Former President Trump lashed out at a number of his favorite targets Wednesday night during an interview with ex-Fox News host Tucker Carlson meant to compete with the first GOP presidential debate that the 2024 GOP front-runner skipped.
Trump criticized Fox News, the network televising the debate, rival candidate Chris Christie and his former Attorney General Bill Barr during the 46-minute interview that was pre-taped at Trump’s Bedminster, N.J., property. Here are some of the highlights.
Trump tells Carlson he should not have been fired by Fox
The former president blasted Fox for taking Carlson off the air in April, saying it was a mistake by the network to oust its at the time top-rated host.
“I think it was a terrible move getting rid of you,” Trump told the former host. “You’re No. 1 on television and all of a sudden we’re doing this interview, but we’ll get bigger ratings doing this crazy forum that you’re using than probably the debate.”
Since being fired by Fox, Carlson, who remains under contract with the network, has started a new version of his popular prime-time show on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Trump has ridiculed Fox for weeks over its coverage of him and complained to the network’s senior leadership about the firing of Carlson, which came just days after the network agreed to pay $787 million in settlement money to Dominion Voting Systems in connection with false claims aired on Fox about voter fraud being pushed by the former president and his allies.
Trump blasts Christie as ‘savage maniac’
Trump wasted little time going after one of his Republican primary rivals, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), whose 2024 campaign has largely focused on attacking the former president as unfit to serve another term.
“He runs solely on the basis of ‘Let’s get Trump,’” the former president said. “He’s like a savage maniac. He’s like a lunatic. And that’s all he talks about. His poll numbers are very, very low.”
Christie was among the first major figures to endorse Trump in the 2016 primary after dropping out himself, and he was considered for White House chief of staff and advised Trump on debate prep in 2020.
Christie had relentlessly attacked Trump as a “coward” for skipping Wednesday’s debate.
But Trump said while the two were “friendly” over the years, he thinks Christie likely feels “betrayed” because he didn’t get an administration job.
Trump attacks Barr after Tucker raises Epstein report
The former Fox News host brought up former Attorney General William Barr in unusual fashion, raising a report he wrote about the death of Jeffrey Epstein in prison.
Carlson questioned why Barr wrote in his biography that Epstein likely killed himself, a nod to conspiracy theories that Epstein was killed in prison.
Trump said he did not know, but he quickly pivoted to attacking his former attorney general over his refusal to indulge Trump’s claims of election fraud in 2020.
“Bill Barr didn’t do an investigation on the election fraud either. He said he did and he pretended he did,” Trump said, claiming Barr was “petrified” of being impeached by the House, which at the time was controlled by Democrats.
Carlson asks Trump if he thinks someone is plotting to kill him
Carlson, about 20 minutes into the conversation, asked Trump if he fears for his safety based on the criminal investigations he faces and criticism he takes from Democrats and media figures.
“It started with protests against you … and then it moved to impeachment twice and now indictment,” Carlson said. “I mean the next stage is violence. Are you worried that they’re going to try and kill you? Why wouldn’t they try and kill you? Honestly.”
“I think the people of our country don’t get enough credit for how smart they are,” Trump said, before calling the criminal indictments he faces “bullshit.”
Trump has been indicted four times in connection with his personal business dealings, handling of classified documents and efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Trump on Jan. 6 and political violence
Carlson asked Trump if he felt the country was moving toward “civil war,” which prompted the former president to invoke Jan. 6, when rioters stormed the Capitol to try and halt the certification of the 2020 election results.
“There’s tremendous passion and there’s tremendous love. You know, Jan. 6 was a very interesting day because they don’t report it properly. I believe it was the largest crowd I’ve ever spoken before,” Trump said.
Trump said a “very small group” went down to the Capitol, but argued there was “love and unity” in the crowd.
“I have never seen such spirit, and such passion, and such love, and I’ve also never seen, simultaneously and from the same people, such hatred of what they’ve done to our country,” Trump said.
Asked if he’s worried the country is headed toward “open conflict,” Trump said there is “a level of passion and hatred I’ve never seen. And that’s probably a bad combination.”
Trump questions Biden’s competence
Trump is on a collision course for a rematch with President Biden in 2024, and the former president took repeated shots at Biden’s competence and mental sharpness.
“I think he is the most corrupt president we’ve ever had, and he also has the distinction of being the most incompetent,” Trump said, calling Biden a “Manchurian candidate.”
Trump mocked Biden’s recent vacations to Rehoboth Beach, Del., where the president was photographed on the beach with his family.
“They love pictures of him on the beach. I think he looks terrible on the beach,” Trump said.
The former president suggested if Biden is not the Democratic nominee in 2024, it would be a “free for all” among prominent Democrats to win the party’s nomination, suggesting Vice President Kamala Harris is not equipped for the top job.
But asked if he has a preference for a potential opponent should he win the Republican nomination, Trump said he hoped for a rematch of the man who defeated him in 2020.
“In many ways I’d love to run against him because his record is so bad,” Trump said. “It’s still horrible when you look at inflation and everything else.”
Updated 10:25 p.m.