Former President Donald Trump gives remarks at the South Texas International airport on November 19, 2023 in Edinburg, Texas.
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A second Donald Trump administration will take action “criminally or civilly” against people in the media, an ally of the former U.S. president warned.
“We will go out and find the conspirators, not just in the 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 the elections, we’re going to come after you,” Kash Patel said on Steve Bannon’s podcast, referring to a potential second Trump leadership.
“Whether it’s criminally or civilly, we’ll figure that out, but yeah, we’re putting you all on notice.”
He added that a new Trump administration would have to “put in all-American patriots top to bottom.”
Patel previously served as chief advisor to the secretary of defense and as counterterrorism advisor on the National Security Council.
Kash Patel, a former chief of staff to then-acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, speaks during a campaign event for Republican election candidates at the Whiskey Roads Restaurant & Bar on July 31, 2022 in Tucson, Arizona.
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Trump has yet to be confirmed as the 2024 presidential nominee of the Republican party, which embraced him during his first candidacy. The former White House leader faces four separate criminal indictments but enjoys ongoing popularity in the polls.
Criminalizing free speech at a government level would bring the U.S. closer to dictatorial policies such as the censorship practiced in Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment on whether it endorses Patel’s views. The Associated Press reported that the Trump campaign had told the news agency that pronouncements “like this have nothing to do” with the group.
“The biggest problem we have? The media. The media is fake,” Trump said in a separate televised interview with Fox News on Tuesday. “I came up with the term a long time ago, and they won’t talk about it.”
Asked during that same interview whether he would ever use power in a retaliatory manner if re-elected, Trump said, “Except for day one … I want to close the border, and I want to drill, drill, drill.”
He added, “After that, I’m not going to be a dictator,” making no mention of retribution against the press.
Trump’s relationship with the press has been historically tenuous, including an episode of blocking several high-profile outlets such as CNN, Politico and the New York Times, from a White House media briefing.
Controversial in headlines, Trump has often complained of partisanship and unfair treatment from mainstream media, referring to several outlets as “fake news,” the “opposition party” and an “enemy of the people” — a term popularized by the Soviet Union to discredit its critics.
Following his perceived incitement to violence during the Capitol unrest of Jan. 6 perpetrated by his supporters, his accounts were suspended by Facebook and X, formally known as Twitter at the time. His X account was reinstated in November 2022 after the social media platform was formally taken over by self-defined “free speech absolutist” Elon Musk.
Amid bans, Trump in 2021 announced the launch of his own social media network — the Trump Media and Technology Group — and of the TRUTH Social platform to “stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech.”