January 6 committee hearings are expected to resume in September. This week’s guest, documentary filmmaker Alex Holder, was subpoenaed by the House select committee in June to hand over any raw footage his team filmed on January 6, 2021, and all interviews conducted during filmmaking of former President Donald Trump, his family members, and then-Vice President Mike Pence. Ryan Grim talks to Holder about his new docuseries, “Unprecedented,” on Discovery+ that follows Trump and his family campaigning during the 2020 election and the days leading up to January 6.
[Deconstructed theme song.]
Ryan Grim: All right. Welcome to Deconstructed. I’m your host, Ryan Grim.
I’m mostly back from my book leave. A big thank you to everybody who filled in. We’re gonna continue to have some substitute hosts here and there — I listened over the summer, I thought it was great. I thought a bunch of those episodes — all of them were good. Some of them were even better than good.
Today, we’re going to be joined by Alex Holder, who is the director and producer of the new documentary series called “Unprecedented,” which is an inside look at the Trump campaign and the Trump White House, airing now — or streaming now, whatever you call it, on Discovery+.
Alex Holder joins us now to talk about the unlikely way that he wound up inside the White House in these bizarre days.
Alex, thank you so much for joining me here.
Alex Holder: It’s a pleasure. Really glad to be here with you.
RG: So this is being recorded on Thursday, August 25. Today is the two-year anniversary of this adventure, this completely strange trip. How did you wind up in the Trump inner circle?
AH: I mean, it all started at the beginning of 2020, I’d been making a film about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And I was in America. It was just before COVID actually arrived in America. At the point I was in America, I think it had just landed in Italy. Early 2020, and I’m interviewing various people in America who were involved in some capacity with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And I interviewed somebody — a few people actually, but mainly one person — who had previously worked at the White House, and was in charge of the Middle East file. And he, at that point, had left the White House. And I was interviewing him for the project. And I had this crazy idea about: Why don’t we make a film about Donald Trump and his family?
And this guy happened to be quite close to the family. So the idea of making a film about the incumbent President of the United States, is ridiculous, right? [Laughs.] So it wasn’t really thought through. It was just like: This guy knows President Trump. So why not pitch him an idea about making a movie about, you know, the president?
And then COVID happens. And these things all obviously stopped. But the conversation kept being had. And I sort of persevered. And eventually it got to a stage where I needed to go out to America and meet with the people in charge, essentially. I mean, all of the family.
And I flew out on the 25 of August. And the truth is that I never, in a million years, thought we would be able to pull this off. But after having met family, now it actually makes sense why it all happened. But I remember saying goodbye to my family, saying: I’ll probably see you in 48 hours. And I didn’t come back for six months, actually. And then it was just a whirlwind all the way through — a total roller coaster.
RG: What was it about the family after you met them that you’re like: Oh, no wonder they just allowed this stranger with a camera to just follow them around all the time?
AH: So I think there were a few reasons. I mean, one is that the family is, for lack of a better comparison, quite mafia-like, [laughs] in the sense that they only really trust the family. I mean, the family are the ultimate. And then it’s friends or colleagues that they’ve worked with for years. And those are the people they really trust. So I was introduced to them by somebody that they were very close with. And so that’s definitely one aspect.
But the second and third was: I didn’t have any political skin in the game, right? I was from the U.K. And they felt that, as we know, the media are biased against them, and they don’t really have particularly strong feelings towards the media landscape in the U.S., except to those organizations that agree with their position, right? So here was somebody that didn’t have any skin in the game.
And I think, honestly, the British accent really helped.
AH: I mean, Trump is very — he’s a massive fan of the Queen. And not to say that he thought there was any association between the Royal Family and myself, but I think he just thinks England or British people have — I don’t know — some sort of elegance, maybe? I mean, it’s completely made up. And one person actually said to me that he sees the Trump family as like a quasi-Royal Family in America, perhaps.
And maybe that’s one of the reasons why he likes the U.K. Also, they were convinced they would win. I mean, they were absolutely convinced they were gonna win. And some of them obviously still believe they did. But they were convinced — and this is around the end of August, early September 2020. The position was: We’re gonna win. The polls are wrong. It’s gonna be a repeat of 2016, and we’re just going to do it again.
So I think those are the main factors as to why they let me into their orbit.
RG: Did they ever unpack their idea that the polls were wrong and they were gonna win? Or was it just kind of articulated as an article of faith?
AH: I think it was a mixture. I mean, with respect to 2016, Jared Kushner does — I mean, it’s not in the series — but he does talk about how his analysis of the polls back in 2016 were very different to the way it was being portrayed, or a different way of looking at it. That he was looking at it in a certain way, and others were looking at it in a different way, and he felt his way was accurate and ended up being that they won. But as to whether or not his understanding of the polls were better or not, I’m not sure.
But in terms of 2020, no, it was very much like the mantra. I mean, I’ll give you an example. Don Jr’s favorite rallying cry throughout the campaign was: “Let’s make liberals cry again.” Which was obviously the idea that everyone was taken by surprise that Hillary Clinton lost in 2016. And obviously everyone was very upset.
And I think some people would argue that it was a funny line; I actually thought it was quite cruel to make fun of them. But either way, it was part of the mantra, it was part of the lines. But always: Everyone else is wrong, and we’re going to prove that that’s the case. That we’re right. And they’re always going to say that we’re wrong. And that’s what we have to fight against.
RG: Did any schisms develop along those lines inside the family after Election Day? It does seem like people like Ivanka eventually read the writing on the wall, and were like: OK, every court has said that we’ve lost this election, that this election is over.
How long did that take? Did his sons stick by his side? Did his sons believe it until the very end, or did they know that he lost, but we’re kind of so afraid of their dad, that they would just tell him that he won?
AH: Well, my interactions with all three of the eldest children were always that they would do everything they can to support their father. And maybe they’d articulate things slightly differently. But at the end of the day, they would always come to the same place. They would never really, in any way, shape or form, disassociate themselves from their father’s position.
And, in fact, you mentioned Ivanka. Ivanka, when I interviewed her for the second time, this was in the White House, about nine or so days after the Attorney General had made his statement to the AP where he said there was absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support any of the claims that the President was making. She still said to me very clearly that her father should continue to fight. And at this point, all the court cases are finished, and there was absolutely no fight really to have. But she maintained her father’s position very clearly when she was in the White House when I interviewed her for the second time. And obviously, we know that she said something different to the January 6 committee. So that was interesting. I think, from my point of view, it was a complete echo.
I mean, Eric, in my second interview with Eric, which is after January 6, he once again just doubles, triples down on the fact that his father had won. And he says things like: I will never, ever accept that my father did not win the 2020 election.
So he, at least from my perspective, absolutely believed that his father won and that the election was stolen. But had absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support it. I mean, the best — when these guys were speaking, there were times where I was thinking maybe I’ve missed something, because one of his pieces of — inverted commas —evidence was that there’s no way his father couldn’t have won because more people turned up to his father’s rallies than President Biden’s. I mean, like — how? What? [Laughs.]
RG: [Chuckles.] Right.
AH: I mean: How does that work? It doesn’t work by the number of people at rallies. [Laughing.] You have to put an X in the box, right?
And so you had said that there wasn’t really much fight left to have. But, of course, there was the actual, physical fight on January 6. How did that day start for you? And how much of it could you see coming from your vantage point?
AH: So the truth is is that the night before I was in an elevator with Michael, who was our director of photography, and we were in the elevator going up, but to to our respective rooms, and I said to him — we were standing in silence — and I just said: You know, he’s gonna make them all march on the Capitol tomorrow.
And then there was like another awkward silence, and then we sort of half-laughed. But genuinely believed it to be a possibility, and that it would kick off. And so we planned various things that we would do in the event that it did happen. I mean, our plan didn’t really work.
AH: But that was predicted. And the reason I felt that was because it was just so obvious, really, in the sense that for the weeks preceding, Trump had been going out, full-on, all these rallies, saying how the election was stolen. He’s telling 75 million people that voted for him that their vote didn’t count. And then he obviously big-upped this ridiculous idea that there was a way of intervening in the ceremonial process on the 6 of January, to interrupt the certification of Electoral College votes, which would allow him to remain in office — or at least delay the process. I mean, it was obviously completely ridiculous. But he was going on about that. And the usual nod, nod, wink, wink comments he would make about the Vice President in the rallies he had in Georgia the day before.
Like this is not the candidate, right? This is the incumbent president of the United States of America, rallying all his people to the Capitol, to give this crazy speech, which he then gives. And he explicitly says: Let’s march down, walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. And we need to fight like hell.
So those people were there because he invited them to be there. And they went to the Capitol because he told them to go.
And it started off as a very interesting day. I mean, I can go into detail: It was a freezing cold day, actually. And we got there very early. And I remember it was one of the few, if not the only time where there was no Wi-Fi given to the journalists, which was quite funny. [Laughs.] Normally, they gave Wi-Fi. And there is no Wi-Fi. And it’s funny because the password for the Wi-Fi, after the election, for all the subsequent rallies that Trump did, and his children did after the election was called — what they called the “Stop the Steal” rallies, the Wi-Fi password was like “rigged election.”
AH: [Laughs.] Which I always thought was quite funny and quite ridiculous. But there was no Wi-Fi on that day, actually. And it was freezing cold. And people are coming in. It was an incredibly large crowd, which Trump likes to talk about. Actually, the only thing that matters on the day of January 6, Trump will say, was just the most enormous crowd of people.
And the beginning was very joyous. And then it became this feeling of religious fervor. I mean, people would genuinely pray that Trump would be able to pull this off. And then when people started marching down to the Capitol, it was this really interesting mix of people that you’ve got, like, families with kids, as well as people who were really passionate and felt they had to go and do something. And then obviously, it turned into this incredibly dangerous warzone-like atmosphere where we capture — I mean, Michael is an incredibly brave camera operator who is literally right on the steps of the Capitol and witnesses one of Trump’s supporters being crushed and dying on the steps of the of the Capitol, people bleeding on their faces whilst attacking policemen, using wooden sticks, and the American flag and poles to try and attack the police that were barricading, or protecting, the entrance to the Capitol. So it was just extraordinary. And pretty horrific, actually.
RG: And you might have thought that the access that you had to Trump and the family might have been restricted after that. That, OK, we tried a coup. It failed. We’re gonna button things down at this point.
But the project continued. And I’m curious what you picked up in the days after that, in the weeks after that, from people in the White House about that day? Did you hear anything about this famous slash infamous moment in the beast, where Trump is saying: “I’m the effing president. Take me up to the Capitol now.”
And you also had this surreal exchange with Mike Pence. I want to hear some about that.
But did you pick anything up as the days went on about the family’s reaction to January 6?
AH: So I mean, in the immediate days after — literally six days after — we were back in the White House, interviewing the vice president. But in the interim period, there were a few interesting things that did take place.
So, for instance, we were in conversation with some of the staffers at the White House, and they were saying how they didn’t have the manpower to do the various things that we wanted to do, because people were just leaving. So I think a lot of people at the White House left.
I mean the truth is that I was on this Reddit thing yesterday, and somebody asked whether the Trump White House, was it like organized chaos? Or was it essentially a shit show? And it really was. I mean, from the beginning. I mean, all the way, my entire experience, having been at the White House multiple times during this project, was that no one really knew what was going on. And it was really very bad.
And, obviously, I hadn’t been to the White House under any other administration before so I didn’t really know what to compare it to. But it just seemed very odd the way things were happening and how scared people were of President Trump as well. I mean, we can come to that in a sec. But in terms of the immediate aftermath, I got the feeling that things were just falling apart internally, but in terms of whether I heard anyone tell me about President Trump attacking or screaming at the Secret Service, no. And I can certainly say that I did not see any catch-up either whilst I was there.
But when I was interviewing the Vice President, there was, without a doubt, an incredibly negative, depressed atmosphere at the White House. And we did it in the vice president’s ceremonial office, which is in the building opposite the actual White House building.
RG: And that’s a key day, right? That’s a day that he’s on the brink of assuming the presidency in some ways.
AH: In some ways, yeah. I mean, that was a day where the House of Representatives passed a resolution essentially demanding him to invoke the 25th Amendment. And we witnessed the moment where he sees the draft resolution, which is pretty extraordinary.
And there’s also this very interesting situation when he is leaving, and the interview had been delayed quite a few hours. And he was actually apologetic about it and said: I’m really sorry about the fact that you’ve been waiting so long. And he goes on to say: But we’ve had quite a bit going on today, [laughs] which was somewhat amusing, I guess.
But it was interesting. Because also a lot of people were packing to leave, right? I mean, the inauguration was only a couple of weeks later. So there were tables that were upside down in the corridor, and boxes, and things — and it was just a very strange time to be there. But obviously, the atmosphere was really negative. I mean, people were very — looking down at their feet walking along the corridors.
RG: When you saw the news about the raid at Mar Lago retrieving these classified documents, anything about your experience in those final days — or just knowing the atmosphere in the last several months — that gave you any insight or any guesses as to what might be going on here?
AH: Sure. Donald Trump is a quite basic — I don’t want to say straightforward — but simple guy to understand. I mean, he didn’t see the presidency in the manner of which the previous 45 individuals did, right? I mean, he saw it as: He owned it. Right?
So anything that has his name on it, or anything that’s written to him, in his mind is his. So why not take boxes of documents, such as letters written between him and one of his favorite characters [laughing], it seems, Kim Jong-un, back to his house? And: They belong to me. So why should I give them up to anybody else? So I think it’s as simple as that. And that’s the way that he always came across to me.
The best way of looking at it, really, is that Trump doesn’t understand how people don’t like him unless he doesn’t like them first. He’s incredibly egocentric, obviously, as we know, and narcissistic. And to him, these letters and these documents belong to him.
So with Trump, everything’s kind of surprising. But you also are not that surprised as well. Because, yeah, having met the guy, and interacted with him, seen him, it’s like, well, obviously, he’s going to take them back with him and put them in his drawer! Because he probably wants to show them off to people: Yeah, look at my letter from Kim Jong-un.
AH: So I wasn’t particularly surprised. But it’s also the worst place in the world to keep classified documents.
RG: And so, what is he like in private? Because he is, like you said, a figure who everything about him just seems to be right on the surface for you to read and to love or to hate. But what is there when he thinks the cameras are off? Is there anything that you wouldn’t have known going into it about him?
AH: Not much, really, is the honest truth, which did surprise me. I thought there would be a bit more.
I mean, look, he puts on a certain persona when the cameras start — like, physically. He’ll sort of tuck his shirt down or sort of pull it suit, and then his face contorts and changes into a more, I guess, aggressive type of facial expression, right? So he does put on a certain facade when he is about to start speaking.
But off-camera, he is really what you would expect. It’s all about him. It’s all about everything that he has and owns.
For instance, you always have this small talk at the beginning before an interview starts. And small talk with Donald Trump is interesting, because I said: Mr. President, last time we spoke, we were at the White House.
And he goes: Oh, yes, but Mar-a-Lago is much more beautiful, right?
AH: Everything about him is always a comparison to something else that he owns.
A plane flew over during the interview, and it interrupted, and I said: They’re not that many planes that fly over the White House, right? And that’s obviously true, because I guess it’s restricted airspace over the White House.
And he’s like: Oh, yeah, but there’s still planes that fly over the White House.
Right? Like he can’t accept that he’s been relegated or he’s lost or that anything he has is less impressive than anything else he doesn’t have. He’s the kind of guy where he hears a really great word and then starts using that word in a sentence the next six months. Do you know what I mean? He is that kind of person.
RG: And he had a real brush with death with his COVID infection.
Donald J. Trump: I was surprised. “Sir, you have COVID.” I said: “I have COVID? What are you talking abou?”
Ivanka Trump: This was my father, first and foremost, and of course, our country’s president. And it was incredibly frightening.
DJT: But when you’re at a certain age, it’s something you have to be very careful about. Because I know people that have been devastated by COVID. You know, I know people that have died. I know five or six people, friends of mine, that have died. Some very good friends
Philip Rucker: Who he knows got the virus, that’s what shaped his thinking. The overall stats around the country didn’t seem to impact him as much as the power of anecdote.
IT: He was almost blasé when I called him that morning. He went to the hospital very early: I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m OK — in a way that a father, I think, would say to his daughter, not wanting her to be too afraid.
But I heard it in his voice. I mean, I know him. So I knew right away that he was not okay.
RG: Alex, did any of that surprise you?
AH: So that did surprise me. It was interesting. Because during the campaign, when President Trump got COVID, the White House position was that he’s fine, and it’s just routine, and he’s totally OK.
When I asked him about COVID, this was about six months or so after he left office, and this was in Bedminster, at his golf course in New Jersey. And he actually really goes into quite a bit of detail about what it was like. And he said he was scared. And he starts talking about how he knew people who had died from COVID. And he says he knew about five people, friends of his.
And I’m thinking: Well, you were in fact, the President of the United States of America where tens of thousands of people died from this virus, but to Trump it’s always about the — he can’t associate with anything bigger than just his own circle. So to him, he’s saying: Oh, I was scared because a few people I knew got it and got very sick and died.
And then Ivanka, also when I interviewed her about the subject, she says: When I spoke to him on the phone, he was trying to make me feel OK, but I could hear it in his voice that he was really sick.
So that was a real sort of revelatory moment, in a sense, of them expressing how sick he really was, and how the White House was not being particularly honest with the situation that he had found himself in.
RG: It is fascinating to think that in order for it to penetrate he had to know people personally, that had happened to. But then, on the other hand, did it even necessarily penetrate? What’s the evidence that this near-death experience, and the fact that his friends had died from it, actually then went beyond that?
Or does he sort of separate what he was doing as president from what he knows and believes? Like, does he see it as completely theatrical? So he doesn’t actually see any kind of contradiction between knowing that this is a deadly disease that he almost died of, but then talking about it publicly in a completely different way?
AH: Yeah, I mean, a good example is that after he got COVID, he could have pivoted to a more, for lack of a better word, refined position on the subject, right? But instead, he doubles down. And he uses the fact that he survived COVID as basically being this argument that he’s a very strong person, and that if he can survive it, anyone can — which was obviously an awful thing to say, and pretty horrendous, frankly.
He doesn’t really separate much. He sees everything as showbiz, in a sense, right? Or he sees everything as just the mechanism to maintain what he cares about most, which is Trump and the brand, right? So everything in his life is about that. Even when he’s talking off camera to random people at a golf course, he’ll be saying the same things that he says on television, which is: An election was stolen. And then he’ll try and get people to agree with him. He’s that guy that, he’ll use his shoulder and he’ll like, nudge you. Yeah, you agree with me, right? You agree with me?
I mean he needs that adoration. And he needs to know that other people agree with what he’s saying. And it’s fascinating, but it’s also incredibly dangerous.
RG: I want to play a couple more clips. Laura, do we have the North Korea clip?
DJT: Everyone thought because of my personality, I’d be in war within 24 hours. And look at North Korea as an example. Whatever happened in North Korea? North Korea was very hostile. They were getting ready to go to war. And I get along with Kim Jong-un. I get along with him great. And we had no war with them. And it would have been a bad war: big army, nuclear weapons all over the place.
And whatever happened to that, right? You say: Whatever happened to North Korea? Do you remember how hostile that was four years ago? President Obama said the biggest problem you have. Really? You know, it hasn’t been a problem for me.
RG: And what was so remarkable — well, there’s a million remarkable things about that clip. One being, of course, North Korea and South Korea were engaging in their own bilateral negotiations for a long time and were getting close to some type of detente, and Trump comes in at the very end and kind of just signs off and says: Yeah, me too. But the reality of the whole thing aside, what did you take away from his analysis of how his personality and his relationship with Kim Jong-un just resolved this?
AH: I mean, I agree. There are so many things about that clip that I can’t not laugh when I watch it. And I’ve seen it quite a few times. [Laughs.]
Number one, this is taking place, he is the incumbent president. This is about a month after he loses the election. This is in the White House. And a man with a nuclear football is like a few meters away, right? And he is going on about — “because of my personality” I thought was a hilarious line. He’s talking about: I didn’t go to any war. And Kim Jong-un, we get on great.
I mean, yeah, it’s just astonishing to hear him say these kinds of things in a way where he is just totally oblivious to the idea that the man he just says he gets on great with is committing some of the most heinous war crimes in memory. Right? So that’s just extraordinary. And how he thinks because of his personality, that’s the reason why North Korea was not firing off these nuclear weapons, which he says are all over the place. I mean, it’s just extraordinary, actually.
I mean, other people have written about this. He sees Kim Jong-un as a tough, hard leader. And the fact that he has a relationship with him must mean that he’s a tough, hard leader as well, right? There’s plenty of foreign policy experts that can analyze this far better than me. But I think what I found so extraordinary was just the way he articulates certain points and, always again, compares himself to previous people. So he brings up President Obama, who had told him that North Korea was a serious issue. And he says: “Well, it wasn’t a big problem for me.” So, therefore, I’m better than the previous president.
It’s always about comparison. And he’s always the best, and he has to be the one that resolves everything.
RG: And, Laura, can we play that last one?
DJT: It was the greatest campaign I’ve ever seen. Except for one thing: They rigged it, you know, they rigged the election. So the expression is — we hear it a lot, I’ve heard it over the years, that the vote counter is more important, unfortunately, than the candidate. And this was a case where the counter, the vote counter, was more important than the candidate. [Fades out.]
RG: It does seem like he’s serious about this stuff.
AH: Oh, yeah.
RG: That this is not a put-on for him. Is that your read? That he’s just utterly convinced that there was a massive conspiracy.
AH: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
RG: Wow. That’s even more disturbing than the alternative, maybe.
AH: I agree — completely. I absolutely agree. Because when every single person around you is telling you that there’s no evidence to support anything you’re saying, and you need to stop, and he is ignoring everybody, and he’s maintaining this position all the way through, even after he is no longer in the White House. And he’s seen the ramifications of what this insanity has caused.
I mean, when I was at Mar-a-Lago with him, and we were talking about January 6, he actually makes it very clear. In the past, he was saying, in some capacity, that the people that went into the Capitol were not actually his supporters. And there are all sorts of conspiracy theories about this.
In Mar-a-Lago, he clearly says that the people that went in there, he draws a link to them being his supporters, and he says that they’re smart people. So he’s essentially OK with what happened on January 6, he condones it, and he’s maintaining the position all the way through. And he says it publicly. But he also says it in that clip privately to people who were at his golf course.
So he is not changing his position, regardless of whether he knows the cameras are on or whether he thinks the cameras are off. And that, I believe, is incredibly dangerous. And in no way does that take away a person’s culpability or responsibility for it. People believe lots of things that are not true, and will face the consequences for their actions regardless of whether or not they say: Well, I believe it to be true. It doesn’t work like that.
RG: Having watched him up close, did you get a sense of what his appeal is to the 70-plus million people that voted for him, despite everything we know about him?
AH: So I’m not going to generalize on everybody. And I know lots of reasons why people may have voted for him. People, I think, in America vote a lot of the time based on party, and they may hold their breath for a particular candidate, but they have and always will vote Republican, or Democrat, or whatnot.
I think that, at the end of the day, Trump is good at being a demagogue. [Laughs.] He’s very good at it. He is very good at being able to say the things that people had, for a very long time, not said out loud. He essentially says: I’ll solve all your problems, and vote for me, and I understand you, and I’ll give you everything you want. It’s just: He’s the typical demagogue.
And he is very good at standing up in front of tens of thousands of people and riffing. That’s where he gets his most enjoyment. It’s essentially his drug. And the incoherent pivots that he always does at the speeches are based on his feeling that the crowd are not adoring him enough, based on the thing that he had just said. So he’ll move from one bit of rhetoric to another bit of rhetoric without any connection, because he’s just waiting for that applause. The “I love you” chant, he really loved that a lot. And he wants that all the time. So he promises people everything. And that’s his game.
RG: I had heard that he didn’t initially like “drain the swamp.” He thought it was kind of cheesy. But he tried it out at a rally and got a massive reaction, and so just made it his refrain? Did you watch him trying out different riffs and discarding some and grabbing on to new ones like in real time?
AH: I think by the time that we were there with him at various rallies, he had nailed his view that he liked — which were the same as we’d heard previously, whether it’s “drain the swamp” or “make America great again,” or Clinton would come up and he would do the usual rhetoric about her.
But what I did find was very funny, just talking about the idea of pivoting, was he’ll be at a rally in Omaha or something, and he’ll start talking about how impressive it was to move the embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And it didn’t get a particularly big reaction. [Laughs. So he’ll immediately change from that to we built —
AH: Yeah, no, exactly.
RG: Don’t worry about that.
AH: Don’t worry about that. [Laughs.] It’s the war. He starts talking about the war. So there’s no connection between the two, but then that obviously gets a massive, massive reaction.
But I’ll give you one really interesting thing that he did, which I just thought was extraordinary. I couldn’t believe it.
Trump uses the apparatus of the presidency brilliantly to showcase his power and authority to his fans. And one example is he would make sure that Air Force One would take off at the exact crescendo of “Nessun Dorma,” which was the final song that plays when he leaves — after YMCA, and then he does his little dance, and he walks up to the plane, “Nessun Dorma” is playing and the plane will literally take off at the exact crescendo of the song.
AH: So it’s Pavarotti singing, and you have this amazing, beautiful moment and suddenly, you hear this huge roar of Air Force One going up, and he just did that every time. He’s pretty good at the whole TV, showman, show business. I mean, that is his thing, isn’t it?
RG: So can he give it up? What’s your sense on whether he takes another run at it?
AH: So I think I’m in the minority here. I think it’s inevitable that he’s going to announce he’s running. As to whether or not he ends up actually running, I don’t think he will. But that’s really based on a few factors. One is that whenever he’s failed in the past, he does the same thing, right? It’s not my fault. It’s somebody else’s fault. It was rigged, it was stolen, etc.
RG: The vote counter.
AH: The vote counter, exactly.
And then he pivots to something else, he moves to a completely different thing. He doesn’t go back and do the same thing again.
So that seems to be the trajectory of his life. So to go again, once he’s failed, seems to be a departure from the norm. And also, I think, if he loses, it’s gonna be difficult to maintain this nonsense that it was stolen again. [Laughs.] I mean, obviously it wasn’t even stolen in the first place. So I’m not sure. But it’ll be interesting to see what happens. And also, I think a lot remains to be seen what happens in November with the midterms. And, look, a year and a half or so until this thing starts is a long time for American politics. So who knows what will happen?
RG: Well, congratulations on the documentary. It’s quite something.
I loved the exchange between you — and I guess it was his lawyers? Or maybe even with him? Where they said: You can’t post these clips. We have editorial control.
RG: And you, I guess, pointed to the language and said no. And they just completely copped to it! I had never seen that before. They just said: We were wrong. You’re right. We thought we had editorial control. We do not.
Have you heard from the family? What do they think of it? Is their family friend in trouble for inviting you in?
AH: In terms of my conversations with them, with the family, in the last few weeks and months, I’ve been somewhat circumspect. And I’m not really answering that, just because of the nature of the whole January 6 committee hearings and I was subpoenaed by the Fulton County investigation as well.
But I hope they’ve watched the series and if they haven’t, Discovery+, and they get a free one-week trial.
RG: [Laughs.] So they can binge it.
Well, Alex, thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate it.
AH: It’s been a pleasure.Thank you for having me.
[End credits music.]
RG: Deconstructed is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our producer is Zach Young. Laura Flynn is our supervising producer. The show was mixed by William Stanton. Our theme music was composed by Bart Warshaw. And I’m Ryan Grim, D.C. bureau chief of The Intercept.
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