Former President Donald Trump said that he would be justified in telling federal prosecutors to go after his political rivals if he wins the White House next year, suggesting it would simply be payback for Democrats doing the same to him.
“What they’ve done is they’ve released the genie out of the box,” Trump said in an interview aired Thursday by Spanish-language outlet Univision.
Trump faces four indictments from state and federal prosecutors totaling 91 charges, which range from lying on business documents to violating anti-racketeering laws and conspiracy to defraud the United States. As the GOP’s presidential front-runner for 2024, he is campaigning while out on bail.
In response to a Univision question about his claims that the Justice Department and FBI had been “weaponized” and whether he would do the same if put back in the Oval Office, Trump said: “It’s not unique but it’s unique for the United States. Yeah, if they do this — and they’ve already done it — but if they want to follow through on this, yeah, it could certainly happen in reverse.”
He said: “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 of the election.”
Under the 22nd Amendment to the U.S Constitution, Trump would be barred from running for president again after serving two terms if he wins in 2024, so it is unclear why he would worry about someone “beating” him.
Though Trump has said that the indictments he faces are politically motivated, they have been notable for their scope and the amount of evidence that prosecutors have made public ahead of trial. In the indictment over the former president’s handling of classified documents, for example, prosecutors included pictures of materials stored in public areas of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club and in a bathroom.
Despite the evidence arrayed, Trump’s claims that he’s being selectively prosecuted have found receptive ears among a number of Republicans, with many seeing him as the best chance to defeat President Joe Biden in a rematch after the 2020 election that Trump lost handily.
Asa Hutchinson, a former federal prosecutor who is currently running in the back of the pack for the GOP presidential nod, drew boos from a Republican crowd recently with his assessment of Trump’s criminal cases.
“There is a significant likelihood that Donald Trump will be found guilty by a jury on a felony offense next year,” Hutchinson told the Florida Freedom Summit last week.
The Univision interview is not the first time Trump has said or hinted that he would try to use his official powers for revenge if he once again wins the White House. He has previously framed his entire 2024 campaign as one of retribution.
“I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed: I am your retribution,” he said at the Conservative Political Action Conference in March.
The Washington Post reported Sunday that Trump has already started thinking about individuals he would like to see investigated or prosecuted if he wins another term, and that his associates are looking at potentially invoking the Insurrection Act on his first day in office, which would give him broad emergency powers.
Among the targets on Trump’s list, according to the Post, are former White House chief of staff John Kelly and former Attorney General William Barr, as well as retired Army Gen. Mark Milley, the former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.