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Trump doesn’t rule out political violence if he loses, and other takeaways from his Time interview

By Steve Contorno and Kate Sullivan, CNN

(CNN) — Former President Donald Trump wouldn’t dismiss the potential for political violence from his supporters if he isn’t elected in November, suggesting it would depend on the outcome of the presidential race.

“I don’t think we’re going to have that,” the presumptive GOP nominee told Time magazine. “I think we’re going to win. And if we don’t win, you know, it depends. It always depends on the fairness of an election.”

The remarks came in a wide-ranging interview with the magazine that published Tuesday. The conversation, which took place over two sessions earlier this month, also touched on abortion and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s contentious leadership, among other topics.

Here are four takeaways from the interview:

Trump’s baseless election conspiracies fuel his refusal to dismiss future violence and promise of January 6 pardons

Speaking to Time at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, Trump at first downplayed the likelihood of political violence similar to the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

“I think we’re gonna have a big victory. And I think there will be no violence,” said Trump, who, after his 2020 defeat, assembled his supporters in Washington ahead of the attack, and then at first refused to call for them to leave the US Capitol grounds.

But pressed by the magazine in a later phone interview, Trump was less definitive about the future. Instead, he continued to push false 2020 election conspiracies, which he suggested provoked the violent mob.

“I don’t believe they’ll be able to do the things that they did the last time,” Trump said.

Throughout his political career, Trump has regularly refused to accept the results of an election or commit to a conceding defeat. After finishing second in the Iowa caucuses in 2016, Trump accused Texas Sen. Ted Cruz of fraud and called for a new contest. Later, while facing Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump baselessly claimed the election he eventually won was “rigged” and repeatedly refused to say whether he would abide by the outcome. He again avoided a commitment heading into the 2024 election.

These repeated denials provoked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during the Republican primary to predict that Trump wouldn’t accept the results of the 2024 Iowa caucuses if he lost. (Trump ultimately won Iowa by a resounding margin.)

In his interview, Trump also doubled down on his promise to pardon the hundreds of people sentenced for crimes committed stemming from January 6. Trump has called these individuals “hostages,” though many have pleaded guilty to violent crimes or have been convicted by juries.

During an exchange on the issue, Time asked: “Will you consider pardoning every one of them?”

Trump replied, “I would consider that, yes.”

Time: “You would?”

Trump: “Yes, absolutely.”

The pitfalls of Trump’s latest abortion position are laid bare

Trump’s remarks in the interview on abortion were illustrative of the limitations – and potential political pitfalls – of his stated desire to punt the future of access to state legislatures and voters.

He refused to say whether he would veto a federal abortion ban, insisting such a measure was unlikely to happen, despite previously saying he wouldn’t sign a federal abortion ban if he were reelected and one came to his desk. And asked by Time whether he was “comfortable” if states punish women who undergo abortions where it’s banned, Trump didn’t object.

“I don’t have to be comfortable or uncomfortable,” Trump said. “The states are going to make that decision. The states are going to have to be comfortable or uncomfortable, not me.”

Earlier this month, Trump similarly said he would let states decide if doctors who perform illegal abortions should be punished.

As a candidate in 2016, Trump said there “has to be some form of punishment” for women getting an illegal abortion – a position his campaign walked back almost immediately.

President Joe Biden’s campaign immediately seized on Trump’s latest remarks.

“Donald Trump’s latest comments leave little doubt: if elected he’ll sign a national abortion ban, allow women who have an abortion to be prosecuted and punished, allow the government to invade women’s privacy to monitor their pregnancies, and put IVF and contraception in jeopardy nationwide,” Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez said Tuesday. “The horrific and devastating stories in states like Florida, Texas and Arizona with extreme abortion bans unleashed by Trump overturning Roe are just the beginning if he wins.”

Trump also ducked behind states when asked whether governments should monitor pregnancies to track whether a woman has an abortion.

“I think they might do that,” Trump said. “Again, you’ll have to speak to the individual states.”

Yet, Trump’s preference for the states to decide didn’t stop him from criticizing Florida’s new six-week ban as “too severe.” The law will take effect Wednesday, though voters in the Sunshine State – including Trump – will have an opportunity in November to decide whether to approve new protections that would guarantee abortion access until viability.

Trump, though, declined to share how he would vote.

“I don’t tell you what I’m gonna vote for,” he said.

Trump rekindles criticism of Netanyahu

In the aftermath of the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, Trump lashed out at Netanyahu and blamed the embattled Israeli prime minister for perceived security lapses that failed to stop the deadly incursion. The remarks drew widespread rebukes from Trump’s Republican primary rivals and even some supporters on Capitol Hill and advisers who bristled at the timing of the recriminations of an ally.

Though he remained noticeably uncommitted to supporting Israel’s military response, Trump withheld more public attacks of Netanyahu. But six months into the war between Israel and Hamas – and amid intensifying outrage at home and abroad over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians – Trump stepped up his criticism of the prime minister once again.

Trump told Time that Netanyahu “rightfully has been criticized for what took place on October 7” and declined to stand by him when asked whether he should be replaced as prime minister.

Instead, Trump – still aggrieved that Netanyahu allegedly “dropped out” of the US-backed military operation that led to the killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani – noted the Hamas attack “happened on his watch.”

Trump also said a future two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians is “going to be very, very tough,” though he didn’t articulate his idea for a path forward.

“You had a lot of people that liked the idea four years ago,” Trump said. “Today, you have far fewer people that like that idea.”

Tepid calls for Wall Street Journal reporter’s release

It took some prodding, but Trump for the first time said that Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich “should be released” after a year of detainment in Russia.

Asked why he hadn’t previously called for Gershkovich’s release, Trump said: “I guess because I have so many other things I’m working on.”

The tepid support for Gershkovich, an American journalist detained on an espionage charge that The Journal and US authorities have said is baseless, is reminiscent of Trump’s past refusal to forcefully condemn a foreign leader for their treatment of a perceived political enemy.

Earlier this year, Trump remained silent for days after Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny died in Russian prison even as other world leaders swiftly and forcefully condemned the Kremlin. When Trump finally did publicly weigh in, he still did not condemn Russia or President Vladimir Putin, instead baselessly suggesting that he was being politically persecuted in the same way Navalny was. Trump later called Navalny “very brave” and said it was a “very sad situation.”

When journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in 2018, Trump declined to condemn Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite the CIA concluding the ruler authorized the brutal murder. Trump said he was “extremely angry and very unhappy” about Khashoggi’s murder, but said “nobody has directly pointed a finger” at the crown prince. In addition to the CIA’s conclusion, a United Nations report later also implicated bin Salman.

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