(Headline USA) Former President Donald Trump repeatedly declined in an interview aired Sunday to answer questions about whether he watched the Capitol uprising unfold on television, saying he would “tell people later at an appropriate time.”
It is unclear whether Trump’s reluctance to respond related in some way to efforts by partisan special counsel Jack Smith’s attempt to impose a gag order on Trump or was otherwise tied to some sort of legal consideration in one of the pending lawsuits against him.
However, that did not stop leftist media—including the Associated Press—rom trying to use Trump’s silence to convict him in the convict him in the court of public opinion.
Trump, the current front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, refused to say on NBC’s Meet the Press how he spent Jan. 6, 2021, once the protest began and whether he made phone calls as his supporters breached the U.S. Capitol and disrupted the Joint Session of Congress that had convened to certify the highly disputed Electoral College vote formally declaring Joe Biden as president.
“I’m not going to tell you. I’ll tell people later at an appropriate time,” Trump told moderator Kristen Welker after she asked if he spent that afternoon watching the attack on television in a dining room at the White House.
Trump’s former aides have said he sequestered himself in the room off the Oval Office to watch, at times even rewinding and rewatching some parts.
In the interview, taped Thursday at Trump’s golf club in New Jersey, Trump refused to say who he called as the violence unfolded. “Why would I tell you that?” he said.
Trump said in response to Welker’s pressing him about his public silence during the four-hour incursion that he had made “beautiful statements” on the day of the attack.
More than 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Jan. 6 riot and more than 600 have pleaded guilty or been convicted.
Nonetheless, footage and accounts indicate that many of those who entered the Capitol did so peacefully and respectfully, and the event only escalated after U.S. Capitol Police began firing teargas on those outside, while some instigators believed to be federal plants attempted to encourage people to enter the building and to foment violence.
The reports of the murder of peaceful protestor Ashli Babbitt by USCP Lt. Michael Byrd, along with Trump’s personal plea asking people to disperse peacefully and the eventual arrival of the National Guard led to a fast end of the afternoon melee, allowing Congress to quickly finish its business that very same night with less debate and fewer procedural challenges than it otherwise would have seen.
Trump is facing federal criminal charges for allegedly attempting to overturn the outcome in the 2020 election, but he is not facing charges related to the events of Jan.6, for which he was already acquitted once by the U.S. Senate.
Trump said he might consider pardoning some of the protestors who were charged for their actions that day, many within the deeply corrupt Washington, D.C. court system.
“I’m going to look at them, and I certainly might if I think it’s appropriate” to pardon them, the former president said.
Trump also said he would consider pardoning former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, who was sentenced to 22 years in prison orchestrating a failed plot to keep Trump in power.
Trump said Tarrio was treated “horribly,” according to a full transcript of the NBC interview, which included parts that were not aired.
Trump was asked if he fears going to jail.
“No, I don’t really. I don’t even think about it. I’m built a little differently I guess,” he said.
Trump was also asked in the interview why he didn’t listen to the advice of attorneys in the White House who urged him to accept his loss to Biden.
“I didn’t respect them,” Trump said. “In many cases, I didn’t respect them. But I did respect others. I respected many others that said the election was rigged.”
Trump said he was listening both to his instincts and “different people” to guide his actions around the election’s results.
The NBC appearance was Trump’s first broadcast network interview since leaving office and marked Welker’s debut show as host.
Trump also said he was pleased to hear Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent remarks praising Trump for suggesting that he were elected to the White House again, he would negotiate an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Putin on Tuesday said Trump’s statements were “good” and brought “happiness.”
“Well, I like that he said that. Because that means what I’m saying is right,” Trump said on NBC.
Trump said he had had a good relationship with Putin, something he has said several times before, and denied that any deal he would seek in Ukraine would be a win for Russia and allow it to keep territory it has seized.
“That’s something that could have been negotiated,” Trump said. He went on and said, “They could have made a deal where there’s lesser territory right now than Russia’s already taken, to be honest.”
Trump repeatedly declined to say whether he would support a federal ban on abortion and he criticized a ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy that was signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, one of Trump’s top rivals in the presidential primary.
“I think what he did is a terrible thing and a terrible mistake,” Trump said.
Trump said he did not care whether abortion was ultimately banned at a federal level or settled by laws in each state. The U.S. Supreme Court, with the support of three justices appointed by Trump, last year overturned the federal abortion mandate that prohibited states from setting their own restrictions following the 50-year-old Roe v. Wade case.
“From a pure standpoint, from a legal standpoint, I think it’s probably better” to be handled at the state level, Trump said.
“But I can live with it either way. It’s much more important, the number of weeks is much more important.”
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press