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In Context: Donald Trump was asked if he will be a dictator if reelected. Here’s what he said.

Former President Donald Trump steps onstage Oct. 9, 2023, for an address in Wolfeboro, N.H. (AP) Former President Donald Trump steps onstage Oct. 9, 2023, for an address in Wolfeboro, N.H. (AP)

Former President Donald Trump steps onstage Oct. 9, 2023, for an address in Wolfeboro, N.H. (AP)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman December 7, 2023

During a recent town hall, Fox News’ Sean Hannity gave former President Donald Trump the chance to rebut the idea — floated by some Republicans — that if reelected, he would be a dictator.

Instead of a straightforward denial, Trump said he would be a dictator only on "Day 1" of his tenure.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who also is seeking the GOP nomination, has accused Trump of wanting to rule as a dictator. And former Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican and frequent Trump critic, told CBS during a Dec. 1 interview that Trump "told us what he will do. It's very easy to see the steps that he will take. … One of the things that we see happening today is a sort of a sleepwalking into dictatorship in the United States."

Trump discussed the accusations in a Dec. 5 Iowa town hall with Hannity. Here, we look at the former president and current GOP front-runner’s remarks in context. 

During the town hall, Hannity tried twice to ask Trump if he would act as a dictator. 

First, Hannity said that the media wants to call Trump a dictator, noting that Trump has used the words, "I am your retribution." Then Hannity asked: "To be clear, do you in any way, have any plans whatsoever, if reelected president, to abuse power, to break the law, to use the government to go after people?"

Trump did not directly answer, and instead brought up the four indictments against him, which he called "nonsense" and "made-up charges."

Later, Hannity raised the topic again: 

Hannity: "I want to go back to this one issue though because the media has been focused on this and attacking you. Under no circumstances you're promising America tonight you would never abuse power as retribution against anybody?"

Trump: "Except for Day 1." 

Hannity: "Except for?"

Trump: (pointing to Hannity) "Look, he’s going crazy. Except for Day 1."

Hannity: "Meaning?"

Trump: "I want to close the border and I want to drill, drill, drill."

Hannity: "That’s not retribution." 

Trump, referring to Hannity: "We love this guy. He says, ‘You are not going to be a dictator, are you?’ I said, ‘No, no, no, other than Day 1.’ We are closing the border and we are drilling, drilling, drilling. After that I am not a dictator, OK?"

Hannity: "That sounds to me like you’re going back to the policies when you were president."

The media has documented multiple examples of Trump’s plans for a second presidency and comments that sound authoritarian.

At a New Hampshire campaign event, he vowed to "root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country that lie and steal and cheat on elections." We have debunked the notion that the 2020 election was stolen or rigged.

Trump has made several promises to fire local prosecutors; investigate Comcast, NBC and MSNBC for treason and remove them from the airwaves; and terminate the U.S. Constitution.

And in a Truth Social post, Trump implied that former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley should be executed for treason. Trump criticized Milley, a U.S. Army general, for calling his Chinese counterpart to reassure him after the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the U.S. Capitol. Trump wrote on the social media platform that it was "an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH." 

PolitiFact researcher Caryn Baird contributed research to this report.

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In Context: Donald Trump was asked if he will be a dictator if reelected. Here’s what he said.