Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie called former President Donald Trump a “dictator” during NewsNation’s debate Wednesday and said that “he wants to exact retribution” if he wins back the Oval Office. 

The rhetoric mirrors a narrative spun in recent days as at least three leftist outlets – the Atlantic, the New York Times, and the Washington Post – have worked to stoke fear about a potential second Trump administration. 

Christie first attacked Trump as a dictator in his opening statement while criticizing the other candidates for not speaking about Trump to that point:

The fact is that when you go and you say the truth about somebody who is a dictator, a bully, who has taken shots at everybody, whether they’ve given them great service or not over time, who dares to disagree with him, then I understand why these three are timid to say anything about it. 

He would then call Trump “unfit” for the presidency and say he is the biggest issue in the race. 

Later, Christie was asked about Trump’s appearance on Fox News Channel’s Hannity, where he said, in tongue-in-cheek fashion, that he would not be a dictator “other than day one.”

“We’re closing the border and we’re drilling, drilling, drilling. After that, I’m not a dictator,” Trump told host Sean Hannity.

Remarking on the interview, Christie said Wednesday that Trump “is an angry, bitter man who now wants to be back as president because he wants to exact retribution on anyone who has disagreed with him” and that his policy platform is “about pursuing a plan of retribution.”

Christie contended that Trump “instructed others to commit crimes,” which the federal government alleges but has not been proven in court.

“So, do I think he was kidding when he said he was a dictator? All you have to do is look at the history and that’s why failing to speak out against him, making excuses for him, pretending that somehow he’s a victim, empowers him,” Christie added.

“He will only be his own retribution. He doesn’t care for the American people. It’s Donald Trump first,” concluded Christie.