Trump Defends His Warning of a ‘Blood Bath for the Country’

Former President Donald J. Trump on Monday sought to defend his declaration over the weekend that the country would face a “blood bath” if he lost in November, saying that he had been referring only to the auto industry.

“The Fake News Media, and their Democrat Partners in the destruction of our Nation, pretended to be shocked at my use of the word BLOODBATH, even though they fully understood that I was simply referring to imports allowed by Crooked Joe Biden, which are killing the automobile industry,” he wrote on his social media platform.

He made the remarks in Ohio on Saturday, in a speech delivered on behalf of Bernie Moreno, whom he has endorsed in Tuesday’s Republican Senate primary. After vowing to impose tariffs on cars manufactured outside the United States, he then said: “Now, if I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a blood bath for the whole — that’s going to be the least of it. It’s going to be a blood bath for the country.”

In the same speech, Mr. Trump called some migrants “animals” and “not people, in my opinion”; described people convicted in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol as “hostages”; and suggested that American democracy would end if he lost. “I don’t think you’re going to have another election, or certainly not an election that’s meaningful,” he said.

Mr. Trump has embraced violent messaging since he first ran for president, at one point telling his supporters that he would pay their legal expenses if they attacked a protester at one of his rallies. He escalated his rhetoric after he lost in 2020, encouraging his supporters who ended up storming the Capitol. He still describes them as persecuted patriots.

Now in his third presidential run, he has become more explicit.

He said in September that shoplifters should be shot and that Mark Milley, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, should be executed. He urged his supporters to “go after” the attorney general of New York, whose office filed a lawsuit against him for fraud. In January, he warned of “bedlam in this country” if the legal cases against him hurt him electorally.

And on Sunday, the day after the Ohio rally, Fox News broadcast an interview with Mr. Trump in which he repeated his past assertions that migrants were “poisoning the blood” of the country.

Supporters of Mr. Trump, including the mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, have over time responded to his words with action, even when his language is ambiguous. Law enforcement officials and prosecutors involved in the criminal cases against the former president have received threats. So have election workers, election administrators and officials who refused to go along with Mr. Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

Mr. Trump and his supporters objected to blowback over his latest remarks, saying that they had been taken out of context by those who ignored his references to the auto industry and decried the comments as a direct call for violence.

President Biden’s campaign responded to that objection with a video montage that included the “blood bath” comment alongside footage of Mr. Trump saying there were “very fine people on both sides” of the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, telling the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” and pledging to pardon Jan. 6 defendants. “MAGA wanted context, so we gave them context,” a Biden spokesman, Parker Butler, wrote on social media on Monday.

Many Republicans responded to Mr. Trump’s latest comments by defending him or equivocating. Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Representative Michael R. Turner of Ohio, who were both asked about the “blood bath” remark on Sunday morning talk shows, indicated that they didn’t believe Mr. Trump had been calling for violence.

“The president’s statements concerning ‘blood bath’ were about what would happen in the auto industry if actually the Chinese manufacturers who are coming into Mexico were permitted to import into the United States,” Mr. Turner said.

But Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who voted to convict Mr. Trump in his impeachment trial after Jan. 6, said on “Meet the Press” that “the general tone” of Mr. Trump’s Saturday speech was “why many Americans continue to wonder, ‘Should President Trump be president?’”

“That kind of rhetoric, it’s always on the edge — maybe doesn’t cross, maybe does, depending upon your perspective,” Mr. Cassidy said.

Mr. Trump, for his part, on Monday followed up his post defending his remarks with another visceral all-caps appeal: “Our once great country is going down the drain. We are a nation in decline! Vote for Trump, what the hell do you have to lose?”

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