Washington: Former president Donald Trump suggested that the United States could see intensifying political violence, saying in a new interview that tensions in the country were reaching a boiling point.
Asked by former Fox News host Tucker Carlson whether the nation is headed toward open conflict, Trump responded: “I don’t know. I can say this: There’s a level of passion that I’ve never seen. There’s a level of hatred that I’ve never seen. And that’s probably a bad combination.”
Trump compared the current volatile mix of passion and hatred to the crowd on January 6, 2021, and pivoted to defending his supporters who attacked the US Capitol that day - falsely describing the violent assault as a day of “love and unity.”
“January 6 was a very interesting day because they don’t report it properly,” he told Carlson in the previously recorded interview, which was posted Wednesday night on X, the website formerly known as Twitter.
“People in that crowd said it was the most beautiful day they ever experienced. There was love and unity. I have never seen such spirit and such passion and such love. And I’ve also never seen, simultaneously and from the same people, such hatred at what they’ve done to our country.”
Trump, the polling leader for the Republican nomination, has repeatedly declined to condemn or rule out political violence. As a candidate, in 2015 and 2016, he encouraged rallygoers to rough up hecklers and protesters.
As president, in 2017, he defended white nationalist marchers in Charlottesville, one of whom killed a counterprotester, saying there were “very fine people on both sides.” In a 2020 presidential debate, he told the Proud Boys violent extremist group to “stand back and stand by.”
And on January 6, 2021, and ever since, he has praised his supporters who attacked police and broke into the US Capitol in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election.
So what’s next?
Earlier in the interview, Trump repeatedly avoided Carlson’s invitations to speculate on whether he could be targeted for assassination.
“The next stage is violence,” Carlson said. “Are you worried they’re going to try to kill you? Why wouldn’t they try to kill you?”
Trump did not directly answer. Carlson tried again later. “If you chart it out, it’s an escalation,” Carlson said, recounting the two impeachments and four indictments against Trump.
“So what’s next? They’re trying to put you in prison for the rest of your life, that’s not working. So don’t they have to kill you now?” Trump again avoided answering directly.
At the conclusion of the 46-minute interview, Carlson returned to the subject of potential violence. “Do you think we’re moving toward civil war?” he said. “Do you think it’s possible that there’s open conflict?”
“I don’t know,” Trump said.
Trump has batted away this line of questioning before in interviews since being indicted in several separate criminal cases. In a local talk radio interview in Iowa in July, host Doug Wagner repeatedly pressed Trump on the prospect of how his supporters could react if he were detained pending trial. “It’s a dangerous thing to even talk about because we do have a very passionate group of voters,” Trump said. “Nobody’s even suggested this except you.”
Trump has received warnings from the judges in the criminal cases against inciting violence and intimidating witnesses.