Trump tries to undercut GOP debate with Tucker Carlson interview on eve of his Georgia surrender

Tucker Carlson, left, and former President Donald Trump, talk while watching golfers
Tucker Carlson, left, and former President Trump talk while watching the LIV Golf Invitational in 2022.
(Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

Former President Trump called the four criminal indictments he’s facing “trivia, nonsense, bulls—,” during an interview with conservative commentator Tucker Carlson that was released just before the Fox News GOP primary debate Wednesday.

On the eve of his expected surrender to authorities in Fulton County, Ga., on Thursday, Trump continued his attempts to cast as political persecution the indictment he faces there over efforts to keep him in power despite his 2020 election loss. Though subject to a bond condition that restricts him from threatening those involved in the case, Trump kept up his criticism of Dist. Atty. Fani Willis and her indictment naming him and 18 other defendants.

Carlson pushed Trump to answer whether he thought Democrats were ramping up political and legal attacks against him, asking the former president what he thought his opponents would do to keep him from winning the presidential election in 2024.


“Don’t they have to kill you now?” Carlson asked. “They could indict you 20 times and you’re not going to lose the Republican primary because of it.”

Trump refused to directly answer, instead commenting on the more than 90 federal and state felony charges he faces in connection with the four indictments, two of which are related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election in his favor.

“It’s horrible when you look at what they’re doing,” Trump replied.

The interview served as counter-programming to Fox News’ and the Republican National Committee’s presidential debate in Milwaukee, which Trump said he would skip because “the public knows who I am.” Carlson said in a Twitter post Wednesday that Trump approached him about doing an interview to post during the debate. It was prerecorded at Trump’s property in Bedminster, N.J.

The interview quickly veered into mudslinging and conspiracy theories. Carlson kicked off his interview by asking Trump whether he believed financier Jeffrey Epstein actually killed himself in his cell while waiting for his sex trafficking trial to begin and whether President Biden was mentally competent enough to be running the country.

“Somebody else has to be,” Trump said. “I don’t think he’s capable of anything.”

After questioning Biden’s fitness for office due to his age — at 77, Trump is just three years younger than Biden, who is 80 — the former president had plaudits for California Gov. Gavin Newsom, whom he suggested the Democratic Party would back over Biden.

“I always got along well with him, believe it or not,” Trump said before reversing course and leveling his oft-repeated criticism of California’s liberal policies, falsely stating that the state is in a “brown-out” because of its embrace of electric vehicles.


The interview, coupled with his scheduled arrest in Georgia on Thursday on charges of attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election he lost, appeared to be an effort to keep news coverage from focusing on the eight candidates who qualified for the Republican debate.

“How do you get indicted, you know, every week and stay cheerful?” Carlson asked Trump.

“It’s a lot easier because I’m so high in the polls because it means that people get it. The people see it’s a fraud,” Trump said before calling Willis, who most recently indicted him, “horrible,” and repeatedly mispronouncing her name.

Trump has claimed that the four indictments are an attempt to interfere with his candidacy and that the more than 90 criminal charges brought against him are an attack on his supporters.

Along with the Fulton County charges, Trump was indicted Aug. 1 in Washington, D.C., after an investigation by special counsel Jack Smith into actions that the former president and his allies allegedly took to keep him in office despite losing the 2020 election. In a separate case, Smith is prosecuting Trump on 39 felony charges, alleging that he improperly retained classified documents after leaving office.

Trump is also scheduled to go to trial in New York City in March on charges related to payments allegedly made during the 2016 presidential campaign to cover up an affair with porn actor Stormy Daniels.

He has pleaded not guilty in all three cases.

A condition of Trump’s $200,000 bond in Fulton County is that he not make direct or indirect threats — including through social media — against potential witnesses, victims or the unindicted co-conspirators mentioned but not named in the indictment. He has also been ordered not to communicate about the facts of the case with any known witnesses except through legal counsel. Trump was given similar instructions by a federal judge in Washington, who warned his lawyer against saying anything that could taint the potential jury pool.


“The game that he’s playing, it’s not how do I win in Georgia on the terms set by the Georgia prosecutor, but rather how do I win by spinning a much larger narrative about how [the indictment is] all corrupt and politicized and a witch hunt,” said University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy political scientist William Howell. “And he’s just playing that tune at every turn and looking for characters who he can point to as being protagonists in that narrative.”