President Donald Trump on Friday was facing scrutiny for comments in a recent interview with Breitbart News in which he warned his ‘tough’ supporters could turn things ‘very bad’ if provoked by his political opponents.
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“I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump,” Trump said to Breitbart in an interview Monday after reportedly being asked about “how the left is fighting hard.”
“I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad,” he said.
Trump tweeted out a link promoting the website Thursday night after several Democrats and political commentators raised issues with the comments and whether they amounted to a potential threat of violence.
“I think it’s more than an implicit threat,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, in an interview Wednesday night on MSNBC. “It sounds very much to me like he’s encouraging them to engage in something that’s probably illegal such as assaulting people.”
But Trump deleted the tweet early Friday after news overnight of the massacre at two mosques in New Zealand, though it was not immediately clear whether the attacks had any impact over the decision. The White House did not immediately respond to an ABC News request for comment on the deleted tweet.
White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway in an interview on CNN Thursday night disputed that the president was in any way advocating violence from his supporters.
“You have to read the entire interview,” Conway said. “He was talking about how peaceful and gentle many people are who are otherwise tough.”
Though the comments follow a trend of the president using veiled language to play up the “toughness” of his supporters in the face of what he describes as a radical and unhinged resistance.
“They’re so lucky that we’re peaceful,” Trump said in a September 2018 campaign rally. “Law enforcement, military, construction workers, Bikers for Trump.”
Trump added, “but they’re peaceful people and Antifa and all, they better hope they stay that way.”
Similarly, Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign seemed to raise the specter of possible violence against his opponent Hillary Clinton when he spoke during a North Carolina rally about her desire to tighten the nation’s gun laws.
“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” Trump said. “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”
At the time, Trump and his campaign insisted he was merely urging gun rights advocates to vote against Clinton.