President Trump, in his first major interview since taking office, defended his call for an investigation into widespread voter fraud, even though no evidence exists that it took place and some reports have debunked the claims.
But when Muir pointed out that House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have said that there is no evidence and proof, Trump said, “The people that voted for me — lots of people are saying they saw things happen. I heard stories also. But you’re not talking about millions. But it’s a small little segment. I will tell you, it’s a good thing what we’re doing because at the end we’re going to have an idea as to what’s going on.”
Trump claimed that he “didn’t say there are millions” who voted illegally, but “there could very well be millions of people.”
But Muir noted that Trump had once tweeted, “If you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally, I won the popular vote.”
“If I was going to the popular vote, I would have won easily,” Trump responded. “But I would’ve been in California and New York.”
Trump said that he didn’t think his claims of voter fraud undermined his credibility, and he seemed to be suggesting that those who dismiss it did not vote for him.
“Not at all because they didn’t come to me,” he said. “Believe me. Those were Hillary votes.”
Trump’s own attorneys, in a court filing in Michigan, said that “All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”
The interview was what you would expect from Trump — still prone to rhetoric from the campaign trail, absolute in his descriptions of what ails the country, and in thrall of the trappings of power and the adulation that goes with it. His descriptions were that of a showman. Talking about his speech before the CIA on Saturday, he said, “I got a standing ovation. In fact, they said it was the biggest standing ovation since Peyton Manning had won the Super Bowl and they said it was equal. I got a standing ovation. It lasted for a long period of time.”
But, as anchor David Muir pointed out, Trump now has the nuclear codes, which the president said was sobering and “very, very scary in a sense.”
His views no longer are the stuff of campaign debate but have worldwide implications. Trump said that he does believe that the use of waterboarding in interrogations works, but that he will rely on what Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo say.
“As far as I am concerned we have to fight fire with fire,” he said of waterboarding.
He said that he had spoken to officials in the “highest level of intelligence” and “I asked them does it work? Does torture work? And the answer is ‘Yes, absolutely.'”
“I want to do everything within the bounds of what you are allowed to do legally, but I do feel it works,” he said.
Trump also said that the construction of a border wall would begin in months.
Asked whether American taxpayers would pay for the wall, Trump said that “we will be reimbursed at a later date from whatever transaction we make from Mexico.” On Wednesday, Mexico’s president said that the country “would not pay for any wall.”
He also insisted that the crowd for his swearing in ceremony was “the biggest audience in the history of inaugural speeches.” But pictures from the event clearly show that the in-person attendance was not as great as in 2009, for Barack Obama’s first inauguration, and ratings also trailed that event. His press secretary added CNN streaming figures to the total, but those figures were of viewing “starts,” not actual average views.
Asked why he continued to focus on crowd size, Trump said that he thought that the comparisons of crowd sizes were an attempt to demean him and his supporters.
“I won’t allow you, or other people like you, to demean that crowd,” he said.
He finished the interview by showing Muir a panoramic photo of the inaugural and the crowd size.