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Donald Trump says ‘it depends’ if there will be violence if he loses in November

Former President Donald Trump said the possibility of political violence if he loses this fall — as there was to a historic degree in the aftermath of his 2020 loss — “depends on the fairness” of the election.

He also pledged, if elected, to deploy the U.S. military into Democratic-run cities to round up immigrants and quell protests.

“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,” Trump said in an interview with TIME magazine published Tuesday. “It always depends on the fairness of an election. I don’t believe they’ll be able to do the things that they did the last time. I don’t think they’ll be able to get away with it.”

Trump spent months convincing his supporters of the falsehood that he won the 2020 presidential election and that it was stolen from him, which culminated in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Where his supporters attempted to stop the certification of the Electoral College tally to keep him in power. He has repeated similar false claims that Democrats and his political enemies are trying to illegally rig the 2024 election against him.

More than 1,385 people have been charged with crimes connected to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, “including nearly 500 individuals charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement,” the Department of Justice said on Tuesday.

Around 790 have pleaded guilty, including 244 who pleaded guilty to felonies and 95 who plead guilty to federal charges of assaulting law enforcement officers. Another 156 have been found guilty at trial.

Leaders of the far-right street gang the Proud Boys and the extremist organization the Oath Keepers have been sentenced to decades in jail for seditious conspiracy and other charges in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. 

In the interview, Trump said he would consider pardoning everyone charged for crimes connected to the attack, as he has repeatedly said he would at campaign rallies.

“Not since the Civil War have freedom and democracy been under assault at home as they are today – because of Donald Trump,” Biden campaign spokesperson James Singer said in a statement.

“In his own words, he is promising to rule as a dictator on ‘day one,’ use the military against the American people, punish those who stand against him, condone violence done on his behalf, and put his own revenge and retribution ahead of what is best for America..”

In the Time interview, Trump also pledged to use the military and local law enforcement to round up millions of undocumented immigrants, specifically in “the Democratic-run cities” like Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. 

“These aren’t civilians. These are people that aren’t legally in our country. This is an invasion of our country. An invasion like probably no country has ever seen before. They’re coming in by the millions,” Trump said, describing a population that includes millions of men, women and children. “I can see myself using the National Guard and, if necessary, I’d have to go a step further.”

“You have to do what you have to do to stop crime and to stop what’s taking place at the border,” he added. A Stanford University report from last year found that “immigrants are 30 percent less likely to be incarcerated than are U.S.-born individuals who are white.” And in 2020, the right-wing Cato Institute reported that immigrants, regardless of their legal status, were less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans.

The depiction of immigrants as foreign invaders is in line with the white supremacist conspiracy theory known as “The Great Replacement” that posits Democrats and other elites are intentionally bringing nonwhite migrants into the country to “replace” and harm white Americans. Racist mass shootings around the U.S. and across the globe with casualties in the hundreds have been inspired by the theory.

“It’s incredible that they’ve allowed so many people to come into our country, especially considering they were unchecked and unvetted, most of them. They’re just pouring in. They’re pouring in at levels that no country has ever seen before. It’s an invasion of our country,” Trump said. 

In the interview, Trump repeated his pledge to deport millions of undocumented immigrants in what would be the largest mass deportation operation in U.S. history. He said it was inspired by President Dwight Eisenhower, who in 1954 launched “Operation Wetback” — adopting a slur for Mexicans as its title — and forcibly deported hundreds of thousands of Mexicans, with some estimates ranging as high as 1.1 million. 

When asked how he would respond to college campus protests over the war in Gaza, Trump said he “would absolutely use the National Guard” to bring them to an end. 

He also did not rule out using the Department of Justice to punish his political enemies, as he claims without evidence President Joe Biden is doing to him. Biden, Trump said, “would be prosecuted for 20 different acts” if the Supreme Court rules presidents don’t have total immunity to criminal prosecution — an argument Trump’s legal team is currently making to the Court. 

“If they said that a president doesn’t get immunity, then Biden, I am sure, will be prosecuted for all of his crimes, because he’s committed many crimes,” Trump said. Biden has not been charged with any crime, a special prosecutor declined to charge him for his handling of classified documents and a House Republican-run impeachment probe has failed to surface any wrongdoing.

Trump is currently on trial in Manhattan for allegedly illegally structuring hush money payments to unduly influence the 2016 election, faces a state-level racketeering prosecution in Georiga and a federal prosecution in Washington for alleged crimes connected to his effort to stay in power despite his 2020 election loss in the lead up to the Capitol attack, and has been criminally charged by federal prosecutors in Florida for his own handling of classified documents.

On Tuesday, he was fined $9,000 and held in contempt of court by the trial judge for repeatedly violating the court’s gag order on him prohibiting attacks on witnesses and family members of the judge. In the contempt filing, Judge Juan Merchan warned he will consider whether in some instances, jail may be a necessary punishment.”

“Nov. 5 is going to go down as the most important day in the history of our country because we’re going to turn our country around. The country is going to hell,” Trump said as he entered court on Tuesday morning. “I was very sad to see, but Nov. 5 is going to be the most important day in the history of our country.”

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