This week, Donald Trump and Joe Biden both appeared to threaten each other with physical violence. While addressing attendees at an "It's on Us" rally on Tuesday, Biden suggested that he would have "beat the hell out" of Trump had they gone to high school together. Trump responded Thursday morning by simultaneously denouncing Biden's threat and making his own. For the president, this exchange with Biden is nothing new; Trump has threatened people, countries, and organizations with whom he does not see eye to eye since he announced his candidacy.
Ever since Trump first launched his presidential campaign back in 2015, he has made threats of physical violence, imprisonment, and even nuclear warfare. CNN suggested that unlike any former president, Trump is much more liberal in his use of threats, but he is also much less likely to follow through on them.
Trump also seems to enjoy threatening to file lawsuits — he has threatened everyone from Rosie O'Donnell to Steve Bannon on this score — but many of his threats have gone well beyond lawsuits to include physical violence, repression, and more. The following are just a few of the people and things Trump has threatened in the past few years.
More than a year after Trump won the presidential election, chants of "lock her up" still echo in some conservative spaces. Trump threatened to jail election opponent Hillary Clinton on at least 11 different occasions, according to CNN.
During a debate in October 2016, Trump also threatened to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton — a threat he then proceeded to repeat on multiple occasions.
Back in the fall, Trump threatened to impose major sanctions on North Korea after Pyongyang tested a ballistic missile seemingly powerful enough to reach the United States.
But Trump didn't stop there — in January, Trump appeared to warn North Korea's Kim Jong Un that nuclear war was a possibility between the two countries.
Trump administration officials also reportedly considered a preemptive military strike against North Korea earlier this year.
During a campaign rally in February 2016, Trump told the crowd that he'd like to punch a protester in the face. The protester in question was escorted out of the rally, seemingly without making any effort to resist officers, but Trump accused him of attempting to punch them and threatened physical violence in kind.
And though Trump once told CNN's Don Lemon that he doesn't incite violence, Trump called for and even praised violence during many of his campaign rallies. When a protester tried to storm the stage at a rally in Ohio, Trump reportedly mouthed that he would "beat the crap" out of the protester.
And at a rally in North Carolina, Trump lauded the audience for their efforts to "hit back," praising one of his supporters who had punched a black man in the face. On a number of other occasions, Trump suggested that protesters weren't treated poorly enough, and suggested that he would defend any supporter who attacked a protester.
The press has consistently been the object of Trump's ire and hatred for years. He has described the media as the "enemy of the American people," frequently referred to major news outlets as "fake news," called journalists the "most dishonest people," and even created the Fake News Awards. In addition to insulting the press on various occasions, Trump has issued a very direct threat to the media. Back in October, Trump threatened to challenge major news networks' licenses, as a response to their critical coverage of him.
For many Trump critics, this particular threat was one of the most worrisome as it seemed to directly target the free press. Trump essentially suggested that the Federal Communications Commission needed to reconsider to whom it gave licenses, all because the media coverage he was receiving wasn't positive enough.
In January, acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan promised to "significantly increase" the number of ICE agents in California. And yet, just over a month later, Trump threatened to withdraw immigration and border patrol officials from the sanctuary state, arguing that California would be "inundated" with crime the moment he did so.
For critics who seek the abolition of ICE, withdrawing ICE from California didn't actually sound like a bad idea, but many Democrats perceived Trump's threat as yet another unprovoked attack on the state.
Trump essentially threatened a trade war with Europe. Earlier this month, Trump demanded that the European Union accept his tariff proposals on steel and aluminum imports or risk a new tax on European cars.
Trump suggested that "trade wars are good" and "easy to win," which did nothing to assuage economists' concerns.
Trump and Biden may have gone at it this week with their mutual threats of physical violence, but it is not the first time this has happened. During a presidential campaign rally for Clinton back in 2016, Biden said he wished he could take Trump "behind the gym" to teach him a lesson. Trump responded by saying that Biden was only tough "when he’s standing behind a microphone by himself."
And just this month, Trump told Gridiron Dinner attendees that he would "kick [Biden's] ass" if they were ever in a fight. "He'd be easy," Trump said at the time.
Trump has made numerous threats since he first announced his presidential bid in 2015, and they have often exceeded political threats of lawsuits and firings. Instead, many of these threats have been deeply personal, made in retaliation or defensiveness rather than as a form of political strategy. It is perhaps true, as CNN suggested, that Trump seems to follow up on few threats despite making so many, but it is still worth paying attention to them.