Former President Trump on Saturday appeared to double down on remarks he made about whether he would abuse power or serve as a “dictator” if reelected to the White House, reiterating that he only wants to be a “dictator for one day” in order to secure the southern border and begin drilling in the U.S.
“[Peter] Baker today in the New York Times said that I want to be a dictator,” Trump said Saturday while delivering a keynote speech to the New York Young Republican Club’s 111th Annual Gala. “I didn’t say that. I said I want to be a dictator for one day. You know why I wanted to be a dictator? Because I want a wall, and I want to drill, drill, drill.”
His remarks prompted chants of “build a wall” from the audience before Trump added, “Well we did.”
Trump was making an apparent reference to an article published earlier Saturday by The New York Times’s chief White House correspondent, Peter Baker, in which he discussed the implications of Trump’s “dictator” remarks in a Fox News town hall last week.
Trump was pressed last week by Fox News’s Sean Hannity on whether he has plans — if reelected — to “abuse power, to break the law, to use the government to go after people.”
Trump initially avoided directly answering the question, and then, when asked for a second time, the former president said, “Except for day one.”
“He says, ‘You’re not going to be a dictator, are you?’ I said, no, no, no — other than day one. We’re closing the border and we’re drilling, drilling, drilling. After that, I’m not a dictator,” Trump said to Hannity before an audience in Iowa.
The remarks further fueled concern from Democrats and even some Republicans that a second Trump term could threaten democracy and risk an abuse of power to target those who have disagreed with or wronged him.
Saturday night’s gala featured other headlining Republican voices, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.) and Sen. Roger Marshall (Kan.), both of whom have endorsed Trump’s 2024 reelection bid.
“Less than a year from now, American has a choice to make — greatness or decline. I look around this city and I see the fingerprints of President Trump everywhere,” Gaetz said in a fiery speech Saturday. “And how has New York rewarded this great man? By trying to bankrupt him and imprison him,” he said, referencing Trump’s ongoing civil trial in which control of his business empire is at stake.
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