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  /  News   /  Trump talk turns to revenge post-conviction

Trump talk turns to revenge post-conviction

Since former President Trump’s conviction on 34 felony counts last week, he and his allies have had revenge on their mind.

Less than an hour after the verdict came in, Rep. Mike Collins (R-Ga.) posted on X that it was “Time for Red State AGs and DAs to get busy.”

On Tuesday, Trump told Newsmax it was “very possible” Democrats could face prosecution down the road. The next day, he told Sean Hannity on Fox News he would have “every right to go after them” after his own prosecution.

Trump on Thursday called for members of the House special committee that investigated the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to be indicted, then told Dr. Phil McGraw in an interview that “sometimes revenge can be justified.”

The former president has said on multiple occasions that his ultimate revenge if he is reelected in November will be success, and he has even suggested his victory and subsequent policy shifts could unify a deeply polarized country. 

But the focus on revenge from Trump and his allies has become harder to ignore in the days after Trump became the first U.S. president to be convicted of a felony, raising alarms about what could happen if he retakes the White House.

“The use of our criminal system to prosecute enemies, or political adversaries, is completely counter to the fundamental values and laws and norms that our country is built on,” said Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.). 

“The Republicans like to try to make out the various different prosecutions against Donald Trump to be political, but they are not and there’s no evidence to support the fact that anything about the Manhattan DA’s verdict or special counsel Jack Smith is politically motivated at all,” he added.

The former president has routinely suggested it would be fair game to target his opponents ever since he was indicted last year in cases in New York, Florida, Georgia and Washington, D.C., including by saying he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Biden family.

Republican lawmakers have for months echoed Trump in complaining about the various prosecutors bringing charges against him – threatening action from Congress or that they could be prosecuted themselves in the future.

But those threats have become less veiled in the wake of Trump’s guilty verdict.

Following the Trump guilty verdict, Republicans have called for slashing federal funding for the Department of Justice and the FBI, as well as from state-level prosecutors such as Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg who brought the case in New York and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who indicted Trump in Georgia over his attempts to overturn the state’s 2020 election results.

It’s a plan with limited reach, as the federal funds flowing to local prosecutors are primarily grants for programs on policing and preventing violence.

But Republicans have also said the tables could turn more sharply once Trump is in office, and his own appointees will helm the Justice Department.

“I think people think, ‘Oh he wouldn’t be able to put people in Cabinet positions because of Senate confirmations,’ but people forget how he abused the system toward the end of his first term and would just name people as acting secretary,” said a former Trump administration official. “He’s kind of learned the levers of government and understands how to bend it to his will better.” 

In multiple interviews over the past week, media personalities have attempted to dissuade Trump from pursuing retribution against his opponents if he wins in November. But the former president, furious over his conviction and insistent that he’s being targeted for political reasons, has been reluctant to go along with their suggestions.

Fox News host Sean Hannity asked Trump if he would “pledge to restore equal justice, equal application of our laws,” and “end this practice of weaponization?”

“Well, you have to do it. But it’s awful. Look, I know you want me to say something so nice,” Trump said. “But I don’t want to look naive.”

Phil McGraw, host of the TV show “Dr. Phil,” suggested to the former president he didn’t have time to “get even” with his critics.

“Well, revenge does take time, I will say that,” Trump responded. “And sometimes revenge can be justified, Phil, I have to be honest. Sometimes it can.”

Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) said legal experts across the political spectrum have raised concerns about the charges brought against Trump in New York. But he argued the response from lawmakers should be focused on accountability and improving the system.

“Any action we take should result in a justice system that is fairer and based more on the rule of law, rather than one that is based on score settling,” he said.

While Republicans have blasted both Bragg and the judge in the case, it was a unanimous decision from 12 jurors on directions agreed to by both Trump’s attorneys and prosecutors that found Trump guilty on every single one of the 34 counts brought against him. 

Democrats have pushed back hard against the idea that Trump has been unfairly targeted by so-called “lawfare,” pointing to the ongoing federal trial of President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, as evidence neither party is getting preferable treatment.

“You can’t love law and order only when the defendant happens to not be from your party,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) said. “So I think it’s terrible that they’re trying to tear down our institutions simply because they don’t like the fact that the former president and his enablers are being prosecuted based on crimes that were committed.”

Trump fixation on revenge could also prove to be a political liability.

Already the Biden campaign has tried to highlight the president’s focus on issues facing the public and his meetings with world leaders this week in France compared to Trump’s attacks on the justice system. But they have also not shied away from calling Trump a convicted felon.

Biden has in recent days called it “reckless” and “irresponsible” for Trump and Republicans to attack the legal system, warning it damages the public’s faith in a core institution.

“Throughout his campaign, Trump has made it clear that running is… his way to exact revenge,” Biden told donors this week. “That’s what he talks about. Now, after his criminal convictions, it’s clear he’s worried about preserving his freedoms.”