On Sunday morning, Meet the Press aired an interview with Donald Trump during which, to the surprise of exactly no one, the ex-president told a ridiculous amount of lies about everything from the cost of bacon (it’s not five times what it was when he was president) to infanticide (spoiler alert, Democrats do not actually support this practice). Probably a slightly bigger deal in the grand scheme of things, though? The moment when Trump blew up a key legal defense in his January 6 case and made the Justice Department’s job to win a conviction a whole lot easier.
That happened when Trump, asked by NBC’s Kristen Welker if he was “calling the shots…ultimately” on trying to overturn the 2020 election—as opposed to simply taking the advice of his lawyers—responded, “as to whether or not I believed it was rigged? Oh, sure. It was my decision.”
As more than one legal expert subsequently noted, this was a wildly damning admission on the ex-president’s part. “Donald Trump’s defense to January 6 has been one basic thing, which is, ‘I relied on the advice of my lawyers, I didn’t have bad criminal intent, it’s my lawyers who were telling me to do this,’” former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal told MSNBC’s Jen Psaki. “And she got him, through masterful interviewing and playing to his ego, to be like, ‘Oh, no, I did it all myself.’ And if you’re Jack Smith this morning, you’re going ‘Thank you, that’s what I always thought, and yes you hired these kind of cockamamie, crazy lawyers, but at the end of the day this was you through and through.’ This demonstrates his kind of culpability right there and then, and I think makes this case…a lot easier.”
Similarly noting how thoroughly incriminating the interview was, former federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told Psaki: “The other thing that Kristen Welker got the president to say was essentially a part of this scheme, a part of this obstruction, a part of the 241 civil rights scheme, which is the stop of the electoral count. If you’ll remember, everyone thought there would be a red mirage, that the night of the election, Trump would be ahead because the mail-in votes had not been counted. And sure enough, Trump had said, ‘Stop counting.’ Well, that’s a crime. He was saying at the time, and he just said it on air, to NBC, ‘Stop counting the votes.’ Well, that’s not allowed. That is part of the scheme here. So there’s sort of a twofer here. One, as Neal said, not relying on counsel, and two, saying that he wanted to stop the votes of American citizens.”