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Trump: I would be a dictator on day one if re-elected

Donald Trump
Donald Trump - CARLOS BARRIA/REUTERS

Donald Trump has said he will become a dictator for the first day of his second term if he wins next year’s presidential election.

The Republican frontrunner refused to deny that he would abuse his power to seek revenge on political opponents if re-elected to the White House.

“You are promising America, tonight, you would never abuse power as retribution against anybody?” Sean Hannity, a Fox News host who has long been a supporter of Trump, asked during a televised town hall in Iowa on Tuesday.

“Except for day one,” Mr Trump responded.

“This guy [Mr Hannity], he says, ‘you’re not going to be a dictator, are you?’... I said, ‘no, no, no — other than day one’,” he added.

“We’re closing the border. And we’re drilling, drilling, drilling. After that, I’m not a dictator.”

Mr Trump, 77, has in recent weeks increasingly spoken about targeting his political rivals should he be re-elected, describing them “vermin” and promising to deliver “retribution”.

Democrats seized on Mr Trump’s comments, citing them as evidence that he is unfit to be president.

Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Joe Biden’s campaign manager, said: “Donald Trump has been telling us exactly what he will do if he’s re-elected and tonight he said he will be a dictator on day one. Americans should believe him.”

The president’s campaign team later sent out an email that read: “Donald Trump: Day One Dictator.”

On Tuesday, Mr Biden told campaign donors he was “not sure” whether he would be seeking re-election if Mr Trump was not running.

He warned that democracy is “more at risk in 2024” and that Mr Trump and his allies are “determined to destroy American democracy”.

Republican Liz Cheney said earlier this week that a Trump dictatorship would be a “very real threat” if the former US president wins next November’s election.

Ms Cheney, an arch Mr Trump critic, said the US would be “sleepwalking into dictatorship” if he returned.

“We face threats that could be existential to the United States, and we need a candidate who is going to be able to deal with and address and confront all of those challenges,” she told the Washington Post.

Mr Trump also told Mr Hannity he does not expect Mr Biden to “make it” as the Democratic nominee in 2024, claiming the 81-year-old is in “bad shape” and “doesn’t know he is alive”.

I personally don’t think he makes it physically,” Mr Trump said. “Mentally, I would say he’s possibly equally as bad and maybe worse… we have a man who can’t put two sentences together.”

Mr Biden has repeatedly brushed off concerns about his age and ability to adequately perform his duties.

When asked who he thinks would replace Mr Biden as the Democratic party nominee, Mr Trump suggested California governor Gavin Newsom.

“I saw him on the debate the other night,” Mr Trump said, referring to Mr Newsom’s televised showdown with Florida governor and Republican hopeful Ron DeSantis. “He is slick, but has no facts. I thought he did well.”

Mr Trump is expected to skip Wednesday night’s Republican debate, choosing instead to spend the evening at a fundraiser in Florida.

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