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MAGA pundits are trying and failing to soft-pedal Trump’s revenge talk

In World
June 08, 2024

Former President Donald Trump has made it clear that if re-elected, he wouldn’t be averse to weaponizing law enforcement against those he considers his political enemies. Yet some of his supporters in right-wing media are downplaying those threats and claiming that Trump has no intention of punishing his rivals.

Take Fox News host Jesse Watters. On Thursday night, he said the narrative about Trump seeking vengeance was a “hoax” perpetrated by President Joe Biden‘s campaign.

“Trump didn’t say he would lock his opponents up, he said he could,” Watters said. “Because Democrats opened up a Pandora’s box when they did it to him. Could and would — two different things.”

Ahead of Trump’s interview Wednesday with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, his former adviser Kellyanne Conway similarly blamed “lemmings in the mainstream media” for “the new narrative” that Trump wants revenge.

“He’s the one who’s had that visited upon him, and if you need any evidence, look no further than how he just stood down in any kind of prosecution of Hillary Clinton and retribution after he beat her fairly and squarely,” she said on Fox News. (Trump has recently claimed that he never called for Clinton’s prosecution, even though he often encouraged and joined in “lock her up” chants at his 2016 rallies and beyond. According to the Mueller report, Trump also pressured his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to prosecute Clinton.)

The efforts to minimize Trump’s own words on the campaign trail don’t stand up to even a cursory review of his escalating rhetoric about revenge over the past few days. Trump has vowed to prosecute Democrats and even some anti-Trump Republicans for a range of grievances if he wins the November election. Many MAGA lawmakers and pundits have echoed those calls for retribution, and his supporters have threatened violence online against his so-called political enemies.

Trump has also dismissed friendly interviewers’ attempts to create opportunities for him to walk back his threats; in an interview with Phil McGraw (aka Dr. Phil) that aired Thursday, Trump said, “Sometimes revenge can be justified.”

Bafflingly, McGraw told CNN later that day that he didn’t think Trump would actually act on his desire for revenge because of their interview. “This is something that I think he’s had in his mind that there’s only one way to go, and that’s to get even,” he said. “And I think I really made some headway with him that that is not the way to go.”

This article was originally published on MSNBC.com

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