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Trump allies threaten criminal charges against media if elected

Donald Trump’s campaign of retribution and political prosecution is not merely “rhetoric” but a “dead serious” threat to his opponents and the media, according to his own allies.

On his War Room podcast on Tuesday, former White House adviser and far-right activist Steve Bannon asked Trump loyalist Kash Patel whether he can “deliver the goods” and “get rolling on prosecutions” should Mr Trump win election in 2024.

“And I want the Morning Joe producers that watch us and all the producers to watch us – this is not just rhetoric. We’re absolutely dead serious,” Bannon said. “The deep state, the administrative state, the fourth branch of government never mentioned in the Constitution, is going to be taken apart, brick by brick, and the people that did these evil deeds will be held accountable and prosecuted, criminal prosecutions.”

Patel said a team of “all-American patriots” in all levels of government in a potential Trump administration beginning in 2025 will “come after” members of the press that he claims have “lied about American citizens” and “helped Joe Biden rig presidential elections.”

“We’re going to come after you, whether it’s criminal or civilly, we’ll figure that out,” said Mr Patel, who joined the Trump administration in 2019 as a dubiously qualified intelligence official.

“We’re putting you all on notice,” he said. “And Steve, this is why they hate us. This is why we’re tyrannical. This is why we’re dictators, because we’re actually going to use the Constitution to prosecute them for crimes they said we have always been guilty of but never have.”

Donald Trump Jr has previously suggested that Mr Patel is on a shortlist for acting US attorney general in his father’s potential cabinet. Mr Bannon suggested he would be CIA director.

The former president says he sees his multiple criminal indictments and lawsuits as part of a Democratic conspiracy that is “weaponising” the federal government against him, and he appears ready to do the same to his political opponents if he’s elected.

Mr Trump’s allies have floated an autocratic gameplan should he win election in 2024, one supported by right-wing special interest groups and staffed with loyalists prepared to implement his radical agenda.

“I cannot imagine an individual less suited for this position,” Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a scholar of authoritarianism and the author of Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present, wrote in response to Mr Patel’s remarks.

“This is not OK. It’s not normal, it’s not democratic [and] it is dangerous,” said Stephanie Grisham, a former White House communications director in the Trump administration.