Former President Donald Trump refused in a prime time town hall to rule out abusing power to go after his critics – saying he he wouldn’t do it ‘except for Day One’ – when given multiple opportunities to forswear plans for vengeance or a power grab.
Trump made the extraordinary statements after Fox News host Sean Hannity questioned him directly on some of the worst charges from his critics – that he planned to ‘abuse power’ or use the justice system to take down his political rivals, and pointing out that some want to call him ‘a dictator.’
‘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,’ Hannity asked him.
‘You mean like they’re using right now?’ Trump responded, without answering the question directly.
‘Except for Day One,’ former President Donald Trump said when Fox News host Sean Hannity asked him to rule out abusing power
‘So in the history of our country? What’s happened to us again, has never happened before. Over nonsense over nothing made up charges,’ Trump said, returning to a refrain about being indicted more times (four) than infamous Chicago mobster Al Capone.
After Trump pivoted to other subjects in the sit-down interview, Hannity came back to the topic, after earlier playing a famous Trump clip telling supporters ‘I am your retribution.’
‘You are promising America tonight you would never abuse power as retribution?’ Hannity asked the former president, who is leading President Joe Biden in a series of polls.
‘Except for Day One,’ Trump answered.
‘Meaning?’ Hannity asked him.
‘I want to close the border and I want to drill, drill, drill.’
‘That’s not retribution,’ Hannity pointed out.
Then Trump tried to get a laugh out of the line.
‘He says: You’re not going to be a dictator. 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.’
A Biden-Harris account tweeted out the clip, appending the line, ‘Trump: I will be a dictator on day one.’
Trump didn’t respond directly when Hannity asked him to promise ‘you would never abuse power’
Trump made the comment to Hannity in a televised town hall that aired in prime time. He is skipping Wednesday’s GOP presidential debate in Alabama
The Biden campaign made hay out of Trump’s comments about ‘Day One’
Hannity queried Trump about his plans after after playing a clip of former House Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) called the threat of a Trump dictatorship ‘a very real threat.’
Cheney, who served on the House January 6 committee and who is promoting a new book, said Monday that the 2024 election might ‘be the last election that you ever get to vote in’ if Trump wins.
Hannity himself gave a boost to some of the claims that Trump and his GOP allies have been making about his prosecution, putting up a graphic about a ‘politicized and weaponized’ Justice Department.
Trump is facing 91 counts in four criminal indictments, with his D.C. trial on his election overturn effort set to begin March 4, a day before Super Tuesday.
The Biden-Harris campaign pounced on the comment with a statement from Campaign Manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez.
‘Donald Trump has been telling us exactly what he will do if he’s reelected and tonight he said he will be a dictator on day one. Americans should believe him,’ she said.
Hannity also asked him about Biden’s comment Tuesday that ‘if Trump wasn’t running, I’m not sure I’d be running.’
‘Somebody gave him a talking point,’ Trump said, dismissing the comment.
Both Trump and Hannity accused Biden of suffering cognitive decline.
Trump also appeared to predict a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
He did so after repeating his claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not have invaded Ukraine if he were president.
‘I used to speak to Putin about it. It was the apple of his eye – Ukraine,’ Trump said.
‘I said don’t do it,’ Trump claimed, suggesting a threat.
He said Putin ‘believed me 10 per cent,’ which was enough to deter him.
Then he turned to Chinese President Xi Jinping, saying they ‘had the same exact conversation.’
‘He’s looking at Taiwan very strongly. It would have never happened. And again for four years, it didn’t happen, and it was never going to happen. It would have never happened … And now it’s very possibly going to happen, which would be a shame,’ he said.
Trump went after Biden when Hannity teed up a question about Biden ‘struggling cognitively.’ He also played a clip with awkward pauses in Biden remarks.
‘He wasn’t able to lift the beach chair, which is meant for children to lift,’ said Trump. ‘And mentally, I would say he’s possibly equally as bad and maybe worse. I don’t know. I will say this: He’s got vicious people surrounding him around that beautiful Oval Office.’
Trump sat with Hannity in Davenport, Iowa, promising ‘We’ll be blitzing’ during the last few weeks before the Iowa Caucuses.
‘We’re not taking any chances. We don’t want to take any chances,’ Trump said.
It came days after Hannity hosted a debate between Trump’s primary rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).
‘Considering that he didn’t have the facts, I thought he did well,’ Trump said of Hannity.
He took a few shots at DeSantis, calling him ‘deSanctimonious.’
He tried to stir the pot by saying Vice President Kamala Harris would be ‘the one, the odds to beat’ in the event Biden ended his campaign.
‘They say if they didn’t give it to her, the African American vote, the black vote, would not go to them,’ Trump said.
The interview came 24 hours before the fourth Republican presidential debate in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Trump is skipping it, although DeSantis and other rivals said he should attend.
Trump is instead holding a fundraiser in Miami.
Trump, 77, also said he doesn’t think Biden, 81, will make it to 2024.
‘I personally don’t think he makes it, okay?’ Trump told Hannity.
Trump brought up Biden’s 2018 comment that ‘I could take him behind the gym,’ commenting on giving Trump a beating over his infamous ‘Access Hollywood’ comments about grabbing women by the genitals.
‘I think he’s in bad shape physically. Do you remember when he said, I’d like to take him behind the barn?’ Trump said, substituting barn for gym.
‘He could say that and everyone thought it was so cute. If I ever said they’d say, “He’s a dictator!”‘ Trump complained.