Donald Trump may have stepped in it during his recent NBC News interview.
Mr Trump was the marquee guest for Kristen Welker’s first Sunday as host of Meet the Press. Unsurprisingly, plenty of super-online liberals complained that Welker, a longtime respected White House reporter who moderated one of the 2020 presidential debates and has aggressively covered multiple administrations, let Mr Trump slip away.
Some of the concerns are understandable, but many liberals purely resent the idea that Mr Trump should be interviewed by mainstream news organisations at all despite the fact that a large swath of the country still supports him and he is almost guaranteed to become the 2024 Republican nominee for president.
But one aspect of the interview stood out and will likely be highlighted by prosecutors in Mr Trump’s legal battles. At one point Welker asked if the former president declared he had won the 2020 election on the advice of his outside attorneys or if he had relied on his own instincts.
“As to whether or not I believed it was rigged? Sure, it was my decision,” the twice-impeached, four-times indicted former president said.
The former president’s words were probably, like most of his words, extemporaneous. But they may ultimately wind up hurting the president in his legal battles. Prosecutors have argued that Mr Trump not only attempted to defraud the American public, but that he did so when he knew that it was not the truth.
Last month, a grand jury indicted the former president after a four-hour presentation by special counsel Jack Smith for an alleged plot to overturn the 2020 presidential election. A core tenet of the indictment states that Mr Trump and his co-conspirators “used knowingly false claims of election fraud to get state legislators and election officials to subvert the legitimate election results and change electoral votes for the Defendant’s opponent, Joseph R. Biden, Jr., to electoral votes for the Defendant.”
The indictment also alleged that Mr Trump “repeated knowingly false claims of election fraud to gathered supporters, falsely told them that the Vice President had the authority to and might alter the election results, and directed them to the Capitol to obstruct the certification proceeding and exert pressure.”
If Mr Trump admits that he knowingly deceived the public, this would be a boon to the prosecution. Mr Trump’s legal team could no longer rely on the defence that he was simply listening to the counsel of his attorneys.
Indeed, throughout the interview, he said he disregarded the words of his attorneys, notably criticising his former attorney general William Barr, who has said that Mr Trump’s claims of election fraud were “bulls***.” Similarly, during the January 6 select committee hearings, Liz Cheney said that former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani – who is also indicted in the case in Fulton County, Georgia – reportedly drunkenly told Mr Trump he should just declare victory prematurely.
All of this will give Mr Smith’s team more fodder to say that Mr Trump knowingly tried to overturn the election and that he was not simply following the advice of counsel. In turn, this could make their jobs easier while making Mr Trump’s life that much harder.
Indeed, if Mr Trump’s words wind up incriminating him, liberals might change their tune on Welker’s style of questioning of the former president.