Trump to opponents: ‘It would be very bad’ if his military got tough"
Trump issues warning to opponents: ‘It would be very bad’ if his military, police and biker supporters got ‘tough’
WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump has issued what seems to be a warning of armed pushback against his political opponents, telling a right-wing website on Monday that “it would be very bad, very bad” if his supporters in the military, police and a motorcycle group were provoked into getting “tough.”
Trump uttered the remark in an interview with Breitbart News, a right-wing website that supports him. It came, according to Breitbart, as Trump was arguing that “the left” plays politics in a “tougher” and more “vicious” manner than the pro-Trump right even though “the tough people” are on Trump’s side.
“I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump — I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad,” Trump said.
Trump did not specify who “they” were. Breitbart did not emphasize the quote, which it published in an article headlined “Exclusive — President Donald Trump: Paul Ryan Blocked Subpoenas of Democrats.”
The quote prompted criticism and alarm when the Star tweeted it.
“This is how an authoritarian talks. Happening right in front of us,” Brendan Nyhan, a University of Michigan public policy professor who co-founded an initiative monitoring the state of U.S. democracy, said on Twitter.
“We can’t sugar-coat this. The President of the United States is encouraging the military, police, and bikers to violently attack his critics on the left,” liberal journalist Judd Legum tweeted.
“In which the president of the United States threatens street violence against his political opponents,” the liberal advocacy group Public Citizen tweeted. “What happens if Trump loses in 2020? Is that the ‘certain point?’”
Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, who has been convicted of several crimes, testified to Congress in February: “Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020, that there will never be a peaceful transition of power.”
Trump made another veiled suggestion of retribution from the military, police and Bikers for Trump at a midterm campaign rally in Georgia in November. After mocking Antifa protesters as weaklings — “you see these little arms,” he joked — he said, “And then you see the clubs in their hands. You know, they’re tough guys, right. Where are the Bikers for Trump? Where are the police? Where are the military? Where are the ICE? Where are the Border Patrol? No. No. We’ve taken a lot. We’ve taken a lot, folks.”
Bikers for Trump, which has more than 300,000 followers on Facebook, is not a criminal biker gang.
Bikers for Trump founder Chris Cox, a chainsaw artist described in one 2017 newspaper profile as “exceedingly polite,” offered in advance of Trump’s inauguration in 2017 to form a “wall of meat” between the president and protesters. He said, though, that he expected a peaceful gathering. While group members have had verbal confrontations with anti-Trump protesters, there have not been reports of major violence.
Trump met with some of the Bikers for Trump at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey in August. In November, Cox travelled to Florida and made unfounded allegations of election fraud. In December, Cox and his German shepherd stood outside the courthouse where former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn was to be sentenced for lying to the FBI, with Cox telling Mother Jones magazine he was “here to make sure [Flynn’s] family is not assaulted or intimidated.”
Trump also endorsed violence against protesters at some of his rallies in 2016. At one rally in Iowa, he urged his supporters to beat up anyone getting ready to “throw a tomato,” saying, “Knock the crap out of them…I promise you I will pay for the legal fees.”