In a conversation with Fox News anchor Sean Hannity, Donald Trump made an autocratic admission.
Hannity asked Trump, “To be clear, do you, in any way, have any plans whatsoever if re-elected president, to abuse power, to break the law, to use the government to go after people…”
Trump cut Hannity off, interjecting with, “You mean like they’re using right now.” This is an Orwellian tactic Trump has been using, falsely projecting his own behavior onto his opponents. Trump notably didn’t deny he would do what Hannity asked; instead, he obfuscated for minutes before making a revelatory comment.
Hannity asked again, trying to throw Trump an alley oop. “Under no circumstances, you are promising America tonight, you would never abuse power as retribution against anybody?”
Trump replied: “Except for day one.” The audience chuckled.
Trump continued, motioning to Hannity, “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.” The audience erupted in applause.
Trump may act like this is a joke, but it’s not. The former president saying he plans to be a dictator on day one of being back in the White House is an escalation in rhetoric that Americans should see as a threat and a warning. The fears of a potential Trump dictatorship go far beyond his echoing of fascist rhetoric, like calling his opponents “vermin” or saying immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country.” Trump plans to take overtly authoritarian actions in his second term, and he’s told us so explicitly.
In spite of Hannity’s generous framing, Trump has, in fact, made multiple promises that he would abuse his power, break the law, and go after his political targets. Trump is telling us exactly what he plans to do. We should believe him and mobilize accordingly.
Let’s talk about what he’ll actually do on day one if he wins, according to his plans outlined in Agenda 47, the comprehensive plans outlined by his allies working on Project 2025, and media reporting sourced directly from people in his campaign.
On day one, Trump and his team have reportedly discussed using the Insurrection Act to authorize military force against Americans during his inauguration.
On day one, Trump plans to implement authoritarian immigration policies, according to Trump advisor Stephen Miller and Trump’s own campaign speeches. He plans to try to end DACA protections again and begin the process of rounding up millions of undocumented immigrants, detaining them in detention camps, and deporting them without due process. He plans to end birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants and implement ideological screenings for all new immigrants.
On day one, Trump plans to weaponize the Justice Department against his political targets. Trump plans to launch a DOJ investigation into the Biden family, prosecutors who have charged him, General Mark Milley, and others. Trump claims this is in retaliation to what Biden has done, but this is not true. All available evidence shows President Biden has not been involved in any of the DOJ probes into Trump, and Special Counsel Jack Smith adds another layer of independence.
On day one, Trump plans to re-implement an executive order known as “Schedule F,” which will strip up to 54,000 federal workers of their civil servant protections so he can fire and replace all of them with loyalists currently being screened and trained by the Heritage Foundation. This is, perhaps, one of the more damaging things Trump has the power to do immediately upon stepping into office. It will ensure his radical agenda is implemented without pushback.
The Heritage Foundation, along with over 70 right-wing partner organizations, has constructed that plan, called Project 2025, which would turn the executive branch into a tool of the far-right.
Once those GOP loyalists are installed, they would execute the outright dismantling of multiple federal agencies, rolling back environmental regulations, ending federal protections for LGBT+ people, and undoing all progress made in diversity, equity, and inclusion within the federal government under the guise of religious freedom.
Russell Vought, Trump’s former director of the Office of Management and Budget who now works on Project 2025, told Politico the loyalists they’re training will be “ready on Day One of the next transition. Whatever is necessary to seize control of the administrative state is really our task.”
All of this can only be characterized as the agenda of a wannabe dictator. That’s not hyperbole. Countless authoritarian experts have raised alarms, comparing Trump’s rhetoric and plans to those of 20th-century fascists. Trump’s second term would undoubtedly be more dangerous than the first. The first was bad enough, culminating in a violent insurrection at the US Capitol.
However, much has changed since 2016. Democrats have either won big or over-performed in every national election in the Trump era. 2018, 2020, and 2022 were bad election years for the MAGA movement. And the 2023 off-year state elections last month defied narratives of Democratic weakness and helped pave a path to victory for the party in 2024.
We also can’t forget that Trump is facing 91 criminal charges across four indictments, with major cases like the federal election subversion case heading to trial in March 2024. Trump could very well be convicted and sentenced in his most serious case before the GOP convention in July. That could dramatically change the dynamics of the race.
We’ve also seen a huge shift in media coverage of Trump over the past month. Journalists have dramatically stepped up coverage of the threat of a second Trump term. The more the public is informed on the dangerous, dictatorial path Trump plans to take America down, the pro-democracy coalition will be increasingly galvanized.
When Americans vote for president, we aren’t just electing a leader, we’re deciding who we are as a country. Are we a country that embraces democracy or authoritarianism? We’ll see.
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