Former President Donald Trump acknowledged in a new interview that, despite receiving counsel from multiple people that the 2020 election was not stolen, he pushed ahead anyway with his false claims to try and overturn the results.
The comments to NBC’s “Meet the Press” directly address a central premise of special counsel Jack Smith’s case against Trump over his efforts to subvert the 2020 election results: that Trump knew the election claims he was making were false after being told by several close aides that he had lost.
“It was my decision, but I listened to some people,” Trump said.
In his first broadcast network interview since leaving office, the 2024 Republican front-runner also criticized members of his party over how they’ve approached abortion policy, discussed pardoning himself in the final days of his presidency and said he would testify under oath he did not direct an employee to delete security footage.
The former president said he didn’t listen to his attorneys who told him he had lost the election because he didn’t respect them and that he “respected many others that said the election was rigged.”
“I was listening to different people, and when I added it all up, the election was rigged,” Trump told NBC’s Kristen Welker.
He added, “You know who I listen to? Myself. I saw what happened.”
In the indictment against Trump, prosecutors detailed the “prolific lies” Trump made in the wake of the 2020 election, including knowingly pushing false claims of voter fraud and voting machines switching votes despite state and federal officials telling him the claims were wrong.
Prosecutors put forward several examples of Trump being told by his aides that fraud claims he was promoting were false. The indictment cites instances where Trump was informed that his claims were false by then-Vice President Mike Pence, the director of national intelligence, senior members of the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, his own staffers, state lawmakers as well as state and federal courts.
“But the defendant disseminated them anyway – to make his knowingly false claims appear legitimate, create an intense atmosphere of mistrust and anger, and erode public faith in the administration of the election,” the indictment reads.
Following his election loss, Trump tried multiple avenues to overturn the results. He pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and another official to “recalculate” the numbers and “find” enough votes to let him win, and his campaign also tried to install fake GOP electors in seven swing states.
The House select committee that investigated Trump’s actions in the lead-up to the January 6, 2021, insurrection argued that the evidence shows he actively worked to “transmit false Electoral College ballots to Congress and the National Archives” despite concerns among his lawyers that doing so could be unlawful.
“That evidence has led to an overriding and straightforward conclusion: the central cause of January 6th was one man, former President Donald Trump, whom many others followed. None of the events of January 6th would have happened without him,” the committee’s final report states.
Trump is facing four charges in Smith’s case, including obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy to defraud the United States. Smith’s federal election interference investigation is one of four criminal cases against the former president, which includes a sweeping Georgia indictment accusing him of being the head of a “criminal enterprise” to overturn the 2020 election in that state; allegations that he falsified business records related to hush money payments related to the 2016 campaign; and an indictment related to mishandling of classified documents after he left office.
Trump has pleaded not guilty in all cases and denied any wrongdoing.
Calls GOP abortion positions ‘terrible’
Trump said in the interview that some Republicans “speak very inarticulately” about abortion and have pursued “terrible” state-level restrictions that could alienate much of the country.
While avoiding taking any specific stances himself, Trump criticized the controversial state law in Florida that bans most abortions after six weeks into pregnancy that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law behind closed doors earlier this year.
“I think what he did is a terrible thing and a terrible mistake,” said Trump, whose appointment of three Supreme Court justices was instrumental in overturning the federal right to an abortion.
Trump, who has not said what kind of federal abortion legislation he would push for or support if reelected, said he believed it was “probably better” to leave abortion restrictions up to the states instead of trying to pass federal legislation.
“It could be state or could it federal, I don’t frankly care,” Trump said.
The comments are a notable departure from his earlier comments that the federal government has a “vital role” to play in restricting abortion. Earlier this year, the Trump campaign backed off its stance that abortion should be left to the states after receiving swift backlash from the influential anti-abortion group SBA Pro-Life America.
In the interview, Trump also said he discussed pardoning himself in the final days of his presidency but ultimately dismissed the idea. Trump also claimed that he would be willing to testify under oath that he did not direct one of his employees to delete security footage from Mar-a-Lago after it was subpoenaed, which is included in Smith’s indictment in the classified documents case.
Trump, however, has a well-documented history of publicly expressing interest in testifying but rarely following through unless legally required to by a judge.
This story has been updated with additional information.