The violence is Trump's goal

It is both the means as well as the goal of Trump's fascist political project

By Chauncey DeVega

Senior Writer

Published December 1, 2023 5:45AM (EST)

Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images/Sara D. Davis)
Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images/Sara D. Davis)

Today’s Republican Party is a de facto political crime organization. And although he is now facing hundreds of years in prison and the loss of his business empire, Donald Trump remains the Big Boss. He rules through fear, intimidation, and the threat (and reality) of violence. For a recent example, those Republicans who dared to oppose Trump’s choice for Speaker of the House found out very quickly that such behavior would be met with intimidation and violence.

Trump has also publicly and repeatedly threatened death and other “serious consequences” against his “enemies” such as President Biden, Hillary Clinton, the Democrats, and all people who dare to oppose him and his MAGA movement’s attempts to end multiracial pluralistic democracy. On Wednesday, Trump issued this threat on his Truth Social platform:

I’m 12 Points up on Crooked Joe Biden - But he’s got the Justice Department and others suing me wherever and whenever possible - WEAPONIZATION, it’s called, and maybe that can make a difference," Trump posted on Truth Social. "This has never been done on this scale before, not in our Country, but it opens up a very big and dangerous Pandora’s Box.

Joe Biden should stop his Election Interfering Thugs before it is too late for him and the rest of the Country…

In a speech delivered at the recent Stop Trump Summit, actor Robert De Niro said this about Trump the political crime boss:

I’ve spent a lot of time studying bad men. I’ve examined their characteristics, their mannerisms, the utter banality of their cruelty. Yet there’s something different about Donald Trump. When I look at him, I don’t see a bad man. Truly.

I see an evil one.

Over the years, I’ve met gangsters here and there. This guy tries to be one, but he can’t quite pull it off. There’s such a thing as “honor among thieves.” Yes, even criminals usually have a sense of right and wrong. Whether they do the right thing or not is a different story—but—they have a moral code, however warped.

Donald Trump does not. He’s a wannabe tough guy with no morals or ethics. No sense of right or wrong. No regard for anyone but himself—not the people he was supposed to lead and protect, not the people he does business with, not the people who follow him, blindly and loyally, not even the people who consider themselves his “friends.” He has contempt for all of them.

Trump is a predator with a preternatural capacity for survival. Instead of being cowed and humbled by his trials and the possibility of being put in prison, he is on the attack. He has been threatening and inciting violence against court officials, including the federal judges presiding over his cases, special counsel Jack Smith and Attorney General Merrick Garland. It is a coordinated campaign of intimidation and corruption.

The courts and the larger legal system are, at least to this point, unwilling to do what is necessary to stop Trump’s attempts to escape justice, such as subjecting the ex-president to a wide-ranging gag order or putting him in jail or otherwise limiting his travel and access to communications.

Salon’s Tatyana Tandanpolie summarizes Trump’s recent attacks as follows:

The office of the New York judge overseeing Donald Trump's civil fraud trial has received an onslaught of death threats and antisemitic abuse in the wake of the former president's online attacks.

New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron and his principal law clerk, Allison Greenfield have been bombarded with hundreds of threatening, harassing and disparaging telephone and social media messages, according to a new court filing reported by The Guardian. New York state court system attorneys in the filing argued for the imposition of gag orders on Trump, citing the “serious and credible” threats against Engoron and Greenfield.

Transcribed voicemails, which were disclosed in the filing, exposed the extent of the vitriol directed at the duo. Several death threats came alongside racist and sexist attacks. “I mean, honestly, you should be assassinated,” one said. “You should be killed. You should be not assassin executed [sic]. You should be executed.”

“Resign now, you dirty, treasonous piece of trash snake. We are going to get you and anyone of you dirty, backstabbing, lying, cheating American. You are nothing but a bunch of communists. We are coming to remove you permanently," said another.

She continues:

Last month, the former president posted an image of Greenfield on his social media platform Truth Social falsely describing her as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's "girlfriend" and linking to her personal Instagram account. The act prompted Engoron to issue a partial gag order barring Trump — and later his legal team — from commenting on court staff.

A New York appeals court earlier this month, however, paused the gag order, allowing Trump to speak freely about court staff while a longer appeals process takes place.

Greenfield's personal contact information has since been compromised, a court safety official, Charles Hollon, told The Guardian.

“I have been informed by Ms. Greenfield that she has been receiving approximately 20-30 calls per day to her personal cellphone and approximately 30-50 messages per day online,” Hollon said. “Ms Greenfield also informed me that since the interim stay was issued lifting the gag orders on November 16, 2023, approximately half of the harassing and disparaging messages have been antisemitic.”

Trump has even been so bold as to amplify a post made on Truth Social “fantasizing” about a “citizen’s arrest” of Judge Erogan and New York Attorney General Tish James for the “crime” of holding him accountable under the law. For Trump, “citizen’s arrest” means violence and other harm. Trump, now in full mob boss mode, has escalated to harassing Judge Erogan’s wife.

He also possesses a special rage and hostility towards members of law enforcement who happen to be African-American and/or women. In August, the Guardian reported:

Fani Willis, the Fulton county district attorney in Georgia who is prosecuting Donald Trump and 18 other allies over efforts to overturn the 2020 election, is facing a flurry of racist online abuse after the former president attacked his opponents using the word “riggers”, a thinly veiled play on the N-word.

Hours after Willis had released the indictments on Monday night, Trump went on his social media platform Truth Social calling for all charges to be dropped and predicting he would be exonerated. He did not mention Willis by name, but accused prosecutors of pursuing the wrong criminal targets.

“They never went after those that Rigged the Election,” Trump wrote. “They only went after those that fought to find the RIGGERS!”

Willis is African American. So too are the two New York-based prosecutors who have investigated Trump, the Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg who indicted him in April over alleged hush-money payments, and Letitia James, the state attorney general who is investigating Trump’s financial records.

Trump’s allusion to the racial slur was immediately picked up by his supporters on far-right platforms including Gab and The sites hosted hundreds of posts featuring “riggers” in their headlines in a disparaging context….Calls to violence have proliferated across far-right sites since the charges were made public on Monday night. Several Gab posts reproduced images of nooses and gallows and called for Willis and grand jurors who delivered the charges to be hanged. And posts on combined the wordplay with direct calls to violence.

We need your help to stay independent

Fascism and authoritarianism are crime as politics. They are a type of politics that is inherently antidemocratic, corrupt, and violent.

On Twitter, Robert Reich neatly summarized how this dynamic is manifested by the Republican Party and “conservative” movement in the Age of Trump: "The modern Republican Party is devoted to three ideas: 1) That power is only legitimate if Republicans wield it 2) Power must be acquired by any means necessary 3) And the party is accountable to no one once it has it It's a recipe for fascism."

Contrary to what too many members of the news media, commentariat, punditry, political class – and general public – would like to believe (contrary to the abundant evidence), Trump’s threats of violence and acts of intimidation are much more than bad behavior by someone who is “hyperbolic” or perhaps even “unhinged."

In reality, this behavior is part of a much larger strategy and goal by the Republican fascists and larger “conservative” movement and White right of ending American democracy and civil society by undermining the rule of law and replacing it with corrupt power. To that point, a recent essay by the New York Daily News Editorial Board makes the following much-needed intervention about Trump’s contempt for the rule of law and how it is a page torn from the dictator’s playbook:

His contention, distilled down to its most basic elements, is that the judge and his staff are agents of some sinister partisan conspiracy to bring him down and are practically committing treason by daring to try him in accordance with the law. The leap from that to what he wants done about isn’t a big one.

At minimum, Trump believes that he should be above the law. At worst, he’s nudging his followers to take matters into their own hands, and regardless of his plausible deniability, that’s exactly how some of them will take it.

As Masha Gessen has warned, you should always “believe the autocrat” because “the best predictors of autocrats’ and aspiring autocrats’ behavior are their own public statements, because these statements brought them to power in the first place”.

Ultimately, for Trump and the larger neofascist movement, the violence is the whole point. It is both the means as well as the goal for their fascist political project of making Trump a Hitler-like dictator and getting revenge on their shared “enemies."

By Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a senior politics writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

MORE FROM Chauncey DeVega