Would Trump as a “Dictator” Kill His Rivals?

by | May 2, 2024 | Opinions & Commentary

Emperor Maximilian’s Firing Squad, 1867. Photo by François Aubert, Wiki Commons

Would Trump as a “Dictator” Kill His Rivals?

by | May 2, 2024 | Opinions & Commentary

Emperor Maximilian’s Firing Squad, 1867. Photo by François Aubert, Wiki Commons

Trump has unleashed his inner psychopath and if he wins this election it’s going to get uglier here in America than most people today can imagine.

Republished with permission from Thom Hartmann

TIME magazine reporter Eric Cortellessa spent hours interviewing Donald Trump, producing a shocking cover story this week. Converting one of his opening paragraphs into bullet points for readability, he summarized that Trump fully plans:

  • “To carry out a deportation operation designed to remove more than 11 million people from the country, Trump told me, he would be willing to build migrant detention camps and deploy the U.S. military, both at the border and inland.
  • “He would let red states monitor women’s pregnancies and prosecute those who violate abortion bans.
  • “He would, at his personal discretion, withhold funds appropriated by Congress, according to top advisers.
  • “He would be willing to fire a U.S. Attorney who doesn’t carry out his order to prosecute someone, breaking with a tradition of independent law enforcement that dates from America’s founding.
  • “He is weighing pardons for every one of his supporters accused of attacking the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, more than 800 of whom have pleaded guilty or been convicted by a jury.
  • “He might not come to the aid of an attacked ally in Europe or Asia if he felt that country wasn’t paying enough for its own defense.
  • “He would gut the U.S. civil service, deploy the National Guard to American cities as he sees fit, close the White House pandemic-preparedness office, and staff his Administration with acolytes who back his false assertion that the 2020 election was stolen.”

While each and every one of Cortellessa’s points gleaned from Trump’s admissions and brags have the potential to transform America into a nation more closely resembling Russia or Saudi Arabia than anything seen here since the violence of the Confederacy, the reporter failed to ask Trump about his most troubling threat: to use assassination as a political weapon the way Putin and MBS do routinely.

Along those lines, CNN and the rest of America learned this past weekend that Bill Barr heard Trump repeatedly call for the murder of people he dislikes, but Barr says he thinks it’s all just bluster. Like that January 6th “bluster” that almost led to Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi ending up dead, and killed at least eight other individuals, including police officers.

Historians will tell you that dictators throughout history started just this same way, making vague threats to whip up their followers and engaging in “bluster.” And then, when the blood starts flowing, people realized, too late, that they should have been taking that all rhetoric seriously.

Killing his political rivals has been a theme with Donald Trump for years, and now that he’s promising to be a “dictator on day one” and to engage in “revenge” and “retribution” it’s past time to take him seriously.

Back in 2016, he bragged that he could shoot somebody on 5th Avenue and his followers would still vote for him.

In 2020, when it was revealed that somebody in the White House had leaked the fact that Trump had fled to the White House bunker when Black Lives Matter protestors were down the street from the presidential residence, Trump flew into a murderous rage. As Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender wrote in his 2021 book, Frankly, We Did Win This Election:

“Trump boiled over about the bunker story as soon as they arrived and shouted at them to smoke out whoever had leaked it. It was the most upset some aides had ever seen the president.  ‘Whoever did that, they should be charged with treason!’ Trump reportedly yelled. ‘They should be executed!’”

After calling our soldiers who died at Normandy “suckers” and saying John McCain was a “fucking loser” for getting shot down over Vietnam, Trump turned on General Mark Milley when he refused Trump’s request for his soldiers to shoot Washington, DC Black Lives Matter protestors “in the legs.” When Milley’s book telling the story was published six months ago, Trump used his Nazi-infested, money-losing social media site to call for Milley himself to be executed, saying he deserved “DEATH!”

Last month, before his current New York trial started, Trump said his supporters would riot and kill people if he were criminally charged for paying off a porn star to hide his moral failings before the 2016 election. He gleefully predicted “death & destruction,” adding that “such a false charge could be catastrophic for our Country.” (Only a tiny handful of people have showed up to support him at his trial.)

Similarly, Trump also tried to get Mark Esper, his acting Defense Secretary, to authorize the military to shoot protestors with live ammunition; Esper, horrified, wrote about it in his book A Sacred Oath.

In the few weeks leading up to President Biden’s swearing in, Trump broke a 130-year tradition of not executing people during the presidential transition period: he killed so many federal criminals during those few weeks that the BBC led with the headline “In Trump’s Final Days, a Rush of Federal Executions.”

In a desperate effort to salvage the economy he thought would determine his re-election in 2020, Trump and Kushner decided it would be “an effective political strategy” to let Black and Brown people in Blue states die of Covid while blaming their deaths on Democratic governors.

That “strategy,” according to the British medical journal Lancet, led to at least 450,000 unnecessary American deaths from the grisly disease. Trump, in other words, killed almost as many Americans as did the Civil War because he thought it would work to his political advantage. He not only never apologized for all those deaths and shattered families; he continues to claim that his response to the pandemic was “perfect.”

Last month, Trump violated his bail by re-posting a video of President Joe Biden hog-tied with an apparent bullet hole in his forehead, laying dead or helpless in the back of a pickup truck. Just a few weeks later, his lawyers told the Supreme Court that he could assassinate his political rivals during a second term. After all, why pass up an opportunity to legally kill people when it’s so much fun?

At least he didn’t have a dog he could shoot in the face.

Levity aside, the issue of Trump wanting to kill his “enemies” came up again last weekend when CNN’s Kaitlan Collins interviewed Bill Barr, who’d apparently witnessed several of Trump’s murderous rages.

Barr, who corruptly helped George HW Bush avoid prosecution for Iran/Contra crimes and then buried Robert Mueller’s report on the Trump campaign’s many ties to Russia, brushed Trump’s threats aside, arguing that Joe Biden’s “socialist agenda” is more dangerous to America than having a man who aspires to be a stone-cold killer in the White House.

Imagining Trump as a murderous dictator is apparently a bridge too far for most of America’s mainstream media: they’re too often busy normalizing him and his campaign. But the simple fact is that every authoritarian in history has not only used imprisonment, torture, and murder as a tool of governance, but most delighted in killing their enemies.

Mussolini brought the death penalty back to Italy specifically for political “crimes against the state,” sentencing 43 people to death by firing squad between 1927 and 1943 (26 executions were carried out).

Hitler delighted in the torture and murder of people he believed had wronged him. Sixteen months into his reign, on the Night of the Long Knives, he ordered the murder, among others, of Ernst Röhm and other leaders of the Sturmabteilung (“Brownshirts”); the last chancellor of the Weimar Republic, Kurt von Schleicher; his own 1932 right-hand-man in the Nazi Party, Gregor Strasser; ; the rightwing former Bavarian Prime Minister Gustav von Kahr; Von Pappen’s speechwriter and conservative firebrand Edgar Jung; and the leader of the rightwing Catholic Action group, professor Erich Klausener.

After several members of his military tried to assassinate Hitler with a bomb, he had them tortured and finally killed by hanging them from meat hooks punched through their flesh while alive and awake. He made a movie of their murder for distribution among his Nazi followers.

Putin has anybody he thinks is disloyal executed or thrown out a high window, and most recently murdered his chief political rival, Alexi Navalny. Viktor Orbán tried to defy the European Union and bring the death penalty back to Hungary.

The men Trump most envies and admires—Hitler, Putin, Xi, MBS, and Kim—are all famous for dispatching their opposition with poison, torture, prison, and bullets.

MBS even had an American journalist for The Washington Post, Jamal Khashoggi, murdered, hacked into pieces, and his body disposed of. Instead of backing away from the ruthless dictator, Trump’s family took $2 billion from him and Trump himself is swimming in MBS’s cash from his LIV Golf Tournament.

George W. Bush set the modern precedent for American presidents ignoring due process and engaging in extrajudicial torture and murder. Between Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo (along with dozens of other dark sites), America tortured and murdered hundreds, perhaps thousands, of prisoners without any semblance of due process; neither Bush nor any member of his administration was ever held to account for it, which has to have given Trump encouragement in his plans for violence and revenge.

Trump brazenly invited an armed mob to attack the Capitol on January 6th, demanding that his security people not make them go through magnetometers because he knew the weapons they carried presented a threat to Pence, Pelosi, and members of Congress rather than him. Five people died and several police officers later passed away from injuries they sustained on that day: Trump reportedly watched the violence on TV in the White House with delight and fascination.

Now he brags that he’s going to bring violence to America if his will is thwarted in this fall’s election, and his former chief of staff to the acting secretary of defense, Kash Patel, recently warned the American media that a second Trump administration would be coming for you and me.

“We will go out and find the conspirators, not just in government but in the media,” The New York Times quoted Patel as saying. “Yes, we’re going to come after the people in the media who lied about American citizens, who helped Joe Biden rig presidential elections—we’re going to come after you. Whether it’s criminally or civilly, we’ll figure that out.”

We—and the mainstream media—need to take Trump and his cruel factotums seriously. Bill Barr’s bland assurances notwithstanding, the next time won’t be anything like the last time: Trump has unleashed his inner psychopath and if he wins this election it’s going to get uglier here in America than most people today can imagine.

Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann, one of America’s leading public intellectuals and the country’s #1 progressive talk show host, writes fresh content six days a week. The Monday-Friday “Daily Take” articles are free to all, while paid subscribers receive a Saturday summary of the week’s news and, on Sunday, a chapter excerpt from one of his books.

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