“In multiple interviews, Former President Donald Trump unloads on the rigged 2020 election, Republicans who screwed him, and why he regrets elevating Anthony Fauci during the pandemic.”
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The further text of the article is adapted from three interviews of President Donald Trump for Mollie Hemingway’s latest book “Rigged: How The Media, Big Tech, and the Democrats Seized Our Elections,” out October 12.
Her words, expressed opinions, and conclusions are taken directly from conversations and facial expressions and body language of President Trump will be presented to you from word to word, exclusively, with not a single change being made in the author’s opinion.
“I don’t like her … and I don’t like me.”
Former President Donald Trump was looking at a photo of the two of us that his assistant had just taken on my phone. It wasn’t up to his specifications. We’d just completed the second of three interviews I’d have with him for my new book, “Rigged: How the Media, Big Tech, and the Democrats Seized Our Elections.”
As we walked outside one of the buildings at Mar-a-Lago, his palatial home on 20 acres of Palm Beach Island, Florida, he bragged that he had the only property on the island that faced both the ocean and the lake, thus the name. “That’s what Mar-a-Lago means – ocean to lake,” he translated, more or less.
Given the setting on the beautiful late March date, I asked if I could take a picture of him. I’d interviewed him a few times in the Oval Office and once already in Florida, but had never taken his picture. He suggested we take one together.
He didn’t like the first photo. “I don’t like her … and I don’t like me,” he said, suggesting we move to a different location out of the sun. His capable aide Margo Martin took another photo and turned it around to show him. “I like me, but I still don’t like her,” he said.
Trump dropped everything and decided to teach me how to take a picture. Somehow I’d reached my 40s without knowing how.
He walked us to an impeccably manicured, grassy area in front of the historic main building, explaining that you should always think about the background of a photo and not just the people in it. A massive flag flying at half-mast, in remembrance of victims of a shooting in Colorado, was behind us. The flag had also been lowered when I was there a month prior, in honor of Palm Beach’s Rush Limbaugh, who had then recently died. Trump had bestowed a Presidential Medal of Freedom on the conservative icon the year prior.
He told me to angle my body, put my hand on my hip, and a few other tricks. “You can trust me: my wife is a supermodel,” he said, as if I were unaware. Margo showed him the resulting picture.
He looked at it, paused briefly, and said, “Well there you go,” clearly pleased with the result. He was right, it looked much better.
The interview had been all over the place. Trump is a bizarre combination of an open book and difficult to nail down. When my husband listened to tapes of the interviews, he seemed almost shell-shocked at how much Trump hopped around from one topic to the next.
While I like to think I’m an excellent listener, I’m not a fan of the interview style that requires badgering a source for a preferred outcome. As in the other interviews I had with him, I was just as curious about what he wanted to focus on as what I needed to find out from him.
At one point, he noticed a large bandage on my forearm, which covered a burn I received while cooking dinner for my children. “Did you have a tattoo put on?” he asked, in the midst of listing off detailed election irregularities in Pennsylvania and Michigan. “Mollie’s going into the tattoo stuff? Whoa, that’s a big step.”
As we sat down in his second-floor office, the former president was watching Fox News, where I’m a contributor. He asked me what I thought of various Fox personalities. When he got to Bret Baier, who hosts “Special Report,” I complimented him.
Trump went on a riff about what a good golfer Bret is. “He’s a bull. He’s strong as hell.” Trump had recently played with Bryson DeChambeau, and talked about how he drove the 18th green at his Palm Beach course, which is about a 370-yard carry — even longer than Bret could, he said.
President Joe Biden had held his first press conference earlier that day, more than two months after he’d been inaugurated. Even with obsequious questions from an adoring press corps, he’d struggled to complete answers, getting lost and referring to his notes.
“He looks fragile up there. He’s not a long-ball hitter. I can tell you that. He does not hit the long ball,” Trump said. “It’s hard to watch. I mean, to be honest with you, it’s hard to watch. You’re on pins and needles. ‘Cause, you just don’t know. When does the blow-up occur? He’s not the sharpest guy.”
‘It was a little bit different with me,’ he noted dryly.
Trump was much less troubled by the disparate treatment from the press than I was, but he noted how deferential they’d been to Biden a few days prior to our interview when he fell down three times while walking up the stairs to board Air Force One. “How come it wasn’t covered on the evening news?” he asked.
As for the press conference, “They’re almost apologizing for asking even an easy question. It’s incredible. You didn’t see that too much with me. The apologies, you know, it was a little bit different with me,” he noted dryly. Later, he would say of the corporate press, “It’s just like they’re one amorphous monster. Just horrible. Almost uniformly.”
For our first meeting, we sat in the 60-foot long Mar-a-Lago central room. Built by Post cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, and meticulously restored and renovated by Donald Trump, the gold-leafed ceiling towers above ornate furnishings and tapestries. A massive window overlooks the expansive lawn in front of the ocean. On the other side, the open doors lead out to the large patio where members of the private club there has dinner each night.
At a later meeting I was told that President Trump preferred a seat with its back to the ocean side, but this day he was in the seat facing the ocean. Behind him, an open door showed a room with video equipment and a large TV, playing Fox News.
Baier was interviewing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. I would later learn it was the interview in which McConnell told Baier he’d “absolutely” support Trump if he ran again. But Trump was still frustrated with McConnell and how he’d mismanaged the Trump era, calling him a “stupid f-cker.”
Before the meeting, personal aides and staff of the club milled about. Many people let me know that Trump was in a great mood, in that way that clearly showed his mood hadn’t been great when they first arrived at Mar-a-Lago weeks prior.
I was curious about how he viewed his legacy, but he wasn’t interested in talking about anything more than two years out. For a guy known for his self-obsession, he was remarkably knowledgeable and focused on midterm elections and how to strengthen the Republican Party. He took me through what he thought was important in various races to ensure victory, noting arcane rules about primaries, conventions, and how they would affect his involvement.
We discussed what went well in the 2020 campaign and what didn’t, along with his view that he’d done what was necessary to win in a free and fair fight. “It hurts to lose less than to win and have it taken away,” he said. He reminisced about his triumphant 2020 State of the Union Address, given just as he had defeated Democrats’ first impeachment effort, where he could boast of a roaring economy, a secure border, and peace breaking out globally. “George Washington, with Abraham Lincoln as his running mate, could not have beaten me. I was up so much.”
He reminded me that his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton had repeatedly said he was “illegitimate,” and that the media hadn’t criticized her for a second. Instead, they worked with her team for three years to push the lie that he’d stolen the election by colluding with Russia. Democrats – and some Republicans – assisted the operation and gave it credence and legitimacy.
The media partisans won Pulitzers for spreading the lie, but moved on when it came out that it was a Democrat setup. Now they were complaining that he’d questioned the integrity of the next election. Throughout our interviews, he’d note how frustrating it was that he had to simultaneously run the country and survive the establishment’s onslaughts against him.
He downplayed the importance of Twitter deplatforming him, one of many moves tech oligarchs had made to suppress their political opposition. Again, he was unfazed. “Some people said they didn’t enjoy the tweets. Sometimes it got to be a bit much,” he admitted, adding that he didn’t even enjoy the last six months of tweeting.
As I left, an aide asked me how the interview went and what the terms of the discussion were – off-the-record or on background, perhaps? It was the only interview we were not speaking with aides present. No terms had been set. She sighed.
Furthermore, in early February, a political reporter and Nancy Pelosi biographer Molly Ball published a Time magazine article detailing how, as she put it, “a well-funded cabal of powerful people, ranging across industries and ideologies, working together behind the scenes to influence perceptions, change rules and laws, steer media coverage and control the flow of information” had rigged the election to secure a Biden victory.
While she was whitewashing what the cabal had done – asserting unconvincingly that it wasn’t rigging but “fortifying” — she revealed that these powerful elites, funded by Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, had been able to embed left-wing activists into election offices to assist Democrats with their get-out-the-vote efforts and the Democrats’ push for mail-in balloting.
“The only good article I’ve read in Time magazine in a long time — that was actually just a piece of the truth because it was much deeper than that — about how they stole the election,” he said. “They just couldn’t keep it in. Do you know what I mean? They just couldn’t keep it in. They had to let it out a little bit,” he said.
“We got them by surprise the first time,” Trump said, explaining why he was allowed to win in 2016 and not in 2020. “And the second time, they spent four years working on rigging the election,” he said. “They were willing to do anything they could, and it started from the day I took office or before I took office. It started right after the election with the Russia hoax.”