President Donald Trump in the Cabinet Room of the White House on February 6, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
The interview Tuesday with veteran journalist Steve Inskeep came after six straight years of Trump and his team declining NPR’s requests for a one-on-one discussion.
They had agreed to speak for 15 minutes, a transcript of the interview shows. But shortly after the nine-minute mark, Trump suddenly ended the call — just as Inskeep started to ask a question about the deadly invasion of the Capitol last year by a mob of Trump’s supporters.
Inskeep kicked off the interview with a question about the coronavirus pandemic, asking Trump what advice he would give to unvaccinated Americans, who are significantly more likely to lean Republican than Democratic.
Trump initially demurred, taking the opportunity to first attack the Biden administration’s vaccine requirements and then promote alternative Covid therapeutics, rather than encourage the unvaccinated to get inoculated.
Pressed to respond, Trump said: “I recommend taking them, but I think that has to be an individual choice. I mean, it’s got to be individual, but I recommend taking them.”
Trump has previously said he is vaccinated and has received a booster shot.
The interview then turned to Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election. Trump has never conceded to President Joe Biden, and instead falsely asserted he won the race even before the votes were done being counted. He had spent months before Nov. 3, 2020, sowing doubts about election integrity, and has claimed ever since his loss that the race was rigged against him through widespread voter fraud.
Inskeep asked Trump about remarks from Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., who had dismissed that election conspiracy over the weekend.
“We simply did not win the election as Republicans for the presidency,” Rounds said on ABC News. The GOP senator warned that “if we simply look back and tell our people, ‘don’t vote, because, you know, there’s cheating going on,’ then we’re going to put ourselves in a huge disadvantage.”
Trump replied that Rounds is “totally wrong,” before claiming without providing evidence that “they’re finding things” in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — swing states he lost to Biden — showing the election was “corrupt.”
Inskeep noted that a controversial audit of the election results in Arizona, commissioned by GOP officials and conducted by a group whose owner had spread pro-Trump conspiracies, concluded that Biden won the state’s largest county.
Trump nevertheless claimed the findings were “devastating for Arizona” and decried the Republicans who accepted the election results as “RINOs,” an acronym for “Republicans In Name Only” that Republicans use to criticize each other.
Inskeep pressed Trump about the dozens of failed lawsuits his legal team and allies filed to try to overturn the election results in key swing states. His own lawyers, Inskeep noted, had told judges they were not alleging fraud.
Trump responded that more information about fraud had been uncovered later on, and then falsely claimed there were “far more votes than there were voters” in key parts of the country.
“It is not true that there were far more votes than voters,” Inskeep noted. He then asked why Trump thinks most GOP senators are not entertaining his election lies.
“Because Mitch McConnell is a loser,” Trump said of the Republican Senate leader, whom he has repeatedly attacked in statements over the past year.
Trump later railed against Biden, incredulously asking how it could be that the Democrat received 80 million votes in the 2020 election while “sitting in his basement.”
Inskeep replied, “If you’ll forgive me, maybe because the election was about you.”
Shortly after, Trump told Inskeep: “So Steve, thank you very much. I appreciate it.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, I have one more question. I want to ask about a court hearing yesterday on Jan. 6,” Inskeep said, but Trump had already hung up.
“He’s gone. OK,” Inskeep said.