May 1, 2024 - Politics & Policy
Column / Behind the Curtain

Behind the Curtain: Listen to Trump

Trump on TIME cover

Trump at Mar-a-Lago on April 12. Photo: Philip Montgomery for Time

What would a second Trump term really look like? You no longer need to guess:

  • Former President Trump has laid out, publicly and unambiguously, designs to stretch traditions, norms and accepted law in historic ways.

Why it matters: We've written for months that Trump allies privately are plotting loyalty tests and policy proposals to vastly expand presidential power and punish critics. Trump himself is now saying the quiet part out loud. You should listen.

You might like this or loathe it. But, based on two interviews with Time magazine totaling more than 80 minutes, you no longer can ignore Trump's intentions:

  1. On whether states should monitor women's pregnancies so they can know if they've gotten an abortion that violates a ban (say, after 15 weeks of pregnancy): "I think they might do that. Again, you'll have to speak to the individual states." (President Biden tweeted about that quote: "This is reprehensible.")
  2. On political violence in connection with the upcoming election: "I don't think we're going to have that. I think we're going to win. And if we don't win, you know, it depends. It always depends on the fairness of an election."
  3. On using the military to deport migrants who cross illegally: "Well, these aren't civilians. These are people that aren't legally in our country. This is an invasion of our country."
  4. On launching the largest deportation operation in American history: "Because we have no choice. I don't believe this is sustainable for a country, what's happening to us."
  5. On using the military against protesters: "I would use certainly the National Guard, if the police were unable to stop. I would absolutely use the National Guard." He then mentioned an executive order he signed to encourage prosecution of anyone who desecrates national monuments.
  6. On using Schedule F power to fire civil servants: "You have some people that are protected that shouldn't be protected. And you have some people you almost want to protect because they do such a good job."
  7. On pardoning every one of the people convicted of participating in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol: "I would consider that, yes. ... Yes, absolutely."
  8. On whether he might fire a U.S. attorney who didn't prosecute someone on his orders: "It would depend on the situation. Yeah."
  9. On "anti-white racism" protections: "I think there is a definite anti-white feeling in this country, and that can't be allowed."
  10. On disbanding the White House Office of Pandemic Preparedness and Response Policy, established under President Biden: "I think I would. ... I think it sounds good politically, but I think it's a very expensive solution."

Between the lines: Time, in the cover story going on sale May 17, calls Trump's responses "the outlines of an imperial presidency that would reshape America and its role in the world."

  • Asked by the magazine about his statement on Fox News in December that he'd be a dictator just for Day 1 of his presidency, Trump said: "I think a lot of people like it."

The bottom line: President Biden has been vaguer about his second-term plans. But voters now have a clear policy, philosophical and stylistic choice.

Axios' Erin Doherty, Zachary Basu and Alex Thompson contributed reporting.

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