Former president Donald Trump warned that if he were indicted on a charge of mishandling classified documents after leaving the White House, there would be “problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen before.”

Trump, speaking Thursday to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, added, “I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it.”

Hewitt, who is also a contributing columnist for The Washington Post, then noted that critics would describe the comment as inciting violence, and he asked Trump to respond to the claim. “That’s not inciting – I’m just saying what my opinion is. I don’t think the people of this country would stand for it,” Trump said.

Former president Donald Trump walks to a golf cart at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., on Sept. 12. Tom Brenner/The Washington Post

When pressed by Hewitt, Trump said he thought there would be “big problems, big problems.”

Federal agents conducted a court-authorized search of Trump’s club and residence Aug. 8, as part of a long-running investigation into whether government documents – some of which are classified – were being stored at Mar-a-Lago instead of returned to the National Archives.

The FBI probe is the latest legal pressure on Trump, who now faces growing scrutiny as the criminal probe intensifies. The investigation is looking into whether he or his former aides took classified government documents and improperly stored or never returned them. Trump’s lawyer has argued that the former president cooperated with federal authorities and that many of the documents were covered by executive privilege.


In January 2021, the House impeached Trump on a single charge of “incitement of insurrection” for his role in whipping up a crowd of his supporters to stop Congress from counting electoral college votes for Joe Biden. A mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to stop the count, an attack that resulted in five deaths and injuries to dozens of members of law enforcement.

Trump’s comments Thursday came hours before officials from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security briefed Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee about threats against federal officials. After the briefing, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the committee’s chairman, described Trump’s rhetoric as dangerous.

“Inviting the mob to return to the streets is exactly what happened here on Jan. 6, 2021,” Durbin told reporters. After noting that five people died as a result of the attack and 149 law enforcement agents were injured that day, the senator said Trump’s “careless and inflammatory rhetoric has its consequences.”

In the interview with Hewitt, Trump also said he “would have no prohibition against running” for office if he were indicted. “It would not take you out of the arena,” Hewitt said, trying to clarify the former president’s position. Trump replied, “It would not.”

In 1920, socialist Eugene V. Debs ran for president from prison, where he was serving time in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary for speaking out against the draft during World War I. Debs and his running mate, Emil Seidel, garnered 913,693 votes, but – as in his previous campaigns – no electoral votes.

Trump’s warning of problems echoes Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who told Fox News last month that there would be “riots in the street” if Trump is prosecuted. Trump appeared to endorse the notion, sharing a link to a video of Graham’s comments on his Truth Social platform.

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