Tucker Carlson’s interview with Donald Trump took a little wind out of the sails of eight other GOP presidential candidates who met to debate Wednesday night.
Former President Donald Trump addressed the disputed 2020 election, his mounting legal problems, and the potential for “civil war” during a wide-ranging interview with former Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson, released Wednesday night.
Trump, the nation’s 45th president and current front-runner for his party’s nomination, opted against participating in the first Republican primary debate with eight other candidates the same night in Milwaukee.
Trump instead pretaped the 46-minute interview with Carlson for streaming as counterprogramming during the GOP presidential debate, which was aired by Fox. (In a surprise move, Fox had fired Carlson in late April.)
Carlson’s interview with Trump, which took place in the former president’s home in Bedminster, New Jersey, touched on Democrats’ multiple indictments of Trump, the jailhouse death of financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, the likelihood of civil war, and Trump’s thoughts on Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and others in the GOP.
The Trump-Tucker interview streamed on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, and was prerecorded several days ago. The interview became available just after 8:55 p.m. EDT Wednesday, to get a short jump on the 9 p.m. EDT debate on Fox.
That’s a lot of eyeballs!
Ep. 19 Debate Night with Donald J Trump pic.twitter.com/ayPfII48CO— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) August 24, 2023
The interview also arrived the evening before Trump was set to be arraigned for the fourth time this year—this time in Atlanta, where Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis secured a grand jury indictment with racketeering charges against Trump and over 15 allies for challenging the outcome of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.
Here are six takeaways from Carlson’s interview of Trump.
1. ‘Why Wouldn’t They Try to Kill You?’
Carlson, noting that after everything the Left has thrown at Trump since 2015 hasn’t stopped him, asked whether the former president worried that he would be targeted for assassination.
“It started with protests against you. And then it moved to impeachment twice. And now indictment. Are you worried that they wouldn’t try and kill you? Why wouldn’t they try to kill you, honestly?” Carlson asked.
Trump responded: “They are savage animals.”
“They are people that are sick,” he said. “You have great people in the Democrat Party. You have great people that are Democrats. Most of the people in our country are fantastic. And I’m representing everybody.”
“But I’ve seen what they do, I’ve seen the lengths that they go to, when they make up the ‘Russia, Russia.’”
After talking about other issues, Carlson returned to his question that Trump hadn’t fully answered.
“The protest didn’t work. You got elected anyway. Impeachment didn’t work, twice. Indictment is not working. Your poll numbers go up when they raided Mar-a-Lago in August of last year, your numbers went up,” Carlson said.
Tucker: “It started with protests against you…and then it moved to impeachment twice, and now indictment. I mean, the next stage is violence. Are you worried that they’re gonna try and kill you? Why wouldn’t they try to kill you?” pic.twitter.com/uIbLUXaPAG— Mary Margaret Olohan (@MaryMargOlohan) August 24, 2023
“They can indict you 20 times and you are not going to lose the Republican primary because of that. … They are counterproductive,” he said. “So what’s next after trying to put you in prison for the rest of your life? That’s not working. That’s not working. So, don’t they have to kill you now?”
Trump didn’t specifically address whether his political enemies wanted to or might try to take his life.
“The people of our country don’t get enough credit for how smart they are. I’m sure of it. I’m not sure I would have said this 10 years ago. But they get it,” Trump said.
“They totally get it. When somebody gets indicted, your poll numbers go down. When somebody gets indicted, you announce, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll be leaving to spend time with my family and to fight for the rest of my life on this stuff.’ But I got indicted four times, all trivia, nonsense, bulls—.”
2. ‘Moving Toward Civil War’
Carlson, noting the political divide in the country, asked: “Do you think we are moving toward civil war?”
Trump responded by talking about the huge outdoor crowd he addressed near the White House before the Capitol riot started Jan. 6, 2021.
“There is tremendous passion and there is tremendous love. Jan. 6 was a very interesting day,” Trump said. “They don’t report it properly. I believe it was the largest crowd I’ve ever spoken before.”
Trump acknowledged that a riot occurred, referring to “scenarios” and “a very small group of people” who violently breached the Capitol, where a joint session of Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s defeat of Trump in the Electoral College.
But Trump underlined that in his speech, “we said ‘peacefully and patriotically’ march” to the Capitol.
“There was love and unity. I have never seen such spirit, such passion, and such love, and I have never seen, simultaneously and from the same people, such hatred of what they’ve done to our country,” Trump said, apparently referring to what the Left has done.
Carlson pressed further, asking: “So do you think it’s possible that there is open conflict?”
“There is a level of passion that I’ve never seen,” Trump answered finally. “There is a level of hatred that I’ve never seen. And that’s probably a bad combination.”
3. ‘Do You Think Epstein Killed Himself?’
Carlson talked about Trump’s second attorney general, William Barr, who wrote in his recent book that disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein—a convicted sex offender accused of human trafficking—killed himself in a New York jail cell.
Carlson said he believed Epstein was murdered and that a proper investigation didn’t occur.
“Do you believe Epstein killed himself?” Carlson asked Trump.
“I don’t know,” Trump answered. “He was a fixture in Palm Beach.”
Tucker to Trump: “Do you think Epstein killed himself? Sincerely?” pic.twitter.com/u29SnjLU31— Mary Margaret Olohan (@MaryMargOlohan) August 24, 2023
Carlson went on to ask: “Why would Bill Barr be covering up the death of Jeffrey Epstein?”
Trump pivoted to the 2020 election, which he says was stolen from him.
“Bill Barr didn’t do an investigation on the election fraud either,” Trump said.
Carlson asked: “Do you think it is possible that Epstein was killed?”
Trump answered: “Oh, sure, it’s possible. I don’t really believe it. I think he probably committed suicide. He had a life with beautiful homes and beautiful everything, and all of a sudden he’s incarcerated and not doing very well.”
4. ‘Stole It From You Last Time’
Trump said only “paper ballots” and “one-day voting” should be allowed in future elections, to ensure the accuracy of the vote tally.
But Carlson asked about 2024.
“If you’re saying they stole it from you last time, why wouldn’t they do the same this time?” Carlson asked.
“They will try,” Trump replied, but said that would be the case with any Republican candidate even if he isn’t the 2024 presidential nominee. “Their policies are so bad they have to cheat.”
“If somebody else got in other than me, they’ll go at him just as viciously as they did me,” Trump said. “These people are sick, and they will go after them. And a lot of people say they won’t be able to hold up. I do get credit for holding up quite well.”
Carlson followed up by asking, “How do you get indicted every week and stay cheerful?”
“It’s a lot easier because I’m so high in the polls,” Trump quipped. “It means people get it. The people see it’s a fraud.”
Trump noted that his Democrat opponent, Hillary Clinton, claimed he stole the 2016 presidential election from her, and that Democrat Stacey Abrams claimed to have won the 2018 Georgia governor’s race. But, he said, neither faced prosecution.
5. ‘Keep Agencies Under Control’
During his term in office from 2017 to 2021, Trump frequently clashed with the entrenched federal bureaucracy, or administrative state, that he presided over.
“If you get elected again and go back to Washington, how do you keep the agencies under control? How do you keep the FBI and the CIA, specifically, under control?” Carlson asked.
Trump, without directly answering the question, noted that he fired James Comey as FBI director in May 2017, which led to much of the agency’s corruption being exposed.
“When I fired Comey, it was like throwing a rock into a hornet’s nest, into a nest of bees, and the place went crazy,” Trump said.
Carlson followed: “When you were president, were you confident you knew everything the CIA was doing?”
Trump responded: “No, I’m not. It’s a very interesting group of people. I had very good relationships.”
6. McConnell ‘Was Trying to Get Senators to Impeach Me’
Trump talked about what became his dislike for a one-time political ally: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. McConnell was the majority leader during Trump’s four years as president.
“Actually, the Senate was very good for me, other than Mitch McConnell,” the former president said. “It’s too bad I endorsed him. He was down. He was going to lose [in 2020] to Amy McGrath. She had $90 million in cash all set to go. She was leading by three [points], he was going down. I did him a favor, and then three or four months later, he really wanted to impeach me.”
House Democrats impeached Trump for the first time over a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and a second time after leaving office over his role in the Capitol riot.
McConnell voted not guilty in both Senate impeachment trials of Trump; however, in the second trial, the Republican leader said Trump was morally responsible for the riot.
“He’s a bad guy,” Trump told Carlson. “The level of loyalty is different in politics than it is in normal life.”
“The Senate was very good,” the former president added. “They overrode Mitch McConnell.”
“Mitch McConnell, in my opinion, was trying to get senators to impeach me, especially for the second one. On the first one, he acted very, very slow. He should have gone much faster.”
By Fred Lucas. Ken McIntyre contributed to this report. Original here. Reproduced with permission.