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Trump bizarrely claims he was arrested for ‘telling people to watch Newsmax’

Republican made extraordinary declaration in post-booking interview with anchor Greg Kelly

Joe Sommerlad
Friday 25 August 2023 15:18 BST
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Trump claims he was arrested for ‘telling people to watch Newsmax’

Donald Trump called into Newsmax on Thursday evening to complain about his latest arrest – making the baffling claim that he had only been hit with criminal charges in Georgia because he had urged people to watch that very channel.

Following his arrest, Mr Trump spoke to anchor Greg Kelly while on board his private plane “Trump Force One” travelling back to his golf club at Bedminster, New Jersey.

In the phone interview, the embattled Republican said that he had had a “terrible experience” at Fulton County Jail, despite also adding that officers had treated him “very nicely” throughout.

While railing against the charges, Mr Trump went on to claim that he had been arrested for “telling people to watch Newsmax”.

“I have counts where – you’re gonna love this and [Newsmax CEO] Chris Ruddy will be thrilled – but, one of the things is, I told people ‘Newsmax’. Did you know that? That was one of my counts. I told people to watch Newsmax,” he claimed.

Visibly a little embarrassed, Mr Kelly replied sheepishly: “We love it, sir.”

Mr Trump continued: “I got charged for telling people to watch Newsmax.”

“Thank you for that,” the anchor answered, clearly anxious to move the conversation on to Wednesday night’s GOP debate between Mr Trump’s Republican presidential rivals.

“I hope you don’t get charged,” Mr Trump rambled. “You’ll probably get charged because I mentioned your name, so… but I think you’ll be ok.”

In the aftermath of the 2020 election, the former president had recommended that his supporters switch allegiance to the conservative cable news outfit Newsmax or its competitor OAN because he was angry with Fox News for correctly calling Arizona for Joe Biden on election night.

Newsmax also repeatedly aired Mr Trump’s false claims of election fraud.

However, despite Mr Trump’s claims that this played a part in his arrest, there is only one mention of Newsmax in the Georgia grand jury’s indictment – a lone citation of a tweet by Mr Trump from 30 December 2020 in which he advised his followers to tune into Newsmax or OANN’s reporting on post-election hearings in Atlanta and called for the resignation of the Peach State’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp.

Donald Trump’s long-awaited mugshot (Fulton County Sheriff’s Office/AP)

It is not immediately clear if this is what Mr Trump was referring to when he claimed he faced charges for his support of the network, but the indictment actually describes Mr Trump running a criminal enterprise to stay in power at all costs –without any further reference to the broadcaster.

The 13 felony charges against him include: violation of Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations (RICO) Act, soliciting a public official to violate their oath of office, conspiracy to commit impersonating a public officer, conspiracy to commit forgery in the first degree, conspiracy to commit false statements and writings and conspiracy to commit filing false documents.

In the Newsmax interview, Mr Trump also launched into the familiar gripe that he is simply the innocent victim of a “weaponised Justice Department” being used to persecute him by his political enemies.

He called Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis – whose two-year investigation into his campaign’s alleged 2020 election meddling in the state led to the 41-count indictment – a “radical left” prosecutor and said of his mugshot, which instantly went viral: “I had never heard the word mugshot. They didn’t teach me that at the Wharton School of Finance.”

Of his 18 co-defendants – including lawyers Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis and John Eastman and ex-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows – Mr Trump commented: “I don’t even know that I’ve met a lot of these people – but some I do. And their lives are destroyed by these maniacs.

“These are animals, these are vicious animals that have destroyed the lives of these people.”

When Mr Kelly managed to steer the discussion back to the GOP face-off in Milwaukee, Mr Trump was full of praise for “anti-woke” biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy but viciously critical of a number of other candidates.

Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie had been “booed out of the room” for attacking him, Mr Trump claimed, while Arkansas’s Asa Hutchinson “shouldn’t even be there” and is “a nasty person”, in his opinion.

He also derided Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, whom he called a “very disloyal guy” for not showing him the proper gratitude after he campaigned for him in 2018.

He also accused Mr DeSantis of spinning his record on anti-lockdown advocacy during the Covid-19 pandemic and compared him unfavourably to fellow state Governors Henry McMaster and Kristi Noem, perhaps suggesting their names – and that of Mr Ramaswamy – are in the hat to be his next running mate.

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