say looking down.”
Trump has previously said he’s been indicted more than Capone, including in a speech last month in Iowa. The former president has criminal indictments in four separate cases, making him the first former or current president to ever be indicted for an alleged crime.
He has pleaded not guilty to all 91 charges he faces. His legal troubles have so far only widened his massive lead in the Republican primary ahead of his opponents.
The indictments involve the potential mishandling of classified documents, some of which were taken as part of an FBI search of his Florida estate in Mar-a-Lago, his efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia, a federal case over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol, and falsifying business records in a hush money case in New York.
Energy, foreign policy at forefront
Energy and foreign policy were at the forefront as Trump talked about his priorities and actions he’d take during a second term in the Oval Office.
Responding to Hannity’s questions about whether he’d act as a “dictator” or “abuse power as retribution” during another presidential term, Trump said he’d do so only on day one — to close the border and to drill for oil.
“We will close the border. Day one: the border gets closed. Day one and a half: we drill,” Trump said. “And probably on day two we will get rid of this ridiculous electric car mandate.”
On energy, he also claimed that U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is laughed at by people “all over the world” as he pushes to get rid of coal plants.
Kerry said this week that “there shouldn’t be any more coal power plants permitted anywhere in the world,” sounding alarms about the connections between the climate crisis and health problems.
“Our country can be rich again. John Kerry has to be stopped. He is destroying our country, this guy,” Trump told Hannity. “He goes all over the world talking to these people about getting rid of coal plants. They all laugh at him.”
And on foreign policy, Trump stressed concerns about the southern border and touted the controversial travel ban that went into effect during his administration, targeting several Muslim-majority countries.
“Remember, I had the travel ban. I said ‘I don’t want people coming from countries that want to blow us up.’ And we put a travel ban and some people thought I was discriminating, but think about it. I went four years with no problem,” Trump said.
“We didn’t have buildings being knocked down. We didn’t have World Trade Centers,” he added, in apparent reference to the 9/11 terror attacks in New York City.
Trump expressed confidence going into the Iowa caucus next month, saying he had two big victories there the last two times he ran in 2016 and 2020 and expects to win by even more in 2024.
He also said he plans to spend the weeks leading up to the caucus “blitzing” Iowa.
“I love you very much. You’ve been so incredible to me. I’m gonna be around for the next, you know, five weeks now. And we’ll be coming here a little bit and then the last couple of weeks we’ll be blitzing because we don’t want to take—we’re up I guess by like 30 or 40 points, but we’re not taking any chances. We don’t want to take any chances,” Trump said.
Polls have consistently shown Trump leading his rivals by more than 20 percentage points in Iowa and his lead in national polls is even greater.
The former president also touted that he fought to keep Iowa caucuses first in the nation after the Democrats opted to put South Carolina first in 2024, in a move pushed by Biden.
“Iowa represents this country more than any place and it also represents tradition. When you think of Iowa you think of farms and politics. And we’re going to keep it that way, okay?” Trump said as part of his final remarks.
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Source: The Hill
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