After his historic guilty verdict, Trump is focused on revenge

June 10, 2024
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Donald Trump wants to talk about revenge, and neither Sean Hannity nor Dr. Phil can stop him. 

Both have tried. 

Fresh off his historic guilty verdict in New York, Trump’s public comments, including in interviews with both men, have increasingly focused on the idea of “retribution” against his enemies if he returns to the White House. 

It’s rhetoric driven by Trump’s obsession that President Joe Biden and Democrats orchestrated a series of legal problems intended to derail his presidential campaign — a political persecution theory not supported by the facts. 

On May 31, a New York jury unanimously found Trump guilty on 34 counts related to falsifying business records tied to a $130,000 payment he made to an adult film star during the 2016 election. The Biden administration had nothing to do with the case.

But for Trump, it’s all politics, and revenge may need to be meted out.

“Well, revenge does take time, I will say that,” Trump said during a Thursday interview with Dr. Phil. “And sometimes revenge can be justified, Phil, I have to be honest. Sometimes it can.”

Trump, whose campaign did not return a request seeking comment, has done at least five interviews since his guilty verdict. In all five, he has talked about possible retribution. 

“I think there should be concern,” said Ty Cobb, the attorney who served as a White House attorney during the Trump administration. “From a 30,000 foot view, what I see is Trump angrier now than he was before because he is convicted now.”

The Dr. Phil interview came one day after Trump sat down with Hannity and at times seemed to debate himself over the idea of exacting revenge.

At one point, Trump said “they’re wrong” when the Fox News host asked about those who say Trump will use his administration for revenge, but in the same breath, he laid out potential opportunities.

“Look when this election is over, based on what they’ve done, I would have every right to go after them,” Trump said. “And it’s easy because it’s Joe Biden, and you see all the criminality, all of the money that’s going into the family and him, all of this money from China, from Russia, from Ukraine.”

Hannity tried to steer Trump away from the idea of revenge, at one point interrupting to try and encourage him to say political retribution “has to stop.”

Dr. Phil, too, tried to get Trump to say he would not seek revenge if he wins in November.

“That is a big issue and I leaned very strongly into the position of saying ‘look, this is not going to help this country,’” Dr. Phil told CNN of his interview with Trump. 

In other interviews and public appearances, Trump has made similar comments. 

On Tuesday, in an interview with the conservative outlet Newsmax, Trump seemed to float the possibility of imprisoning his political opponents if he becomes president again. 

“So, you know, it’s a terrible, terrible path that they’re leading us to, and it’s very possible that it’s going to have to happen to them,” Trump said. 

“Does that mean the next president does it to them? That’s really the question,” he added.

He has also suggested that there would be a “breaking point“ for the public if he is sentenced to jail time or house arrest, as he awaits his sentencing set for July 11. 

An open desire to seek revenge on political enemies is not something new for Trump or his supporters. 

While still president in 2020, Trump took to social media to ask “Where are all the arrests?” echoing his supporters’ criticism that his own attorney general, William Barr, had not arrested the likes of Biden, former President Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton over what Trump said was illegal activity tied to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. 

Trump also made “lock her up” a rallying cry during his 2016 campaign against Clinton, promising his supporters he would put the former secretary of state in jail if elected. Trump recently denied ever saying “lock her up” despite ample video of him saying just that throughout the 2016 election.

Trump often portrays his calls for retribution as something he’s doing on behalf of all his supporters. 

“I know a lot of Republicans who want retribution,” Trump told NBC News on Thursday at Mar-a-Lago. “They want to do that. We’re going to see what happens.”

He told a crowd at the 2023 Conservative Political Action Conference that “for those who have been wrong and betrayed, I am your retribution.” In January, he said on Fox News that he is “not going to have time for retribution” if elected — comments that came just hours after he sent out a fundraising email again telling supporters “I AM YOUR RETRIBUTION.”  

But as the full weight of his legal problems have come into view this year — and especially since his guilty verdict — this revenge-fueled language has taken center stage. 

“Even Hannity recognized that this was dangerous territory and tried to reel him in,” said Cobb, who, while in the White House, helped coordinate the internal response to Mueller’s Russia probe. “Trump would have none of it.”

Cobb said he believes the nation’s institutions would hold up if Trump tried to seek clearly politically motivated revenge but that it was a situation nevertheless fraught with peril. 

“I think the checks and balances are adequate to withstand these instincts because he has to get people to carry them out,” he added. 

For Trump’s political base, the renewed focus on exacting revenge from political opponents has support.

“I agree with him,” said Adam Radogna, a 35-year-old Trump supporter from Cleveland. “Obviously nothing, you know, against the law. But he’s just saying, ‘hey, we are going to go after you because you’re going after me.’”

Parker Shonts, a 22-year-old Trump supporter from Fowlerville, Michigan, said it’s about “accountability.”

“I would say ‘revenge’ is a campaigning buzzword, but ‘accountability’ would seem more apt,” he said.

Calls for revenge seeking among Trump supporters again intensified Thursday when a federal judge ordered former Trump adviser Steve Bannon to report to prison on July 1 to start a four-month sentence for defying subpoenas from the Jan. 6 committee. The news angered Trump supporters, and prompted Bannon to issue direct threats.

“Don’t pray for me. Pray for my enemies,” Bannon said Thursday. “They’re the ones who need it.”

In response to Bannon being ordered to prison, Trump posted on Truth Socail that members of the Jan. 6 Committee should be indicted.

“INDICT THE UNSELECT J6 COMMITTEE FOR ILLEGALLY DELETING AND DESTROYING ALL OF THEIR ‘FINDING!’” Trump wrote. 



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