Former President Donald Trump’s campaign is reportedly devising plans to use the power of the federal government to punish his political opponents if he is re-elected for a second term. This has raised concerns among critics, including some prominent Republicans and former staff members from his first term, who argue that these plans pose a threat to American democracy.
During his campaign, Trump has openly expressed his desire to seek revenge against detractors and rivals. He has even promised to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate President Biden for unspecified crimes. In a recent speech and a post on his social media platform, Truth Social, he referred to left-wing Americans as “vermin.” Historians have noted that such dehumanization of political opponents is commonly employed by fascist dictators.
Trump’s campaign spokesperson, Steven Cheung, dismissed these concerns by labeling those who make such assertions as “snowflakes” suffering from “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” According to The Washington Post, Trump has privately stated his intention to direct the Department of Justice to investigate officials from his first term who have since criticized his tenure. This includes figures such as former White House chief of staff John F. Kelly, former Attorney General William P. Barr, former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark A. Milley, and former Trump White House special counsel Ty Cobb.
Advisers close to Trump have revealed that he plans to dismiss tens of thousands of career government professionals and replace them with his allies. Additionally, he intends to refuse to allocate congressional appropriations to programs he opposes. The New York Times has reported that Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration would involve using military funds to establish detention camps, invoking a public-health emergency law to halt asylum requests at the border, and ending birthright citizenship for babies born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants. Furthermore, he is considering deploying the military into Mexico to combat drug cartels, regardless of whether the Mexican government grants permission.
Numerous high-profile Republican elected officials, conservative legal scholars, and veterans of Trump’s first term have expressed concern over these intentions, arguing that they would undermine the justice system and jeopardize the rule of law. Former Representative Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming, warned that if Trump were to become president again, there would be no guardrails to prevent him from pursuing his previously obstructed agenda. Sarah Matthews, a former Trump White House and campaign press aide, criticized Trump’s policies, claiming that they prioritize consolidating power for himself rather than improving the lives of his supporters or Americans in general. Former federal appeals court Judge Michael Luttig and former assistant White House counsel under President Ronald Reagan voiced their worries about the potential catastrophic consequences for American democracy if Trump were to be re-elected. Former Trump-appointed Attorney General Rod Rosenstein stressed the importance of making prosecutorial decisions in a nonpartisan manner, free from political interference. Former Trump administration national security adviser John Bolton criticized Trump’s decision-making process, stating that it revolves around his personal benefit rather than policy considerations. Senator Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for president, highlighted the detrimental impact of Trump’s character failures on the nation’s psyche, which he believes will take a long time, if ever, to repair.