A British documentary filmmaker who recently testified behind closed doors to the House Jan. 6 select committee said that former President Donald Trump is living in “cloud cuckoo land,” and is incapable of ever acknowledging that his claims about voter fraud are “delusional.”
“Donald Trump is not a rational player. I mean, he just isn’t,” Alex Holder said in an interview with the Yahoo News podcast, “Skullduggery.” “You can't have a conversation with him in the same way that you can have a conversation with most other people. He is somebody that lives in a different reality.”
Holder was granted exclusive access to Trump and his family in the months before and after the 2020 election, giving him the opportunity to compile over 100 hours of footage of the former president, his two eldest sons and eldest daughter talking in interviews and among themselves. When the Jan. 6 select committee learned of the project — which will be aired by Discovery+ in the coming months — they subpoenaed him hoping to find footage of the Trumps speaking candidly about events that are the subject of the investigation.
Holder says his footage, and his own interviews with Trump, show the former president actually believes his assertions about voter fraud affecting the outcome of the election even though there is no evidence to back up his claims. And, he added, in the days before Jan. 6, 2021, the then president was “absolutely” convinced there was going to be violence that day.
“It was so obvious. This was his last hurrah,” Holder said. “He had this — obviously had this — ridiculous idea that intervening in this ceremonial process of certifying these results could somehow prevent President Biden being inaugurated.”
What follows are edited excerpts from Holder’s interview with “Skullduggery” hosts Michael Isikoff, Daniel Klaidman and Victoria Bassetti.
Isikoff: Please walk us through how you got into this in the first place. How did you get access to the Trumps?
Holder: I had sort of been building this, this documentary about the Middle East, and I met this individual who introduced me to the [Trump] family. But ultimately, [they agreed to participate] I think the key thing here is they were very, very confident they were going to win the election. I mean, the hubris was just absolutely remarkable. I mean, they were convinced it would be a repeat of 2016. The pollsters were all wrong — it would be a massive surprise. One of the big lines that was used by Don Jr. throughout the campaign was, “Let’s make liberals cry again.”
Isikoff: What was your pitch to Trump?
Holder: I mean, the pitch was I wanted to understand who they were as people. They had always complained about the coverage that they were getting in the U.S. They were always complaining about the “fake news media” and all that. So, let’s try and understand who they are as people. And I’m speaking specifically about Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump, and then the president himself, and the interactions they have with each other, and the interaction they have with their father. And it’s sort of got this, like, “Succession”-type vibe in the project ... but also, you know, it is a real life — it is a real-life succession drama.
Bassetti: Did you see their answers change over time? You began filming in September 2020 and you filmed all the way up and past January 2021. Did their answers change?
Holder: No, they didn’t. And that’s what was quite shocking. The fact that the events that took place just before they left office — they didn’t give any indication to me that it registered. Other than Eric saying when I asked him about talking about January 6th, he goes, “I don't want to talk about it.” And he goes, “Let's skip the sixth.”
Isikoff: What about Trump? In a clip from the film, he tells you the supporters of his who came to Washington [on] January 6 were “smart people” who were “angry with an election that they think was rigged.”
Holder: I probably heard that clip 400 times, right? And every single time I hear it, it gives me goosebumps, right? I think what he said was just absolutely horrific. I mean, at the end of the day, he said the reason why those people went into the Capitol was because they think, he actually says, “I think that they think” because the election was stolen, right? But who told them that the election was stolen?
Klaidman: Why has Trump been so stubborn about his claims about the election?
Holder: Donald Trump is not a rational player. I mean, he just isn’t. You can’t have a conversation with him in the same way that you can have a conversation with most other people. He is somebody that lives in a different reality. He had started the lie about the election back in 2016. What I saw after the first interview with him in the White House was that he now became someone who believed in his own lie, and that is a person who is delusional. That is a person who is incredibly dangerous, because you can't debate with that person. There is no way that anybody can persuade Donald Trump that he’s wrong. And this is something that’s characteristic of him all the way through his life, and the series goes into this in the sense that he will never accept that he had done anything wrong. He will always double back. He’s always right, and it’s always somebody else’s fault. I mean, he lives in cloud cuckoo land. He’s sitting in an interview in Mar-a-Lago saying that in front of a portrait, an actual oil painting of himself painted 25 to 30 years ago in a golf outfit. I mean, I actually asked about that at the end of the interview. I was like, “You’ve got to tell me about this painting.” I mean, this is a guy who literally has paintings of himself in his house. I mean, he’s just not a normal guy. I mean, you know?