Trump says he will only be a dictator ‘on day one’ if re-elected as US president

Joe Biden says he may have skipped 2024 re-election bid if he were not facing Trump

Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he will not become a dictator if he becomes US president again except “on day one”, after warnings from Democrats and some Republicans that the US was in danger of becoming an autocracy if he wins the 2024 election.

Republican presidential candidate Trump had to be asked twice during a televised town hall event in Iowa to deny that he would abuse power to seek revenge on political opponents if re-elected to the White House.

“No. No. Other than day one,” Trump said when asked to deny he would become a “dictator” if he wins the November election.

Trump said on the “day one” he referred to, he would use his presidential powers to close the southern border with Mexico and expand oil drilling.


Trump, seeking a second White House term in a likely election rematch with Democratic president Joe Biden, has frequently promised “retribution” on political opponents if he gains power again.

Targets include Biden, prosecutors who have charged him with dozens of crimes, the US department of justice and the federal bureaucracy, he said in campaign speeches and TV appearances this year.

Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, was appearing at a Fox News event before an audience in Davenport, Iowa, the state where the party’s nominating contest kicks off on January 15th.

As soon as the event finished, Biden's campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, said in a statement: “Donald Trump has been telling us exactly what he will do if he's re-elected and tonight he said he will be a dictator on day one. Americans should believe him.”

Trump was US president between 2017-2021, and has refused to concede that he lost to Biden in the 2020 election.

Since then Trump has spread false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him, a conspiracy that fuelled the deadly insurrection by Trump supporters at the US Capitol on January 6th, 2021. Trump’s election lies also form a cornerstone of his current White House campaign.

The former president’s rivals for the nomination, including Florida governor Ron DeSantis and former US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, will appear at a televised debate on Wednesday at the University of Alabama at 10am Irish time.

Trump will skip the event, as he has done for the three previous Republican debates.

Biden has repeatedly warned that Trump is a threat to democracy, and that a second Trump term could usher in an unprecedented and dangerous age of American autocracy.

Former US Representative Liz Cheney, a Republican who is an outspoken critic of Trump and who co-chaired the congressional investigation of the attack on the Capitol, said in media interviews to promote a memoir this week that a Trump dictatorship is a “very real threat” if he wins re-election.

On Tuesday, Biden said he may have skipped mounting a 2024 re-election bid if he were not facing Trump because the Republican poses a unique threat to the United States.

“If Trump wasn’t running, I’m not sure I’d be running,” Biden said at a fundraising event for his campaign outside of Boston. “We cannot let him win.”

Biden’s self-assessment comes as even staunch Democratic voters express concerns about the president’s age. The Democrat turned 81 years old last month and is already the eldest oval office occupant in history.

“Somebody gave him a talking point they thought would sound good,” Trump said in response on Tuesday.

Biden, seeking a second four-year term in next year’s election, later told reporters at the White House that he would not drop out of the race.

“No, not now,” Biden said when asked if he would consider stepping aside if Trump (77) stopped seeking his own second term. “Look, he is running, and I have to run.”

Asked if he would have run were Trump not in the race, Biden said, “I expect so.” – Reuters