Trump praised Jan. 6 participants as ‘smart,’ filmmaker says

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Former President Donald Trump called those who participated in the Jan. 6, 2021 protests and Capitol attack “smart” in a provocative interview last spring, according to a documentary filmmaker who gained access extended to Trump and his family and is now cooperating with the House committee investigating the insurgency.

“A very small part, as you know, went down to the Capitol and then a very small part of them went in. But I’ll tell you, they were angry from the point of view of what happened during of the election because they’re smart, and they see. And they saw what happened. I think that was a lot of what happened on January 6,” he said. he told British filmmaker Alex Holder in an interview in March, according to a clip from the film reviewed by The Washington Post.

Trump said it was a “sad day” but offered no repudiation of the events, according to footage reviewed by The Post and the filmmaker.

Holder met with Jan. 6 committee investigators in a closed meeting Thursday and provided more than 10 hours of footage to the panel of interviews with Trump, his adult children, former Vice President Mike Pence and footage of the Capitol attack itself. Holder said he was surprised he hadn’t been called sooner, but received a subpoena last week from the committee.

Holder was questioned for about two hours but declined to elaborate on what committee staff had asked him “out of respect for an ongoing investigation,” his spokeswoman said.

Holder said he interviewed Trump three times in December 2020, March 2021 and May 2021 for the documentary, titled “Unprecedented” and slated for release this summer. The film was purchased by Discovery Plus, a company representative said.

The film was meant to chronicle Trump’s re-election campaign and his relationship with his adult children, he said. Holder said he was not present for any of the planning for the Jan. 6 events and had no private details of where he came from.

In his December interview, which lasted 45 minutes in the White House Diplomatic Reception Room, the filmmaker said Trump was in a bad mood and obsessed with the 2020 election, looking for ways to stay in power and explaining how he was to lobby Georgian officials and the Supreme Court. “He had barricaded himself in the White House,” he said. “He wasn’t talking to the press and doing nothing. … He said, we have to find good judges who can help us.

The documentary maker said Trump never admitted he had lost the election – and repeated his same allegations of fraud and protests that he had won the election in private as he had in public. Trump also did not bring up the Jan. 6 date with him during his first meeting, and the president’s children and Pence also never mentioned the date before the attack, he said.

In March, at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in South Florida, Holder said Trump was defiant and accepting no responsibility for Jan. 6 and remained obsessed with the election, even steering the discussion away from the issues. kinder on his family. He spoke at length about the size of his crowd that day, bragging that it was the biggest crowd he had ever attracted.

“I was talking about other things like his kids, and he was talking about it, but he still wanted to come back to the election,” Holder said.

A Trump spokesperson had no comment.

Holder said Trump’s children praised their father for waging an election battle during the December interviews. “They really echoed their father,” he said. “You could tell they really looked up to their dad.”

After Jan. 6, he said the Trump family declined to talk about the topic, as did Pence, who sat down for an interview with the documentarian a few days after Jan. 6. “And we’ll make that clear in the movie,” he said. A person familiar with the project said it was not pitched as a Jan. 6 project, but rather about the Trump family and Trump as a father.

Holder said he was present when Pence received an email regarding the 25th Amendment to the Constitution — which sets out procedures for removing a president from office — but he declined to describe Pence’s reaction.

“He didn’t seem crazy,” Holder said. “People around him were nervous. He told us he was not as good a golfer as Trump. He seemed optimistic about America’s future.

Holder said he thought the committee would be interested in six hours of footage he shot Jan. 6, when he was not at the White House but with rioters on Capitol Hill. He was not with Trump or Pence that day, he said.

Holder said the family wanted to participate in the documentary as a “legacy project” and that he spoke with family members before the election, but only with Trump after the election. He had gotten to know family associates, Holder said, through a project he was filming in the Middle East. A person familiar with the matter said he was introduced to the Trump family by Jason Greenblatt, a Middle East envoy in the Trump administration.

“They all thought they were going to win,” he said.

He had access to Air Force One, the White House and campaign events, he said, and some of his crew were sometimes closer to Trump “than his own Secret Service agents.”

Several campaign officials said they had no idea Holder was filming a documentary. “I think there was no doubt that the family kind of kept us out of the countryside. We had a few interactions with them, but not a lot,” he said.

The documentary maker said Trump never privately conceded that he lost. “I had the opinion before meeting him that he didn’t really believe the election was rigged,” he said. “Absolutely not. He is absolutely convinced.

He also said that during the final interview, the filmmaker was finally able to get Trump to talk about his children and about topics other than the election. Trump protested being kicked off social media.

“I showed him on my iPad a clip of his kids campaigning for him – it was a really interesting moment. He said, ‘They all have their own base, but that’s really part of my base,'” said Holder: “There were elements that showed that he was proud of his children.”

He said Trump also expressed surprising honesty about his coronavirus diagnosis. “He expressed his fear of covid, and how he was sick, and how he had friends who died,” Holder said.

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