Along with this warning comes Trump’s call for supporters to act as “poll watchers” to prevent imaginary fraud at voting locations. “Watch it,” he said last week during a rally in North Carolina. “Be poll watchers when you go there. Watch all the thieving and stealing and robbing they do.” He added that after they vote, his supporters should “make sure it counts” because the “only way” Democrats can win is by “doing very bad things.”
There’s also the president’s rhetoric toward his political opponents. Asked on Fox News about “riots” if he wins re-election, Trump said he would “put them down very quickly,” before adding:
Look, it’s called insurrection. We just send in and we do it, very easy. I mean, it’s very easy. I’d rather not do that because there’s no reason for it, but if we had to we’d do that and put it down within minutes.
Later in the interview, Trump commented on the Sept. 3 killing of Michael Forest Reinoehl by U.S. marshals. Reinoehl was suspected of shooting a member of the far-right group Patriot Prayer during a protest in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 29. Trump, who swore to uphold the Constitution when he was inaugurated, claimed to have essentially called for an extrajudicial killing:
Now we sent in the U.S. marshals for the killer, the man that killed the young man in the street. Two and a half days went by, and I put out “when are you going to go get him.” And the U.S. marshals went in to get him. There was a shootout. This guy was a violent criminal, and the U.S. marshalls killed him. And I’ll tell you something — that’s the way it has to be. There has to be retribution.
Instead of making a conventional appeal to voters to give him another term in office, Trump is issuing a threat, of sorts: I cannot lose. If I do lose, the election was stolen. Anyone protesting my effort to hold onto power is an insurrectionist. And sometimes, “there has to be retribution.”
You can dismiss Trump’s statements as mere ranting and raving, but remember: This is a president who makes policy with his ranting and raving. And his allies, both in and out of government, have gotten the message. Asked in an interview with Alex Jones, the far-right conspiracy theorist, what Trump should do against Democrats who “think they can steal” the election, Roger Stone — a close confidant of the president whose 40-month prison sentence for witness tampering and lying to Congress was commuted by Trump earlier this year — said that “the ballots in Nevada on election night should be seized by federal marshals and taken from the state” because “they are completely corrupted.” He also urged the president to declare “martial law” and invoke the Insurrection Act to arrest political opponents.