Trump speech was a ‘shakedown’ aimed at grabbing dictatorial power: authoritarianism expert
President Donald Trump in the Oval Office (screengrab)

President Donald Trump's first Oval Office address was meant to further consolidate his power, according to an authoritarianism expert.

Sarah Kendzior, a journalist and researcher who has studied autocratic regimes in Central Asia, compared Tuesday's speech to a "hostage video," with Americans as his "captive audience," in a new essay published by The Globe and Mail.

"We watched because the stakes felt too high to turn away," Kendzior wrote. "We watched because Mr. Trump has taunted us with talk of declaring a 'national emergency' – an act which gives him the power to do things like kill the internet, freeze bank accounts, and turn military troops into a domestic police force. We watched because Mr. Trump has long applauded death through his praise of dictators and criminals. We watched because the path to American autocracy was laid out upon his election, and we wanted to know which victims were next."

Kendzior said the president was attempting to "pad a power-grab as a policy proposal" by hyping misleading statistics that radically overstate the threat from Central American immigrants, which he grotesquely twisted into a humanitarian framework.

She said the only threat Trump truly cares about comes from Democrats, who might have enough legislative power to stop his autocratic consolidation of power.

"The only security Mr. Trump is concerned with is his own," Kendzior wrote. "With the government shut down, he can capitalize on chaos and operate with greater impunity. His speech was not a public address: it was a shakedown proclamation built on venom and vengeance. It will not be his last."