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‘Bloodbath’: How Trump got White House to drop its refusal to address 2024 campaign

Trump has been using wild language to keep his loyalists riled up

Former President Donald Trump speaks on the phone during day three of a LIV Golf tournament in Miami at Trump National Doral on Sunday. (Megan Briggs/Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump speaks on the phone during day three of a LIV Golf tournament in Miami at Trump National Doral on Sunday. (Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

ANALYSIS — Donald Trump’s return to the campaign trail brought yet another escalation in his rhetoric, with him calling immigrants “animals” and tripling down on his “bloodbath” predictions.

The presumed GOP nominee’s latest bombast even prompted the top White House spokesperson to set aside her reluctance to discuss the campaign from the briefing room’s storied podium and lectern. Trump last month warned of a “bloodbath” economically if Biden wins a second term — but he added a more expansive warning during a campaign rally in Ohio: “That’s going to be the least of it.”

Since that March 16 remark, Trump has used the term “bloodbath” again and again in interviews, on social media and at the small number of campaign events he has headlined. But his campaign organization and the Republican National Committee have also tried raising funds using the same word.

Trump stood on a stage last week in Grand Rapids, Mich., before a sign that read: “Stop Biden’s Border Bloodbath.” His remarks included lines with the same sentiment — a vintage Trumpian attempt to transfer his bombast onto his expected general election foe.

A few hours before Trump took his “bloodbath” tour to Michigan and later Wisconsin, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre felt the 45th president’s again-ramping-up rhetoric was worthy of her ditching her strict adherence to the Hatch Act, a law which prohibits most federal employees from engaging in campaign activities in their official capacity.

A Fox News reporter asked Jean-Pierre on April 2 about the difference between Trump using “bloodbath” and Biden using the same word during the 2020 election campaign: “So, when Donald Trump is talking about a ‘bloodbath,’ it is violent rhetoric. What was it when Joe Biden said, in 2020, ‘What we can’t let happen is let this primary become a negative bloodbath?”

“He was talking about a group of people. … That’s what he’s talking about,” Jean-Pierre said, referring to Trump and migrants from Central and South America. “What the president was talking about during the [2020] primary was not to allow it to be — the words — in the primary and that election to become negative. Two different — two different things.

“They’re not the same. They’re not the same,” she added. “And your question is disingenuous.”

But the Biden campaign and congressional Democrats who also will be on the ballot in November already are using Trump’s “bloodbath” forecast to try attracting enough voters to block his return to the White House.

“We’re a closely divided nation, but I’m very confident that when we lay out our competing visions for a future, Joe Biden building off unemployment falling, manufacturing jobs going up, people’s 401(k) is going up, lowest uninsured rate in American history,” said Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, whose Virginia reelection race is rated “Solid Democratic” by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.

“We compare it with a Donald Trump, who is urging Jan. 6 protesters to be pardoned and using phrases like bloodbath, etc., to talk about what he hopes to do in a second term,” Kaine added during a March 24 appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” referring to rioters convicted for their actions during the Capitol attack in early 2021.

Trump took a break late last week from the campaign trail, but did make time to call into conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt’s show on Thursday morning. And the rhetoric just kept escalating.

“I think what happened is, you know, that white stuff that they happened to find, which happened to be cocaine in the White House, I don’t know, I think something’s going on there, because I watched this State of the Union, and he was all jacked up at the beginning,” Trump said of Biden’s March address to a joint session of Congress. “By the end, he was fading fast. There’s something going on there. I want to debate. And I think debates, with him, at least, should be drug tested. I want a drug test.”

Hewitt shot back: “Mr. President, are you suggesting President Biden’s using cocaine?”

“I don’t know what he’s using,” Trump said, “but that was not, hey, he was higher than a kite.”

The remark was not widely covered, prompting Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to then-President Barack Obama, to criticize media coverage of the expected Biden-Trump rematch.

“Imagine if @JoeBiden went on @PodSaveAmerica to talk about his agenda, but at one point toward the end of the interview, he casually mentioned that Trump used cocaine. Would the press ignore him?” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter, referring to his own podcast. “Of course not. It would be a major story.”

The accusation and light coverage showed, again, the extent to which Trump has desensitized the country with language he uses to rile up his loyal base.

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