Trump: Political Violence 'Depends' on Election 'Fairness'

Trump addresses the crowd at a campaign rally in Schnecksville, Penn., on April 13. Credit - Victor J. Blue for TIME

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In an exclusive interview with TIME, former President Donald Trump raised the specter of potential political violence if he loses the 2024 election. “I think we’re going to win,” he says on April 27 when asked about the prospect of political violence tied to November’s elections. “And if we don’t win, you know, it depends. It always depends on the fairness of an election.”

Trump left office in January 2021 after an unprecedented assault on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of his supporters who believed his false allegations that the 2020 election was "stolen" from him by widespread voter fraud.

Read More: Public Officials Face Surge of Threats Ahead of 2024 Election

Trump says he doesn’t think that’s going to happen again. “I do think we're gonna win,” he says. Alluding to his unfounded claims that the last election was "rigged" by his political rivals, he says: "I don't believe they'll be able to do the things that they did the last time. I don't think they'll be able to get away with it."

Trump also tells TIME he might pardon the more than 800 men and women charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, most of whom have pleaded guilty. The assault left more than 140 law enforcement officers injured and sent lawmakers into hiding. More than 120 people have been accused of using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer, and members of extremist groups were found guilty of seditious conspiracy.

Trump has sought to recast the insurrectionist riot as an act of patriotism. "I call them the J-6 patriots," Trump tells TIME. When asked whether he would consider pardoning every one of them, he says: “Yes, absolutely.”

Read More: The United States of Political Violence

Trump is facing criminal cases in both Washington, D.C. and Georgia over his alleged efforts to subvert the 2020 election. Trump and his allies have denounced his mounting legal battles as a “political witch hunt.”

After the FBI searched Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence in August 2022, there was a surge of violent threats, with some supporters calling for “civil war.” Despite federal officials warning Trump to refrain from rhetoric that could "incite violence or civil unrest,” Trump has continued to attack prosecutors and judges, many of whom have now been assigned additional security protection.

Read More: Trump Attacks on Prosecutors and Judges Heighten Security Concerns

Trump’s false claims of voter fraud have also led to harassment and intimidation of election officials, many of whom have left office. One in five U.S. adults believe Americans may have to “resort to violence to get the country back on track,” according to a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll published April 3.

Data tracking the uptick in politically motivated threats of violence shows “the numbers basically rise steadily from 2016 to 2021, then often dip a bit after Trump retreats more from the scene,” says Rachel Kleinfeld, a political violence analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “But they are all higher than they were before Trump took office, sometimes astronomically so.”

Write to Vera Bergengruen at