(WASHINGTON) — In a new interview, former President Donald Trump refused or avoided answering many specific questions about his conduct on Jan. 6 — but maintained that it was his decision to challenge the 2020 election, the manner of which is now at the center of two of the four indictments he faces.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and dismissed the prosecutions as politically motivated.
In the interview with NBC News’ Kristen Welker, which aired Sunday on “Meet the Press” after portions were released last week, Trump agreed that he was calling the shots when it came to falsely claiming that the last presidential election was illegitimate.
“As to whether or not I believe it was rigged? Sure. It was my decision. But I listened to some people. Some people said that,” he said.
Trump, who is seeking the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, at times grew angry when being interviewed by Welker, refusing to answer whether he called law enforcement on Jan. 6, 2021, who he called that day and how he watched the chaos unfold, claiming he “behaved so well.”
“I’m not going to tell you. I’ll tell people later at an appropriate time,” he said.
He insisted that he wanted to go down to the Capitol “peacefully and patriotically,” echoing the speech he gave outside the White House earlier on Jan. 6.
However, in those same remarks, he also encouraged supporters to march to Congress where lawmakers were certifying the 2020 election results. “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” he said then.
In his NBC News interview, Trump said he was “going to look” when asked if he would pardon the people convicted of crimes on Jan. 6: “I certainly might if I think it’s appropriate.”
According to the Department of Justice, more than 1,000 people have been arrested in connection with the government’s Jan. 6 investigation.
More than 300 people have been charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees that day, the DOJ has said, and more than 100 defendants have been accused of using deadly weapons.
About 140 police were attacked on Jan. 6, according to the DOJ.
On the subject of potentially pardoning himself if he is reelected president — which would be an unprecedented move under the Constitution, undertaken by no other commander in chief — Trump told Welker in another excerpt from the interview that it was “very unlikely.”
“What did I do wrong? I didn’t do anything. Well, you mean because I challenged an election, they want to put me in jail,” he said.
“The last thing I’d ever do is give myself a pardon,” he said.
He said, again, that he planned to testify under oath at trial to push back on the government’s allegation that he ordered a staffer to delete security footage at his Mar-a-Lago estate in order to obstruct the investigation into his handling of government secrets while out of office.
Trump called it a “fake charge.”
Trump is charged in four criminal cases: two at the federal level, brought by special counsel Jack Smith, in Washington and Florida; one in New York state court; and one in Georgia state court.
The Washington and Georgia indictments are related to the campaign to overturn the 2020 election results. The Florida indictment is related to Trump’s handling of classified material after leaving the White House and the New York charges are related to the hush money he paid to an adult film actress before the 2016 election, which his attorneys previously likened to blackmail.
In the Washington indictment, Trump is accused of undertaking a “criminal scheme” to remain in power.
Prosecutors claim the plot involved six unnamed co-conspirators, included enlisting a slate of so-called “fake electors” targeting several states; using the Justice Department to conduct “sham election crime investigations”; and trying to enlist then-Vice President Mike Pence to “alter the election results,” which Pence declined to do.
Trump has denied all wrongdoing and said that he is being charged because of his politics, not the law. Prosecutors dispute that.
“President Trump has always followed the law and the Constitution, with advice from many highly accomplished attorneys,” his campaign said in a statement after he was indicted in Washington.
In his interview with Welker, Trump said he doesn’t worry about going to prison and he doesn’t think about it.
“No, I don’t really,” he said. “I don’t even think about it. I’m built a little differently I guess, because I have had people come up to me and say, ‘How do you do it, sir? How do you do it?’ I don’t even think about it … All I think about is making the country great.”
Welker asked what he means when he says in his campaign that he is “retribution” for his supporters. He said it was about restoring law and order to the country, as he saw it, and he said he would “never” seek to use law enforcement to target his opponents.
On abortion rights, Taiwan and his wife
On abortion, Trump, whose Supreme Court appointees were crucial in scrapping the constitutional guarantee to abortion access last year, would not say whether he would sign federal legislation that would ban abortion at 15 weeks.
Abortion opponents have pushed for strict restrictions nationwide.
“I would sit down with both sides and I’d negotiate something,” he said, repeating a common part of his pitch — that he is a deal-maker.
Since the Supreme Court’s decision in 2022, voters have directly weighed in on abortion in both conservative and liberal states and in each case they have voted to protect abortion access.
Exit polling in last year’s midterms showed the issue was important in swing states like Michigan.
Trump remained noncommittal on an abortion ban at the federal level, saying it was “probably better” to leave it to the states.
Trump also refused to answer the question of whether he’d send U.S. troops if China invaded Taiwan, the self-governing island that Beijing regards as a breakaway province.
“Only stupid people are going” to answer that, he said.
Separately, the former president addressed former first lady Melania Trump’s lack of a presence on the trail so far — something that has been called out by critics during the campaign.
“She’s a private person, a great person, very confident person,” he said of his wife.
“She’ll be out there,” he said, “and, honestly, I like to keep her away from it. It’s so nasty and so mean.”
ABC News’ Lucien Bruggeman, Katherine Faulders and Alexander Mallin contributed to this report.
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