Trump tells Fox News he ‘didn’t win’ election but doesn’t drop fraud lie

·4 min read
<span>Photograph: Gerald Herbert/AP</span>
Photograph: Gerald Herbert/AP

Donald Trump has told Fox News he “didn’t win” the 2020 presidential election, and wishes Joe Biden well.

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The former president made the admission seven months after the election was called for his rival and five months after Biden’s inauguration, during a rambling phone interview with Fox show host Sean Hannity on Wednesday night.

He did not drop his lie that the Democrat won thanks to electoral fraud.

“We were supposed to win easily, 64m votes,” Trump said. “We got 75m votes and we didn’t win, but let’s see what happens on that.”

Biden won more than 7m more votes than Trump and won by 306-232 in the electoral college, a result Trump called a landslide when it was in his favour over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Nonetheless Trump has pursued his lie about electoral fraud both in court – where more than 80 lawsuits challenging the result have been thrown out – and in a speech which stoked the deadly attack on the US Capitol by supporters on 6 January.

Trump was impeached a second time, for inciting an insurrection, but acquitted when only seven Republican senators voted to convict. GOP senators also blocked the establishment of an independent, 9/11-style inquiry into the attack on the Capitol.

Republicans in the states have pursued Trump’s lie about electoral fraud – Arizona, one of the key states won by Biden, mounted a controversial audit of ballots in its most populous county.

Republicans in state governments have introduced laws to limit ballot access among communities more likely to vote Democratic, and to make it easier to overturn election results.

Trump also told Hannity he hoped Biden “has no problems” in office.

“I want him to do well,” he said. “I think the election was unbelievably unfair, but I want this guy to go out and do well for our country.”

Biden returned to the US on Wednesday from Geneva, where he met the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, at the end of a European tour.

Trump told Hannity Biden “gave a very big stage to Russia, and we got nothing … I think it was a good day for Russia”.

Trump held a summit with Putin in Helsinki in 2018 which most observers thought was a good day for Russia and a humiliating one for the US.

Most were outraged when Trump sided with Putin over Russian interference in the 2016 US election. He told Hannity the investigation of that interference and links between him and Moscow “made it difficult to deal with Russia”.

He also complained about reporting of the Russia investigation, which produced convictions of numerous Trump aides but which under then attorney general William Barr left Trump untouched despite extensive evidence of attempts to obstruct justice.

Biden is 78. Hannity suggested his mental acuity was slipping. Trump turned 75 this week. Though he complained the US under Biden was in a “shocking state”, Trump said that for Biden, “age is not the problem”.

Trump retains a firm grip on the Republican party, stoking its attacks on Biden’s $1.9tn coronavirus stimulus and rescue package and similarly priced infrastructure proposals as dangerously and radically leftwing.

“This is far worse than Bernie was ever going to be,” he said. “Bernie Sanders would have never thought to suggest some of the things that are happening right now.”

Though the Trump administration fast-tracked development of Covid-19 vaccines and began distribution, Biden accelerated the effort. Though the US death toll from the coronavirus pandemic passed 600,000 this week, most states are in the process of reopening.

Trump told Hannity he believed the theory Covid-19 escaped from a laboratory in China. US intelligence agencies are investigating that theory and others.

Trump leads most polls of possible Republican nominees for 2024, has announced a return to large-scale public events and has done little to suggest he will not mount another run for the White House.

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He told Hannity he would “be making a decision on 2024” after midterm elections next year, “but if you look at the numbers, people are liking me more than ever before.

“I think the reason is they are watching what is happening to our country, they are watching no energy independence, never has there been a scene like what is happening at the border and the death that is being caused … they are looking at the economy and inflation, looking at interest rates and gasoline prices, and I guess it is making me very popular.”

Trump, who bequeathed Biden an economy cratered by Covid-19, has also proved popular with prosecutors, facing mounting legal problems over his business dealings.

In Washington, Democrats are demanding accountability for justice department actions under his administration, including obtaining the private records of reporters and congressmen in leak investigations.