Interviewers keep giving Trump an off-ramp to his revenge tour. He isn’t taking it | CNN Politics (2024)

Interviewers keep giving Trump an off-ramp to his revenge tour. He isn’t taking it | CNN Politics (1)

Former President Donald Trump greets supporters during a town hall in Phoenix on June 6, 2024.

CNN

Friendly interviewers have offered Donald Trump several chances over the past week to walk away from the threats of retaliation coming from him and his allies in the wake of his felony conviction.

The former president, though, has repeatedly refused to close the door on it.

The latest example came Thursday in an interview with psychologist Phil McGraw. The television host better known as Dr. Phil repeatedly urged Trump to rise above the impulse to fight back and instead focus on fixing the country.

“You have so much to do,” McGraw said. “You don’t have time to get even. You only have time to get right.”

Trump responded with a smirk.

“Well, revenge does take time. I will say that,” he said. “And sometimes revenge can be justified. Phil, I have to be honest. You know, sometimes it can.”

Seth Wenig/AP/CNN video Related video ‘A big issue’: Dr. Phil on Trump teasing retribution against political foes

The remark echoed another from earlier in the week when Trump declined several opportunities offered by Fox News host and close friend Sean Hannity to dial back his calls for retribution.

“Look, when this election is over, based on what they’ve done, I would have every right to go after them, and it would be easy because it’s Joe Biden,” the former president said.

The exchange was reminiscent of Hannity’s previous attempts to get Trump to assure Americans he wouldn’t abuse power if he returned to the White House. Instead of dismissing the suggestion outright, Trump told Hannity in December, “Except for day one.”

Trump’s refusal to take the off-ramp comes amid escalating calls for retribution from his allies in the days since a Manhattan jury convicted the former president on 34 felony counts related to payments made to p*rn star Stormy Daniels to influence the 2016 election.

Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, demanded that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and Matthew Colangelo, an attorney in the prosecutor’s office, testify “about the unprecedented political prosecution of President Trump.” Several Republican senators — including vice presidential contenders Marco Rubio of Florida and JD Vance of Ohio — signed a letter signifying they would not work with the Biden administration to pass legislation, confirm his judicial nominees or increase non-security spending.

“It’s time to fight (fire emoji) with (fire emoji),” Rubio wrote on social media.

Others have publicly urged Republicans to use the levers of power to immediately target Trump’s political opponents. Former Trump adviser Stephen Miller, appearing on Fox News after Trump’s conviction,suggested the House GOP flex its subpoena authority and Republican prosecutors open investigations.

“Every facet of Republican Party politics and power has to be used right now,” Miller said.

The open calls for revenge have effectively put retaliation on the ballot this November, and Trump allies have said as much.

Russell Vought, a former top official in the Trump administration now helping to plan for the Republican’s potential return to Washington, wrote on social media: “This isn’t just about winning an election to shift the see saw toward our agenda.”

“It’s about demanding that our leaders destroy this threat at every level with every tool. And if you can’t rise to that level of historical awareness, then simply put, you are not needed,” Vought said.

Former President Donald Trump departs the courtroom after being found guilty on all 34 counts in his hush money trial at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on May 30, 2024. Justin Lane/Pool/Getty Images Related article The GOP fires up its vengeance 2024 tour

Some Trump advisers have attempted to play down Trump’s remarks. Former Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said Wednesday that concern over the escalating rhetoric around retaliation was “the new narrative by all the lemmings in the mainstream media this week.”

“If you need any evidence,” Conway said, “look no further than how (Trump) just stood down in any kind of prosecution of Hillary Clinton and retribution after he beat her fairly and squarely and racked up 304 electoral votes in 2016.”

“Many people said, ‘Lock her up,’” she added, ignoring that Trump was one of those people.

Yet, the next day, Trump on social media called for the indictment of the eight current and former members of Congress who served on the House select committee that investigated the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. His post came as a federal judge ruled that former Trump adviser Steve Bannon must report to prison on July 1 for refusing to provide documents and testimony to the committee.

Trump launched his third campaign for president still seething over his 2020 defeat and signaling revenge against those who kept him from a second term.

In March 2023, Trump told the Conservative Political Action Conference: “I am your retribution.”

At the urging of some advisers, Trump has at times stepped back from the harsh rhetoric. Trump told the same conservative gathering earlier this year, “Retribution is going to be through success.”

It’s a sentiment Trump has repeated many times since — including in the days after his hush money trial ended — but it’s not one he appears fully committed to.

Asked in a Fox News appearance after the verdict if he still felt that way, Trump replied: “It’s a really tough question in one way because these are really bad people.” In his interview with McGraw, Trump posited, “Maybe we have revenge through success” before suggesting more direct retaliation would be warranted.

After his interview with Trump, McGraw told CNN’s Abby Phillip that he tried to get the former president to understand that a “revenge tour” wouldn’t heal the country and bring people together. He acknowledged, though, that Trump might not see it that way.

“It’s a process,” McGraw said. “This is something that I think he had in his mind, that there’s one way to go, and that’s to get even. I think I really made some headway with him that that is not the way to go. I think it’s a process.”

CNN’s Kate Sullivan contributed to this report.

Interviewers keep giving Trump an off-ramp to his revenge tour. He isn’t taking it | CNN Politics (2024)
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