Donald Trump was asked what would happen to the country if he were indicted. His answer is something else.

Hewitt: You know the old saying. Prosecutors can indict a ham sandwich if they want. I’m just wondering if there is such a prosecutor and you are indicted, will that disqualify you from running for president again?

Trump: I don’t think the people of the United States will support it. And as you know, if something like that happened, I wouldn’t be banned from running. You know that. You have already stated that.

Hewitt: I do it. That’s what I wanted people to understand. That won’t get you out of the arena.

Trump: It wouldn’t be. But I think if it happened, I think Maybe you’d have problems like we’ve never seen before in this country. I don’t think the people of the United States will support that.

Hewitt: What kind of problems, Mr. President.

Trump: Big problems, I think they would have big problems. I don’t think they will go for it. They are not, they will not sit idly by and support these latest frauds.

It is impossible to read those lines from the former president without this context: we are less than two years removed from the crowd attacking the US Capitol, under the false belief that the election was stolen from Trump. The crowd, it’s worth noting, was what Trump said earlier in the day: “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you don’t have a country anymore.”

Hewitt, sensing that Trump had wandered into dangerous territory, tried to clear things up for the former president. “You know the legacy media is going to say you’re trying to incite violence with that statement,” Hewitt said.

Trump responded: “That’s not, that’s not pushing it. I’m just saying what my opinion is. I don’t think the people of this country are going to support that.”

(Sidebar: The dictionary definition of “sting” is “to cause or solicit someone to behave unlawfully.”

What Trump’s responses to Hewitt suggest is that he hasn’t learned the lessons of January 6, or anything like that.

Words have power, especially when spoken by a former president who maintains a loyal following across the country.

But this, of course, is the game Trump always plays. He did not expressly say that there would be violence (or that there should be) if he were indicted. He simply said “you would have problems like we’ve never seen before in this country.”

His intention, to any neutral observer, seems clear. Trump is always vague enough to give himself some plausible deniability. But what’s surprising to anyone paying attention is that Trump wants everyone to know that prosecuting him would have consequences, and they could be severe.

Flirting with violence (or the specter of violence) is not leadership. It’s the opposite.