Donald Trump hits out at Mike Pence, teases comeback in hours-long interview

Two months after he left the White House “against his will”, Donald Trump gave an interview for the ages, revealed as part of a new book on his “chaotic” final year as US President.

During the hours-long chat on March 31 with the authors of I Alone Can Fix It, Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, the ever-boasting former leader repeated his belief that the election was rigged, bashed those who he perceived had wronged him, and teased a triumphant comeback from the comfort of his eponymous “Palm Beach castle … where he still reigned as king of Republican politics”.

“At the perfectly manicured Mar-a-Lago, none of the disgrace that marked the end of his presidency pierces Trump’s reality,” Leonnig and Rucker wrote, in an excerpt published in Vanity Fair.

“Here, he and his aides work to maintain the gospel according to Trump, with the most important revelations being that Donald Trump was the greatest president of all time and was unjustly denied a second term.”

George Washington, Abraham Lincoln could not 'beat me'

Upon arrival, the journalists were presented with copies of a 92-page bound volume titled 1000 Accomplishments of President Donald J Trump: Highlights of the First Term.

“In a certain way, I had two presidencies,” he told Leonnig and Rucker. During the “first”, when the US economy was roaring, he argued that he had been unbeatable.

“I think it would be hard if George Washington came back from the dead and he chose Abraham Lincoln as his vice-president, I think it would have been very hard for them to beat me.”

During his “second presidency”, it was the coronavirus pandemic – which the Trump administration has been condemned for mishandling, spending much of last year downplaying its severity – that he said killed his chances. That was before, he said, “evil people” conspired to deny him of his “rightful second term”.

“The greatest fraud ever perpetrated in this country was this last election,” Mr Trump said, declaring that “statistically, it wasn’t even possible that [Joe Biden] won”.

“It was rigged and it was stolen. It was both. It was a combination, and [his attorney general] Bill Barr didn’t do anything about it.”

But it wasn’t just Mr Barr that he wanted to disparage. Among others, Trump called former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a “knucklehead”; he said he is “very disappointed” in Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s failure to reverse the election result; and former Vice-President Mike Pence is, in his opinion, the biggest let-down of them all.

“Had Mike Pence had the courage to send it back to the legislatures, you would have had a different outcome, in my opinion,” Mr Trump said.

'Loving crowd' at deadly Capitol insurrection

Considering he once described white supremacists as “very fine people”, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that, when questioned over the deadly January insurrection incited on the US Capitol by his followers, Mr Trump described them as a “loving crowd”.

The loyalty and intensity of his supporters, he said, is actually what sets him apart from any of his predecessors.

“There’s never been a base that screams out, with 35,000 people, ‘We love you! We love you!'” Mr Trump said.

“That never happened to Ronald Reagan. It never happened to anybody. We have a base like no other. They’re very angry. That’s what happened in Washington on the 6th [of January]. They went down because of the election fraud. The one thing that nobody says is how many people were there, because if you look at that real crowd, the crowd for the speech, I’ll bet you it was over a million people.

“It was a loving crowd, too, by the way. There was a lot of love. I’ve heard that from everybody. Many, many people have told me that was a loving crowd. It was too bad, it was too bad that they did that,” he said.

“What I wanted,” he said of the rioters, “is what they wanted. They showed up just to show support because I happen to believe the election was rigged at a level like nothing has ever been rigged before.”

'Nobody's ever gone through what I have'

Unlike every other president in US history, Mr Trump said he “had two jobs: running our country and running it well; and survival”.

“I had the Mueller hoax. I had the witch hunt. It’s one big witch hunt that’s gone from the day I came down the escalator,” he said, in reference to his 2015 campaign launch event in the lobby of New York’s Trump Tower.

“Nobody’s ever gone through what I have. They got me on all phony stuff.”

His alleged hardships haven’t, however, perturbed him from pursuing another shot at a second administration – though it’s likely he won’t choose Mr Pence to run by his side this time.

“Well, I was disappointed in Mike,” Mr Trump said. “But, you know, I’ll be making a decision at some point. I will say this: Based on the polls, those polls are great, the Republican Party loves Trump.”

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