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Former President Donald Trump called those who took part in the Jan. 6, 2021 demonstrations and attack on the Capitol “smart” during a defiant interview last spring, according to a documentary maker who has extensive access to Trump and his family was granted and is now cooperating with the House Committee investigating the riot.
“As you know, a very small fraction went down to the Capitol, and then a very small fraction of them went in. But I’m telling you, they were angry at what happened in the elections because they’re smart, and you see. And they saw what happened. I think that was a big part of what happened on January 6th,” he told British filmmaker Alex Holder in a March interview, according to a clip reviewed by The Washington Post.
Trump said it was a “sad day” but did not dismiss the events, according to footage reviewed by The Post and the filmmaker.
Holder met Thursday at a closed meeting with investigators from the Jan. 6 panel and provided the panel with more than 10 hours of footage consisting of interviews with Trump, his adult children, former Vice President Mike Pence and footage of the attack on the Capitol itself available. Holder said he was surprised he wasn’t called earlier, but received a subpoena from the committee last week.
Holder was interviewed for about two hours but declined to specify what the committee staff asked “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, which is slated for release this summer. The film was purchased by Discovery Plus, a company representative said.
The film was designed to chronicle Trump’s re-election campaign and his relationship with his adult children, he said. Holder said he was not present at any planning for the Jan. 6 events and had no private details about his origins.
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, was looking for ways to stay in office and talked about how he needed it Pressure on Georgian officials and the Supreme Court. “He had barricaded himself in the White House,” he said. “He hasn’t spoken to the press or done anything. … He said we need to find some good judges who can help us.”
The documentary maker said Trump never admitted he lost the election – and reiterated his claims of fraud and protests that he won the election privately and publicly. Trump also did not bring up the Jan. 6 date with him when they first met, 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 took no responsibility for Jan. 6 and had remained obsessed with the election, even steering the discussion away from softer questions about his family. He spoke at length about his crowd that day, boasting that it was the largest crowd he had ever drawn.
“I’ve brought up other issues like his kids, and he’s talked about it, but he always wanted to go back to the election,” Holder said.
A spokesman for Trump did not comment.
Holder said Trump’s children praised their father for fighting for the election in interviews in December. “They really repeated their father,” he said. “You could tell they really admired their father.”
After Jan. 6, he said the Trump family declined to even speak about the issue, as did Pence, who sat for an interview with the documentary filmmaker a few days after Jan. 6. “And we’re going to make that clear in the film,” he said. A person familiar with the project said it’s not a project about January 6, it’s about the Trump family and Trump as a father.
Holder said he was present when Pence received an email about the 25th Amendment to the Constitution – which sets out procedures for impeaching a president – but declined to describe Pence’s reaction.
“He didn’t seem upset,” Holder said. “People around him were nervous. He told us he wasn’t as good a golfer as Trump. He seemed optimistic about America’s future.”
Holder said he believes the committee is interested in six hours of footage he shot on Jan. 6 when he was away from the White House and was with the 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 chatted with family members before the election but only chatted with Trump after the election. He met 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.
“Everyone thought they were going to win,” he said.
He was given access to Air Force One, the White House and campaign events, he said, and some of his crew members were at times closer to Trump “than his own Secret Service agents.”
Several campaign officials said they had no idea Holder was making a documentary. “I think there was no question that the family somehow kept us away from the campaign. We had some interactions with them, but not much,” he said.
The documentary maker said Trump never privately admitted he lost. “Before I met him, I thought he actually didn’t really believe the election was rigged,” he said. “Absolutely not. He is absolutely convinced.”
He also said that in the final interview, the filmmaker finally managed to get Trump to talk about his children and issues other than the election. Trump ranted about being kicked off social media.
“I showed him a clip of his kids promoting him on my iPad – it was a really interesting moment. He said, ‘They all have their own base, but it’s really a part of my base,'” Holder said. “There were elements of him being proud of his children.”
He said Trump has also expressed surprising honesty about his coronavirus diagnosis. “He expressed being afraid of Covid and how he was sick and how he had friends who were dying,” Holder said.