Deciding Between Fight or Flight: Worries of Trump Critics about Revenge if He Wins Again

Fight or flight: Fearful Trump critics weigh the risk of retribution if he’s re-elected

If Donald Trump’s chances of reclaiming the presidency were non-existent, the Vindman family would be gearing up for a significant birthday celebration at this moment.

Rachel, the wife of Alexander Vindman, is approaching her 50th birthday next month. However, instead of allocating funds for a festive occasion, she’s opting to save money just in case Trump reoccupies the White House and seeks retribution against her husband, a pivotal witness in Trump’s initial impeachment, as Alexander Vindman revealed in an interview. The family is considering the possibility of needing those funds if they find themselves compelled to leave the country.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” remarked Vindman, who served as a national security official in Trump’s administration until his dismissal in 2020 following Trump’s acquittal, “but that’s an indicator of the level of concern that she’s had.”

Alexander Vindman
Alexander Vindman (Credits: Getty Images)

The Vindmans aren’t alone in their apprehension. Discussions with numerous individuals who have clashed with Trump for various reasons expose profound apprehension among many about potential retaliation if he secures another term. They are strategizing ways to safeguard themselves should Trump employ the vast powers of the office to punish them for perceived grievances.

Some are contemplating leaving the country if Trump reassumes office, fearing persecution by investigators, legal prosecution, or loss of livelihood. Others are seeking legal counsel or setting aside funds to mount a defense in case they become targets of either Trump’s administration or his Republican allies in Congress.

It might be assumed that those targeted by Trump are exclusively Democrats or political adversaries who challenged him electorally. However, history illustrates that there are numerous ways to incur Trump’s wrath, and some individuals who feel vulnerable worked directly with him or supported his agenda.

Once entrenched within Trump’s circle, they might have provoked him by simply fulfilling their professional duties or expressing candid opinions about what they perceived as his shortcomings.

Stephanie Grisham
Stephanie Grisham (Credits: Reuters)

Stephanie Grisham, a former press secretary in Trump’s administration, authored a book detailing her experiences and has since become a vocal critic of the former president.

She mentioned being part of a text chain with some former colleagues, where they jokingly discussed relocating to countries with non-extradition treaties if Trump returns.

“It’s terrifying,” Grisham acknowledged.

Reflecting privately on her concerns with her mother, Grisham recounted her mother’s attempt to reassure her that Trump wouldn’t have time for retribution if he returns. “I’m like, ‘OK, Mom. You don’t know him,'” Grisham remarked in an interview.

“I’ve been saving money and making other arrangements” in case Trump regains power, she disclosed.

Vengeance has been an underlying theme of Trump’s recent campaign. He informed conservative activists last year that he stands as “retribution” for those he perceives as wronged and betrayed. He has expressed ire toward President Joe Biden and Democrats, accusing them of conspiring against his candidacy through various legal actions.

Trump has suggested that if he returns to office, he would pursue retribution, including wielding the justice system against adversaries.

Trump’s administration’s actions during his previous term are grounds for concern, according to his critics. Trump often didn’t explicitly order retaliatory measures; his staff inferred his desires.

John Kerry
John Kerry (Credits: NBC)

Former Secretary of State John Kerry found himself in Trump’s crosshairs when Trump called for Kerry’s prosecution over his interactions with Iranian officials. Kerry defended his actions, stating they were common for former foreign policy officials. The Justice Department pressured local prosecutors to investigate Kerry, according to a book by the former U.S. attorney in New York’s Southern District.

Despite these concerns, some individuals who have incurred Trump’s displeasure are resolute in their determination to confront any potential reprisals.

As for Vindman, he remains committed to staying in the U.S., regardless of the circumstances. Having fled the Soviet Union as a child, Vindman has dedicated his life to serving his adopted country, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the military and earning a Purple Heart for injuries sustained in the Iraq War.

He stood as a key witness during Trump’s impeachment proceedings, steadfast in his commitment to upholding the rule of law.

“I’m prepared to have the fight and stand for the rule of law,” Vindman asserted. “Trump never intimidated me. That’s just not going to happen.”

I'm Richard Rosales, I cover political news and ongoing US elections.