Republicans in Congress find ways to make Americans pay for Trump's crimes

The whole GOP establishment has lined up behind Trump to degrade the jury system and the rule of law

By Heather Digby Parton


Published June 3, 2024 9:26AM (EDT)

Marjorie Taylor Greene and Mike Lee (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Marjorie Taylor Greene and Mike Lee (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

We are starting to see a lot of reporting about Donald Trump's promises to wreak revenge on his enemies should he get back into power next year. Some of us have been focusing on this for years because Trump made "vengeance is mine" his credo going back decades. He's never made a secret of it. He even gave a speech at the Christian right's flagship Liberty University before he ever ran for president and gave them two pieces of advice. First, always get a prenup and second, "get even":

I always say don't let people take advantage — this goes for a country, too, by the way — don't let people take advantage. Get even. And you know, if nothing else, others will see that and they're going to say, You know, I'm going to let Jim Smith or Sarah Malone, I'm going to let them alone because they're tough customers.

Years before that he told an audience in Colorado, "If someone screws you, screw them back 10 times harder. At least they're going to leave you alone, and at least you'll feel good. I believe in screwing people when they screw you." In his book "Think Big," Trump wrote:

I love getting even when I get screwed by someone. ... Always get even. When you are in business you need to get even with people who screw you. You need to screw them back 15 times harder. You do it not only to get the person who messed with you but also to show the others who are watching what will happen to them if they mess with you. If someone attacks you, do not hesitate. Go for the jugular.

He famously declared "I am your retribution" at CPAC in March of 2023 and last December, he proudly posted a word cloud with "revenge" as the word most closely associated with him. 

It is a defining characteristic that he has never tried to hide until recently. So when he spouts this sanctimonious line (that probably came from a GOP professional like Kellyanne Conway) "my revenge will be success" it's obvious that he doesn't mean it. In fact, he can hardly spit it out. On Fox News on Sunday, he was squirming with discomfort when it came up:

For the record, he said "lock her up" many, many times at his rallies and never once tried to stop his crowds from chanting it. 

The Guardian reported that the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington did an exhaustive study of his threats to exact revenge on his political opponents and perceived enemies in law enforcement:

The presumptive Republican nominee has threatened to use the federal government to go after Biden during a second Trump administration 25 times since the start of 2023, the study found. These threats include FBI raids, investigations, indictments and even jail time. He has also threatened or suggested that the FBI and justice department should take action against senators, judges, members of Biden’s family and even non-governmental organisations.

Why would anyone expect anything different from the man who posts, “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!

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The new immunity claim he and his legal team have hatched for the Jan. 6 case adds another wrinkle to his threats. In a recent Time Magazine interview, Trump said that unless the Supreme Court gives him immunity for his crimes, if he wins he is going after Joe Biden. It's a very cute construct

President Trump, isn’t going after your political opponents what they do in a banana republic?

Trump: That’s what’s happening now. Yeah.


Well, sir, just to be clear—

Trump: Wait a minute, I haven't had a chance to do it to them. I would be inclined not to do it. I don't want to do it to them. But a lot of that's going to have to do with the Supreme Court. Look, we are going in another two weeks to the Supreme Court. And they're going to make a ruling on presidential immunity. If they said that a president doesn't get immunity, then Biden, I am sure, will be prosecuted for all of his crimes, because he's committed many crimes...


Trump: Allowing all of this stuff. If a president doesn't have immunity. So when you asked me that question, it depends on what the Supreme Court does. 

It really would be a win-win for him. If he gets immunity and he loses, at least he's off the hook on all the federal charges. (He and his legal advisers all think he'll be bailed out on appeal in the state charges in New York and that the Georgia case is dead on arrival.) If he gets immunity and wins he'll find other ways to get his revenge using his loyal MAGA executive branch. They've already shown a willingness to go after family members, for instance. If he doesn't get immunity and wins, he'll just direct his attorney general to dismiss the federal cases and devote himself to destroying his enemies using the full power of the federal government. 

The only scenario that guarantees accountability for the federal crimes stemming from Jan. 6 and theft of classified documents, is if the Supreme Court denies his immunity claim and he loses the election. We live in hope but I wouldn't count on it coming down that way. 

If he does manage to make it to the White House again, his allies are all on board:

"We're going to come after you. Whether it's criminally or civilly, we'll figure that out," [Kash] Patel, a National Security Council and Defense Department official during the Trump administration, told Steve Bannon on his podcast.

We will go out and find the conspirators — not just in government, but in the media. Yes, we’re going to come after the people in the media who lied about American citizens, who helped Joe Biden rig presidential elections," he said,

Mike Davis is a man often discussed as a potential attorney general or White House counsel in a new Trump administration:

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We already observed the lackeys trekking to the Manhattan courthouse to show fealty to Trump during his trial. Now that he's been convicted, the MAGA caucus in the Senate is staging a full-blown tantrum and refusing to allow any legislation until well ... nobody knows exactly:

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, circulated his own letter in which he suggested it was the White House that “made a mockery” of the rule of law and altered politics in “un-American” ways. He and other senators threatened to stall Senate business until Republicans take action.

“Those who turned our judicial system into a political cudgel must be held accountable,” Lee said.

House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, R-Oh., is demanding that Manhattan DAs Alvin Bragg and Matthew Colangelo appear before his "weaponization of the federal government" committee to explain their "political prosecution." The whole GOP establishment has lined up behind Trump to degrade the jury system, the rule of law and any form of accountability for Trump's crimes. 

Jason Stanley, a professor at Yale and the author of “How Fascism Works” told the Associated Press that history is full of examples of people not believing the rhetoric of authoritarians. 

“Believe what they say,” he said. “He’s literally telling you he’s going to use the apparatus of the state to target his political opponents.”

Trump says a lot of foolish things and half the time he doesn't know what he's talking about. But when it comes to his lifelong thirst for vengeance there is no doubt that he means it. And he is now backed by the vast majority of elected Republicans who are clearly slavering at the prospect of taking down their political enemies. They will do it.

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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