Former United States President Donald Trump abruptly ended an interview with US broadcaster National Public Radio after being pressed on his false claims of widespread election fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
The publicly-funded broadcaster said Trump, after declining interviews for six years, was meant to speak to “Morning Edition” host Steve Inskeep for 15 minutes to be broadcast on Wednesday.
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Instead, he hung up after just nine minutes, but not before repeating debunked claims that the 2020 presidential election was marred by fraud and future elections were vulnerable to the same misdeeds.
Numerous state vote recounts and dozens of lawsuits have disproved Trump’s claims of voter fraud. Despite that, recent polls have shown that nearly 70 percent of Republicans believe Democrat Joe Biden beat Trump in the 2020 election because of fraud.
Trump said Republican candidates in elections this year would be “smart” to press his claims. He highlighted Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake who has repeatedly pushed the baseless allegations.
“She’s very big on this issue … She’s leading by a lot. People have no idea how big this issue is, and they don’t want it to happen again,” he said. “And the only way it’s not going to happen again is you have to solve the problem of the presidential rigged election of 2020.”
When the host sought to ask a follow-up question, Trump quickly said, “So, Steve, thank you very much. I appreciate it.” He hung up the call after that.
Prior to the abrupt exit, Trump attacked Republicans who have rejected the position that his election loss to Biden was the result of malfeasance.
He derided Republican Senator Mike Rounds, who said on Sunday that “irregularities” did not change the outcome of the election, calling him a “jerk”, “weak” and “ineffective”.
Meanwhile, he called Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell a “loser”.
When asked about Republican election officials in Arizona, who accepted a Republican-ordered audit that found no significant irregularities in the state’s voting administration, he derided them as “RINOs” – a derogatory term meaning “Republicans in Name Only”.
“Because they’re RINOs, and frankly, a lot of people are questioning that,” he said of the election officials’ actions.
Trump remains under investigation by a Congressional committee for his role in egging on rioters who stormed the US capitol on January 6, 2021, in a deadly attempt to overturn Biden’s election victory.
On Tuesday, the committee issued its latest round of subpoenas, which included a demand for records and testimony from former White House official Ross Worthington who helped draft the speech Trump delivered on January 6 just before rioters stormed the US Capitol.
And in a significant change in tune, Trump slammed politicians who refuse to disclose whether or not they have received a COVID-19 booster shot as “gutless”.
Although he was booed last month by supporters after revealing he had gotten a booster shot, Trump has become increasingly vocal in calling out those who have questioned the vaccines’ efficacy and safety.
“Well, I’ve taken it. I’ve had the booster,” Trump said in an interview aired on Tuesday night on the conservative One America News Network. “I watched a couple of politicians be interviewed and one of the questions was, ‘Did you get the booster?’ … And they, ‘Oh, oh,’ they’re answering it — like in other words, the answer is ‘Yes’, but they don’t want to say it. Because they’re gutless.”
The position was a change in posture for Trump, who is eying another run for the White House and faces potential competition from a long list of possible Republican challengers.
Even though the vaccines were developed under his administration, they remain deeply unpopular with large segments of the Republican base, fuelled in part by rampant disinformation.
Trump, while in office, consistently downplayed the risk posed by COVID-19 and he received his vaccine privately, even as other members of his administration were inoculated in public to help boost confidence in the shots.
“You gotta say it. Whether you had it or not, say it,” Trump said in the interview.
Trump was hospitalised with COVID-19 in October 2020, weeks before the presidential election, and received experimental monoclonal antibody treatment.