By Inderjit Badhwar
In the pursuit of a little variety, India Legal, on a fairly regular basis, carries international stories which are not strictly about legal developments but have, nonetheless, an impact on the law and society at large. We have closely followed American politics over several years through the eyes and penmanship of our US correspondent Kenneth “Tiv” Tiven, a former founding vice-president of CNN and foreign editor of The Washington Post. He has been prolific in his output with an astute eye for the offbeat within the folds of a regular “beat” story, with an enviable engaging style of in-your-face, often cheeky story telling.
Most of the readers of this magazine and its web pages have experienced the beastly beatitudes of Donald Trump, the man who refuses to be ex-President, through Tiven’s writings. The defeated orange-haired former US chief executive’s perpetuation of the myth of the “stolen election” that brought Joe Biden into power has riven American society, inundated American courts with challenges, and threatens the founding principles of the American Constitution.
Tiven wrote me an informal note the other day regarding a recent Trump interview on National Public Radio (NPR), the superbly informative American version of BBC. I thought I should reproduce this in this space. Wrote Tiven:
“For those of us who like the written word. This transcript of Trump with NPRs’ Steve Inskeep is instructive….. much more so than when you listen to the audio word salad the former dishes out. Lucky for him, his voters will never hear about this.”
The former president spoke with NPR’s Steve Inskeep on Tuesday (January 11) in a brief phone interview. They discussed vaccinations for Covid-19, the 2020 election and the outlook for Republicans in the 2022 mid-term elections.
The conversation was cut short when Trump hung up the phone while being questioned about his continued lies about the outcome of the 2020 election. He repeatedly attempted to assert misinformation about his election loss, as well as about the necessity of vaccinations.
Former President Donald Trump: Hello.
Steve Inskeep: Mr. President.
Trump: Hello, Steve, how are you?
Steve: I’m doing OK. Thanks for taking the time today. It’s great to talk with you.
Trump: OK. Absolutely. Absolutely.
Steve: There’s no reason that you would know this, but we first invited you on the program in 2015, so it’s great to get you.
Trump: Oh, wow. Well, I guess I — I got lucky by not doing it, right? But that’s OK.
Steve: Maybe so. Maybe so, but you —
Trump: Are we going live, Steve? Are we, uh —
Steve: No, we’re — no, we’re not going live. This is pre-taped, and —
Trump: OK, fine.
Steve: And I promised to keep it to about 15 minutes, so I’ll do my best to do that.
Trump: Very good. Very good, Steve.
Steve: And why don’t we just dive right in? I’ve got a lot to talk about. There’s a lot to go over, but I want to begin briefly on the pandemic. What advice would you give to Americans who haven’t chosen to get vaccinated?
Trump: Well, first of all, the mandate is really hurting our country. Now that’s advice to an administration more so than to the Americans. A lot of Americans aren’t standing for it, and it’s hurting our country. It’s hurting our economy very badly. And being very—the proud person that did so well with therapeutics and, and vaccines and everything else and getting them done in record times, you know, I — I have a lot to say on the subject. And one of the things I say is they have to start promoting and making the therapeutics more available, because we have great therapeutics, too, in addition to the vaccines.
Steve: What is the advice on the vaccines, though?
Trump: But the therapeutics. The vaccines, I recommend taking them, but I think that has to be an individual choice. I mean, it’s got to be individual, but I recommend taking them. Many people recommend them. And if some people don’t want, they shouldn’t have to take them. They can’t be mandated, as the expression goes. And I think that’s very important. Personally, I feel very comfortable having taken them. I’ve had absolutely no reverberation.
Steve: Do you think the pandemic will continue as long as millions of people do choose not to vaccinate?
Trump: I think it’s going to phase out. You know, there are many people that have had it, if you look at the numbers. I don’t know why they would be getting the vaccine for the most part, unless they were at a certain age group and they had certain problems, whether it’s the high blood pressure —
Trump:— the diabetes and, you know, various things in particular. But, you know, we — the administration has to start giving credit to people that had the China plague — or call it whatever you want. But it came out of China, and it’s a disaster for the world, to —
Steve: People can be — I’ll mention that people can be reinfected, but I want to move on. South Dakota —
Trump: No, they can be. They can be. But generally speaking, it’s not as bad.
Steve: Let me ask about another piece of news here. South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds, as I think you know, was on ABC over the weekend. He spoke about the 2020 election and also referred to the election campaign that is now starting in 2022. Let’s listen.
Sen. Mike Rounds (playback recording): “We simply did not win the election as Republicans for the presidency. … And if we simply look back and tell our people, don’t vote, because, you know, there’s cheating going on, then we’re going to put ourselves in a — in a — in a huge disadvantage.”
Steve: Couple of things to ask about there, Mr. President. Let’s start with the politics. Is it a disadvantage for Republicans to keep talking about the 2020 election in 2022?
Trump: No, I think it’s an advantage, because otherwise they’re going to do it again in ’22 and ’24. And Rounds is wrong on that, totally wrong. If you look at the numbers, if you look at the findings in Arizona, if you look at what’s going on in Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, by the way — and take a look at Wisconsin — they’re finding things that nobody thought possible. This was a corrupt election.
Steve: I just have to point out Doug Logan — to name one of the states that you just named — Doug Logan, who ran the audit in Arizona that was set up by your allies, didn’t find serious problems. This is a quote. “The ballots that were provided to us to count in the Coliseum very accurately correlate with the official canvass numbers.” He raised a bunch of administrative issues but didn’t find a problem that would have changed the result at all.
Trump: The ballots may correspond, but look at the ballots themselves. The number of ballots doesn’t mean anything. It’s who signed the ballots, where did the ballots come from. What you really have to do in that report is look at the findings. And the findings are devastating for Arizona. They’re devastating like nobody’s seen before —
Steve: Why did — why did your —
Trump: — And other states are just as bad.
Steve: Why did Republican officials in Arizona accept the results then?
Trump: Because they’re RINOs, [“Republican in Name Only,” used by Republicans to accuse other Republicans of being insufficiently conservative], and frankly, a lot of people are questioning that. Why would they? They fought very hard, the Maricopa County people.[Editor’s note: The audit results, which were released in September, showed that the number of ballots in Maricopa, Arizona state’s largest county, broke for Biden by a 45,000-vote margin] And people don’t understand it, because all you have to do is look at the findings. And, just so you know, some of those people went before Congress a short while ago, and they were grilled by Congressman (Andy) Biggs [Pro-Trump ultra conservative Congressman from Arizona]. You ought to take a look at their testimony. They weren’t able to answer anything. He made them look like fools. They couldn’t answer a thing. They got up and gave a beautiful statement. And then when it came time to ask, why this? Why that? What about these votes? What about those votes? They look like total fools.
Steve: Let me read you some short quotes. The first is by one of the judges, one of the 10 judges you appointed, who ruled on this. And there were many judges, but 10 who you appointed. Brett Ludwig, U.S. District Court in Wisconsin, who was nominated by you in 2020. He’s on the bench, and he says, quote, “This court allowed the plaintiff the chance to make his case, and he has lost on the merits.” Another quote, Kory Langhofer, your own campaign attorney in Arizona, Nov. 12, 2020, quote, “We are not alleging fraud in this lawsuit. We are not alleging anyone stealing the election.” And also Rudy Giuliani, your lawyer, Nov. 18, 2020, in Pennsylvania, quote, “This is not a fraud case.” Your own lawyers had no evidence of fraud, they said in court they had no evidence of fraud, and the judges ruled against you every time on the merits.
Trump: It was too early to ask for fraud and to talk about fraud. Rudy [Giuiliani, Trump’s personal lawyer] said that, because of the fact it was very early with the — because that was obviously at a very, very — that was a long time ago. The things that have found out have more than bore out what people thought and what people felt and what people found. When you look at Langhofer, I disagree with him as an attorney. I did not think he was a good attorney to hire. I don’t know what his game is, but I will just say this: You look at the findings. You look at the number of votes. Go into Detroit and just ask yourself, is it true that there are more votes than there are voters? Look at Pennsylvania. Look at Philadelphia. Is it true that there were far more votes than there were voters?
Steve: It is not true that there were far —
Trump: Gee, that’s a pretty tough thing to —
Steve: It is not true.
Trump: That’s a pretty tough problem.
Steve: It is not true that there were far more votes than voters. There was an early count. I’ve noticed you’ve talked about this in rallies and you’ve said, reportedly, this is true. I think even you know that that was an early report that was corrected later.
Trump: Well, you take a look at it. You take a look at Detroit. In fact, they even had a hard time getting people to sign off on it because it was so out of balance. They called it out of balance. So you take a look at it. You know the real truth, Steve, and this election was a rigged election.
Steve: Why is it that you think that the vast majority of your allies in the United States Senate are not standing behind you? We did have that statement by Mike Rounds [Republican Senator from South Dakota].
Trump: Because Mitch McConnell [Senate Minority leader, Republican from Kentucky] is a loser. And frankly, Mitch McConnell, if he were on the other side and if (Chuck) Schumer [Senate majority leader, Democrat from New York] were put in his position, he would have been fighting this like you’ve never seen before. He would have been fighting this, because when you look at it, and this is long — is a long way from over. You take a look at what’s going on now in Pennsylvania. Take a look at what’s going on in Wisconsin. You just take a look. Now, we had a lot of cases where the judges wouldn’t hear him. We had a case in Nevada that was so good. You read the papers. It’s impossible. The judge refused to even listen to it. We had many cases. In fact, they say, and I can’t testify because it’s been through a lot of systems, a lot of different systems. But they say, and they say very strongly, the judges just — nobody’s really gotten a chance to look. Look at the United States Supreme Court. They refused to hear the case. And you had, I guess, 19 states suing —
Steve: They said, there was no standing to give the case. That’s correct. Can I just ask —
Trump: Well, yeah, no standing, I know, no standing. And the president of the United States supposedly didn’t have standing, either. So I wanted to file it myself. They said, “Sir, you don’t have standing.” I said, “Wait a minute. I’m the president of the United States. They just rigged an election.” Hundreds of thousands of votes in different states. They just rigged an election. We got — we got a number of votes that, I think you’ll agree — no sitting president has ever gotten the number of votes that I got. No sitting president has ever gotten —
Steve: Lot of votes. That’s true. In — lot of — lot of — you —
Trump: No sitting president. Do you — I — nobody believes. You think Biden got 80 million votes? Because I don’t believe it.
Steve: It’s true — it’s true that you got more than any sitting president in the election you’ve disputed.
Trump: You mean he got them sitting in his basement. He got 80 — how come he couldn’t — then how come Biden —
Steve: If I can, Mr. President, Mr. President.
Trump: Let me ask you this question. How come Biden couldn’t attract 20 people for a crowd? How come when he went to speak in different locations, nobody came to watch, but all of a sudden he got 80 million votes? Nobody believes that, Steve. Nobody believes that.
Steve: If you’ll forgive me, maybe because the election was about you. If I can just move on to ask, are you telling Republicans in 2022 that they must press your case on the past election in order to get your endorsement? Is that an absolute?
Trump: They are going to do whatever they want to do — whatever they have to do, they’re going to do. But the ones that are smart — the ones that know, you take a look at. Again, you take a look at how Kari Lake is doing, running for governor. She’s very big on this issue. She’s leading by a lot. People have no idea how big this issue is, and they don’t want it to happen again. It shouldn’t be allowed to happen, and they don’t want it to happen again.
Steve: I want to —
Trump: And the only way it’s not going to happen again is you have to solve the problem of the presidential rigged election of 2020.
Steve: Mr. President, if I —
Trump: So Steve, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Steve: Woah, woah, woah, I have one more question. I want to ask about a court hearing yesterday on Jan. 6. Judge Amit Mehta … He’s gone. OK.
Tiven’s Comment: Baby Trump doesn’t like being challenged about his Big Lie. And he hardly ever is, unfortunately.