NEW YORK (AP) — A Donald Trump ally who worked in his Justice Department said Tuesday that if the former president is elected again, his administration will retaliate against people in the media “criminally or civilly.”
Kash Patel, who was also chief of staff in the Defense Department and held a role on the National Security Council, made the comment on Steve Bannon's podcast. He said that, in a second Trump administration, “We will go out and find the conspirators not just in government, but in the media,” over the 2020 election, which Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden.
Trump and his allies have repeatedly claimed the election was stolen, despite the fact that numerous federal and local officials, a long list of courts, top former campaign staffers and even his own attorney general have all said there is no evidence of the fraud he alleges. Trump has also promised “retribution” as a central part of his campaign message as he seeks a second term in the White House.
Trump’s campaign distanced itself from Patel’s comments, saying that proclamations “like this have nothing to do with” them. The campaign did not respond to questions about whether Trump is considering the plans Patel described.
In a Fox News Channel interview later Tuesday, Trump declined twice to say he would not abuse power to seek retribution in a second White House term.
“You mean like they’re using right now?” Trump responded to one question, alleging that the Biden administration was abusing power.
Patel is a fellow at the Center for Renewing America, a conservative think tank that is part of a network of conservative groups that is preparing for a possible second White House term for Trump or any conservative who aligns with their views.
In his interview with Bannon, Patel said: “We’re going to come after the people in the media who lied about American citizens who helped Joe Biden rig presidential elections. We’re going to come after you, whether it’s criminally or civilly. We’ll figure that out. But yeah, we’re putting you all on notice."
Trump has long targeted the media, labeling news organizations as “Fake News” and the “Enemy of the People,” a phrase linked to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
In a post on his Truth Social network in September, Trump repeated both phrases and vowed to investigate NBC News and MSNBC for “Country Threatening Treason" and try to curb their access to the airwaves.
“I say up front, openly, and proudly, that when I WIN the Presidency of the United States, they and others of the LameStream Media will be thoroughly scrutinized for their knowingly dishonest and corrupt coverage of people, things, and events," Trump said in the post. "Why should NBC, or any other of the corrupt & dishonest media companies, be entitled to use the very valuable Airwaves of the USA, FREE? They are a true threat to Democracy and are, in fact, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE! The Fake News Media should pay a big price for what they have done to our once great Country.”
In the interview, Bannon suggested Patel might be a possible director of the CIA if Trump wins another term.
The Trump campaign did not respond to a question about whether Patel was being considered for a role as CIA director.
Patel was a guest at Trump's kickoff for his 2024 presidential campaign last year at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. In June, he attended Trump's speech at his Bedminster resort following the former president's appearance in court on federal charges he mishandled classified documents.
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.