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Donald Trump on Sunday said it was “my decision” to believe that the 2020 presidential election was “rigged” — saying he didn’t respect the aides and lawyers who’d told him he’d lost.
The former president, 77, was asked by NBC’s Kristen Welker on “Meet the Press” why he opted to ignore his “most senior lawyers” and campaign staffers about the election results.
“Because I didn’t respect them,” Trump replied.
Welker later asked the Republican frontrunner in the presidential primary whether he was “calling the shots … ultimately?”
“As to whether or not I believed it was rigged? Oh, sure,” Trump answered. “It was my decision. But I listened to some people.”
Trump is currently facing four criminal cases — two involving his attempts to overturn his 2020 loss to President Biden. He’s continued to insist that the election was “rigged.”
Last month, Trump attorney John Lauro publicly emphasized that his client’s actions to thwart the election results were done under the advice of counsel.
“Everything that President Trump did was with the advice of lawyers and counsel,” Lauro told NBC. “That’s an absolute defense to a criminal case.”
“This is a protocol you can follow — it’s legal.”
Lauro cited several defenses against the criminal charges — including freedom of speech — but he also blamed Trump’s lawyers.
Trump’s remarks on Sunday came during a back and forth after he was asked whether he was “listening to your lawyers’ advice, or were you listening to your own instincts.”
“I was listening to different people. And when I added it all up, the election was rigged,” Trump replied earlier in the exchange.
Special Counsel Jack Smith’s team has sought to undercut Trump’s First Amendment argument in court filings by honing in on alleged procedural violations.
“[Trump] had a right, like every American, to speak publicly about the election and even to claim, falsely, that there had been no outcome-determinative fraud,” the indictment said.
But the indictment argued that Trump “pursued unlawful means of discounting legitimate votes and subverting election results.”
Trump was charged with federal counts of conspiracy to defraud the US, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against right.
He also faces state charges out of Georgia also accusing him of illegally conspiring to overturn the state’s 2020 election results.
In the federal election-result case, the indictment focuses on a pressure campaign against then-Vice President Mike Pence to decertify the election.
Prosecutors have also zeroed in on an alternative slate of electors Trump’s allies concocted to reverse his defeat.
At one point during the NBC interview, anchor Kristen Welker grilled Trump on why he was listening to some of his lawyers, including ones he conceded had crazy theories.
“You know who I listen to? Myself. I saw what happened,” Trump explained.
“My instincts are a big part of it. That’s been the thing that’s gotten me to where I am, my instincts. But I also listen to people,” he later added.
Legal experts that have been publicly critical of Trump pounced on that segment of the wide-ranging interview.
“Trump just threw his whole ‘following my lawyers’ advice’ defense under the bus. No, let me correct that: — not just under the bus but under a roaring, speeding, ginormous freight train . . . .,” Harvard University professor emeritus Laurence Tribe posted on X, formerly Twitter.
“And here is where Trump loses his defense that he relied on his lawyers,” attorney and former Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) said.
“There goes the ‘advice of counsel’ defense. Seriously, if your defense to these charges is ‘@MZHemingway wrote a book’ you know you’re going to lose at trial,” national security attorney Bradley Moss said.
Also in that interview, Trump affirmed that he would be willing to testify in the separate 40-count Mar-a-Lago document case pending against him.
Smith, who is spearheading both the federal 2020 election and Mar-a-Lago cases, is known to harp on Trump’s public commentary.
In August, for instance, Smith cited a Trump post on Truth Social in which he said “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU.” Smith used that post to argue for a protective order, which prohibits Trump for sharing certain materials in the election case.
Last Friday, Smith stepped up his demands in a court filing and sought a narrowly tailored gag order to impose limits on what Trump can say regarding the election interference case.
Trump, who remains the far-and-away 2024 GOP frontrunner, has decried the 91 counts against him as a “witch hunt” and election interference.
He has denied wrongdoing across the board, and seemingly bristled at pressure to muzzle his public commentary on the criminal cases.
Trump’s lawyer didn’t immediately comment on his NBC interview.