Donald Trump has declined to rule out abusing power to seek retribution if he returns to the White House.
Former President Donald Trump has suggested he may abuse power if he is elected back into the White House in 2024.
Speaking to Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity, the presidential front-runner batted away questions over growing Democratic criticism of his rhetoric.
Trump has frequently referred to his political rivals as “vermin” – and vowed to seek retribution if he wins a second term for what he argues are politically motivated prosecutions against him.
Trump has dominated the Republican presidential primaries, prompting current President Joe Biden to step up his own warnings, contending Trump is “determined to destroy American democracy.”
“Under no circumstances, you are promising America tonight, you would never abuse power as retribution against anybody?” Hannity asked Trump in the interview taped in Davenport, Iowa.
“Except for day one,” Trump responded. “I want to close the border and I want to drill, drill, drill.”
Trump then repeated his assertion. “I love this guy,” he said of the Fox News host. “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.’”
Earlier in the interview, Hannity had asked Trump if he “in any way” had “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 [the Democrats] using right now?” Trump replied.
Trump’s campaign rhetoric and sweeping plans for a second term which include firing large swaths of the federal bureaucracy and targeting his rivals have alarmed Democrats.
They have become a chief election argument for Biden as he prepares for a potential rematch against Trump.
“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,” Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, said in a statement.
At a series of fundraisers on Tuesday, Biden again warned that Trump and his allies are out to “destroy” democratic institutions as he assailed the GOP frontrunner.
Trump infamously allegedly tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election – and is currently facing criminal charges in connection with these events.
Donald Trump himself has tried to turn the tables on Biden and argued in a Saturday speech in Iowa Biden is the real “destroyer of American democracy”.
Trump is holding on to his long-held belief that the four criminal indictments against him show the current president is misusing the federal justice system to damage his chief political rival.
Trump has promised to prosecute Biden if he wins the election in 2024.
Hannity, a longtime Trump supporter and adviser, has often seemed to use his interviews to coach the former president to say things that will benefit him politically.
Critics say the questions he asked on Tuesday appeared to be another example of those efforts.
The event had been advertised as a town hall the day before Trump’s leading rivals gathered at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa for the fourth GOP debate.
While town halls typically feature audience questions, only Hannity asked questions of Trump on Tuesday. He taped a similar interview with Trump in July.
Trump is once again planning to skip Wednesday’s debate and will spend the evening at a fundraiser in Florida instead.
Despite all the controversy surrounding him and his reelection campaign, he has been dominating his rivals both nationally and in Iowa, which will kick off the election with its caucuses on 15 January.
The list of rivals includes Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has been losing steam, and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, who has been gaining momentum following a series of well-reviewed performances at the debates.
DeSantis has called on Trump to complete his campaign promise to visit each of Iowa’s 99 counties and has also repeatedly called on him to join the debates.
“Get out of your dungeon. Get off the keyboard, stand on the debate stage and let’s go,” he said on Tuesday in Florida.
After the taping of the Hannity interview, Trump visited the Front Street Pub & Eatery in Davenport, where he stopped by tables and signed red “Make America Great Again” hats.