Trump yells from the stage at a rally.
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Donald Trump Now Claims He Never Said One of His Most Famous Catchphrases

Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign came with a lot of weird messaging, but three words arguably dominated his run (and the years that followed): “Lock her up.” Now Trump is trying to claim he never actually said those words even though, obviously, he very much did.

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Trump made his blatantly false denial during an interview on Fox & Friends. Over the last year or so, Trump has made dozens of threats suggesting he wants to imprison his political rivals if re-elected. Last summer, he posted a clear message to Truth Social, writing, “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!”

Now that his criminal trial in New York has ended with a guilty verdict, Fox & Friends‘ Rachel Campos-Duffy asked Trump if he still feels the same way about “the weaponization of the justice system against political opponents.” It would appear that he does feel differently now that he’s been convicted of 34 felonies but this man cannot admit he changed his mind, because that might imply he was wrong at some point. Instead, he’s rewriting history, again.

Co-host Will Cain asked Trump, “You famously said regarding Hillary Clinton, ‘Lock her up.’ You declined to do that as president, but now—”

Trump interrupted: “And purposely because after I won, it’s different when you win. I say it tonight.” I’m not exactly sure what those words in that configuration mean, but he continued:

I beat her. It’s easier when you win. And they all said, “Lock her up.” And I could have done it, but I felt it would’ve been a terrible thing. And then this happened to me, and so I may feel differently about it. I can’t tell you—I’m not sure I can answer the question. Hillary Clinton—I didn’t say lock her up, but the people say, “Lock her up. Lock her up.”

Then we won. And I said pretty openly. I’d say, “All right, come on, just relax. Let’s go. We got to make our country great.” And it would’ve been, think of it, you lock up the wife of a President of the United States—

Ah yes, Trump, a man famously known for telling his followers to “just relax.” That checks out.

Trump, of course, did say “Lock her up,” a lot. It’s true that his followers embraced the refrain more often than he did, turning it into a ubiquitous rally chant. But he encouraged them and he joined in with their chants at campaign events. He also said “lock her up” and other versions of the same message (“She deleted the emails. She has to go to jail,” “Hillary Clinton has to go to jail, OK?” etc.) about Clinton many times. To claim he never said those words, and that he “openly” discouraged his supporters from saying them, is laughably false.

So why is he saying this obviously false thing now?

Why is Trump rewriting this specific part of established history? It appears he’s setting up a new narrative, painting himself as a chill, fair guy pushed by Democrats to take drastic action he never wanted to take before they forced his hand.

In an interview with Newsmax, Trump was asked about his Fox & Friends interview. “So, you know, it’s a terrible, terrible path that [Democrats are] leading us to, and it’s very possible that it’s going to have to happen to them,” he said of his guilty verdict, adding, “Does that mean the next president does it to them? That’s really the question.”

Trump doubled down on the lie that he never said his famous “lock her up” catchphrase.

“Some people said I should have done it, but, you know, could have, would have been very easy to do it, but I thought it would be a terrible precedent for our country,” he said. “And now, whoever it may be, you’re going to have to view it very much differently. This is a bad, bad road that they’re leading us down to as a country.”

There it is. Trump is insisting that it’s Democrats setting a precedent for launching groundless attacks and investigations against political rivals, and now anyone—not just him!—would have to consider striking out preemptively against their political opponents.

Never mind, I guess, that the case against Trump had a strong legal basis or that it was decided by a jury of his peers, not any political rival—or that Trump has repeatedly declared his intention to imprison Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and the “Biden crime family.” He wants us to believe this is an entirely new idea, that he’d never even considered before “Democrats” started coming after him for what he would like us to believe was no reason at all rather than many, many crimes, both alleged and now proven.

He really thinks his supporters will believe absolutely anything, and unfortunately, many of them undoubtedly will.

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.