Donald Trump on Tuesday warned his supporters that if Hillary Clinton is elected president and appoints judges to the Supreme Court, there is nothing anyone can do about it. But then he added that, given the Second Amendment, maybe there is.
“If she gets to pick her judges ― nothing you can do, folks,” Trump said with a shrug at a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina. “Although, the Second Amendment people. Maybe there is. I don’t know.”
What Trump was actually suggesting is not clear. However, Trump’s veterans affairs adviser found himself in hot water last month when he said that Clinton should be shot for treason over her use of a private email server.
At least one person attending the rally on Tuesday appeared to sense that Trump’s remark was out of bounds.
Trump spokesman Jason Miller said the candidate was not speaking literally. “It’s called the power of unification ― Second Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power,” Miller said in a statement. “And this year, they will be voting in record numbers, and it won’t be for Hillary Clinton, it will be for Donald Trump.”
The Clinton campaign was not persuaded. “This is simple: What Trump is saying is dangerous. A person seeking to be the president of the United States should not suggest violence in any way.”
On CNN Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) appeared to share that sentiment, although he initially argued that Trump didn’t mean to threaten Clinton. “I don’t believe this is a serious statement,” he said, although he acknowledged that Trump’s statement “may have been awkwardly phrased.”
“But even if he was joking, it’s not something you joke about,” host Wolf Blitzer replied.
“You absolutely shouldn’t joke about it,” Sessions agreed. “It’s contrary to everything we believe in.”
Even if Trump was joking, comments about assassinating the president or presidential candidates are not taken lightly by the Secret Service, whose agents are tasked with protecting politicians’ lives, even at the cost of their own.
The Secret Service had no comment on Trump’s remarks, other than referring questions back to the Trump campaign for further clarification.
In 2010, Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle drew criticism for saying in a radio interview that citizens could use the right to bear arms to take care of what she called an out-of-control Congress, including her opponent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
“And you know, I’m hoping that we’re not getting to Second Amendment remedies. I hope the vote will be the cure for the Harry Reid problems,” Angle said.
Angle went on to lose to Reid, despite the tea party-fueled Republican wave that year that gave the GOP control of the House and narrowed its margin in the Senate.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated that the GOP gained control of the Senate as well as the House in 2010. The story has also been updated with comments from Sen. Jeff Sessions and the Trump and Clinton campaigns.