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Trump’s Next Big Lie Is Already Here
With false claims of “weaponization,” Trump is inflaming the same sentiments that led to January 6th.
FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP promises to “weaponize” the Department of Justice against his political adversaries if he becomes president again in January 2025—a threat based on a lie that’s already proving dangerous.
For months, Trump has been telling his supporters that the felony charges he faces in Georgia, New York, Florida, and Washington, D.C. are unjustified forms of “election interference.” He has led them to believe this “weaponization” is part of a plot by “vermin within the confines of our country, that lie and steal and cheat on elections” to deprive him and his supporters of a victory in 2024. Therefore, he suggests, he is entitled to engage in the same legal warfare against his opponents when he becomes president.
In 2020, Trump’s big election lie was that Biden’s victory was illegitimate. His tall tale about “weaponization” is his next big election lie, and its aims are similar to those of the old lie. He is using his fake victimization story to mobilize allies to reject any form of political accountability for his actions and reject the results of the election if he loses—just as they did after the 2020 election.
While we know Trump’s story about a prosecutorial conspiracy is a lie, we should recognize the power it may have over the 2024 campaign, and its potential to inspire violence, as Trump’s old lie did on January 6th.
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Most immediately, the risks are borne by the courts, prosecutors, and jurors trying criminal cases against him. Already, two judges of Trump’s cases have issued protective orders restricting what he can say about the cases—especially his ability to incite his supporters against court personnel.
In recent weeks, Trump has publicly attacked prosecutors in racial terms, and violent threats against them have risen. The FBI was called to investigate threats to the Fulton County, Georgia grand jurors who indicted Trump and 18 co-defendants in August for a string of alleged 2020 election crimes; Trump supporters had posted their names and addresses on a website known for violent content. A Huntsville, Alabama man was indicted last month for leaving threatening messages for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and County Sheriff Patrick Labat. “Be looking over your shoulder,” the man warned.
Similarly, a Texas woman was charged in August for threatening to kill a Democratic congresswoman and Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who is overseeing the federal case against Trump for his alleged attempt to overturn the 2020 election. Prosecutors say that the woman told the judge, “You are in our sights, we want to kill you.” And, “If Trump doesn’t get elected in 2024, we are coming to kill you.”
The courts are struggling to stop Trump from continuing his attacks on the legal system amid his trials. The New York judge overseeing Trump’s ongoing civil trial, Justice Arthur Engoron, formally admonished Trump for posting online a “disparaging untrue and personally identifying post about a member of my staff.” The post was removed, but only after millions of Trump’s supporters had seen it. Trump continues to post, calling out prosecutors by name and telling his followers he is a “victim of a corrupt legal system.”
TRUMP’S 2020 LIES WERE AIMED at holding on to power; the damage they caused to the rule of law was collateral. With his 2024 lies, opposition to the rule of law is the very purpose. No one is supposed to be above the law, not even former presidents. Yet Trump resists any form of legal accountability for his acts because, as he has said, “I was always of the opinion that a thing like this couldn’t happen. In other words, you protect your former presidents.”
Like many aspiring autocrats, Trump is engaging in the democratic process in hopes of becoming powerful enough to subvert it. Should he win the presidency, he will use his powers as both a spear and a shield—both to “dismantle” the government and to protect himself from accountability.
He is upfront about his 2025 agenda in campaign speeches and policy promises. Additionally, there is a growing body of reporting fleshing out, in detail, how these ambitions will be carried out by a vast network of operatives and staffers in a second Trump administration. Specifically, Trump plans to purge civil service employees and replace them with partisan loyalists who will seek retribution against those prosecuting Trump and others they deem to be their political enemies. He can be expected to eradicate prosecutorial independence at the Department of Justice and shut down any ongoing federal investigations into his activities. And, if, between now and inauguration day 2025, he is convicted of any federal crimes himself, Trump is already on record: “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself.”
Trump has also promised that if restored to power he would issue pardons to January 6th rioters, with a full government apology. He recorded a video to help fundraise for the rioters, calling them victims of the “weaponization of the Department of Justice” and lamented how the rioters were being treated, describing them as “American Patriots” who “are being arrested and held in captivity like animals. . . our people love those people.”
Those “patriots” are, in reality, jailed for violent crimes. The Washington Post identified four of the men in the song’s music video as persons charged with assaulting police “using weapons such as a crowbar, sticks and chemical spray.” No matter to Trump, who added earlier this month that, “I call them the J6 hostages, not prisoners.”
Rewriting the history of January 6th and turning rioters into “patriots” and “hostages” worthy of pardons and an apology from the government isn’t just a terrible rhetorical deceit from the former president. It’s an egregious example of how Trump is using the 2024 weaponization lie to justify brutal, even deadly force against anyone who might stand in his way.