Former President Donald J. Trump abruptly ended an interview with NPR on Tuesday after he was pressed on his false claim of a stolen election in 2020 and how he was using that assertion to put pressure on Republicans before the 2022 midterm elections.
In the interview with Steve Inskeep, a co-host of NPR’s Morning Edition, Mr. Trump discussed the coronavirus pandemic and his campaign to discredit results of the 2020 election, according to a transcript of the interview NPR posted on its website on Wednesday morning.
At several points in the interview, Mr. Inskeep pushed back against false claims about the 2020 election, in one instance noting the failed lawsuits by Mr. Trump’s campaign and its allies. “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,” Mr. Inskeep said.
After a lengthy back-and-forth over the election results, Mr. Trump asked how he could have lost the presidential election to Joe Biden, who he falsely claimed did not attract crowds during the campaign.
Mr. Inskeep said: “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?”
Understand the Jan. 6 Investigation
Both the Justice Department and a House select committee are investigating the events of the Capitol riot. Here’s where they stand:
- Inside the House Inquiry: From a nondescript office building, the panel has been quietly ramping up its sprawling and elaborate investigation.
- Criminal Referrals, Explained: Can the House inquiry end in criminal charges? These are some of the issues confronting the committee.
- Garland’s Remarks: Facing pressure from Democrats, Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed that the D.O.J. would pursue its inquiry into the riot “at any level.”
- A Big Question Remains: Will the Justice Department move beyond charging the rioters themselves?
Mr. Trump responded: “They are going to do whatever they want to do — whatever they have to do, they’re going to do.”
He continued to speak about his false claim that the 2020 election was “rigged” while Mr. Inskeep tried to interject.
Mr. Trump then abruptly ended the interview.
“So Steve, thank you very much,” he said. “I appreciate it.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, I have one more question,” said Mr. Inskeep, who began to ask about a court hearing on Monday related to the Capitol riot by a pro-Trump mob last year. He then stopped himself, saying, “He’s gone. OK.”
At the Monday hearing in the U.S. District Court for Washington, lawyers argued that Mr. Trump, by inspiring the riot, was liable for major financial damages.
It was not clear how much of the question Mr. Trump heard before ending the interview.
Early in the interview, Mr. Inskeep asked Mr. Trump about the coronavirus pandemic and what the former president would tell people who have not been vaccinated. Mr. Trump, who said in December that he had received a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot, told Mr. Inskeep that he recommended that people take the vaccine but that he did not support vaccine mandates.
Key Figures in the Jan. 6 Inquiry
The House investigation. A select committee is scrutinizing the causes of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, which occurred as Congress met to formalize Joe Biden’s election victory amid various efforts to overturn the results. Here are some people being examined by the panel:
Donald Trump. The former president’s movement and communications on Jan. 6 appear to be a focus of the inquiry. But Mr. Trump has attempted to shield his records, invoking executive privilege. The dispute is making its way through the courts.
Mike Pence. The former vice president could be a key witness as the committee focuses on Mr. Trump’s responsibility for the riot and considers criminal referrals, but Mr. Pence reportedly has not decided whether to cooperate.
Mark Meadows. Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, who initially provided the panel with a trove of documents that showed the extent of his role in the efforts to overturn the election, is now refusing to cooperate. The House voted to recommend holding Mr. Meadows in criminal contempt of Congress.
Scott Perry and Jim Jordan. The Republican representatives of Pennsylvania and Ohio are among a group of G.O.P. congressmen who were deeply involved in efforts to overturn the election. Both Mr. Perry and Mr. Jordan have refused to cooperate with the panel.
Fox News anchors. Texts between Sean Hannity and Trump officials in the days surrounding the riot illustrate the host’s unusually elevated role as an outside adviser. Mr. Hannity, along with Laura Ingraham and Brian Kilmeade, also texted Mr. Meadows as the riot unfolded.
Steve Bannon. The former Trump aide has been charged with contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena, claiming protection under executive privilege even though he was an outside adviser. His trial is scheduled for next summer.
Michael Flynn. Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser attended an Oval Office meeting on Dec. 18 in which participants discussed seizing voting machines and invoking certain national security emergency powers. Mr. Flynn has filed a lawsuit to block the panel’s subpoenas.
Phil Waldron. The retired Army colonel has been under scrutiny since a 38-page PowerPoint document he circulated on Capitol Hill was turned over to the panel by Mr. Meadows. The document contained extreme plans to overturn the election.
Jeffrey Clark. The little-known official repeatedly pushed his colleagues at the Justice Department to help Mr. Trump undo his loss. The panel has recommended that Mr. Clark be held in criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate.
John Eastman. The lawyer has been the subject of intense scrutiny since writing a memo that laid out how Mr. Trump could stay in power. Mr. Eastman was present at a meeting of Trump allies at the Willard Hotel that has become a prime focus of the panel.
Mr. Inskeep then asked how useful it was for Republicans to talk about the 2020 election before this year’s midterms, noting that Senator Mike Rounds, a Republican from South Dakota, told ABC over the weekend that the presidential election was not rigged.
“No, I think it’s an advantage, because otherwise they’re going to do it again in ’22 and ’24,” Mr. Trump said. “And Rounds is wrong on that, totally wrong.”
Mr. Inskeep then raised several instances in which Mr. Trump’s allies and election officials disputed his false claims of widespread election fraud. Mr. Trump repeated his claim and criticized Senator Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky and the minority leader.
The abrupt end of the interview recalled an episode in October 2020 when Mr. Trump, then the president, cut off an interview with “60 Minutes” at the White House and then taunted the interviewer, Lesley Stahl, on Twitter. Twitter permanently barred Mr. Trump from its site in the aftermath of the Capitol riot, saying it made the decision “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”
According to the transcript, Mr. Inskeep started the interview by telling Mr. Trump that he had first invited him to talk in 2015. Mr. Inskeep also explained that the interview was being prerecorded and that it should take about 15 minutes. “Very good,” Mr. Trump responded.
The interview lasted nine minutes, according to NPR.