A British documentary filmmaker who recently testified behind closed doors before the House of Representatives selection committee on Jan. 6 said former President Donald Trump lives in “cloud cuckoo country” and is unable to ever admit that his claims of voter fraud are “delusional.”
“Donald Trump is not a rational player. I mean, he’s just not,” Alex Holder said in an interview with the Yahoo News podcast, “Skullduggery.” “You can’t talk to him in the same way that most other people do. He is someone who lives in a different reality.”
Holder was given exclusive access to Trump and his family in the months before and after the 2020 election, allowing him to collect more than 100 hours of footage of the former president, his two eldest sons and eldest daughter talking in interviews and with each other. When the select committee on Jan. 6 learned of the project — which will be broadcast on 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 genuinely believes his claims about voter fraud influencing election results, even though there is no evidence to back up his claims. And, he added, in the days leading up to Jan. 6, 2021, the then-president was “absolutely” convinced that there would be violence that day.
“It was so obvious. This was his last hurrah,” Holder said. “He had this – obviously had this – ridiculous idea that interfering with this ceremonial process of certifying these results could somehow prevent President Biden from being inaugurated.”
What follows are edited excerpts from Holder’s interview with ‘Skullduggery’ hosts Michael Isikoff, Daniel Klaidman and Victoria Bassetti.
isikoff: Please tell us how you got into this in the first place. How did you gain access to the Trumps?
Holder: I was kind of building this documentary about the Middle East, and I met this person who introduced me to the… [Trump] family. But eventually, [they agreed to participate] I think the most important thing here is that they were very, very confident that they would win the election. I mean, the hubris was just absolutely remarkable. I mean, they were convinced it would be a rerun of 2016. The pollsters were all wrong – it would be a huge surprise. One of the major lines used by Don Jr. used during 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 they got in the US. They were always complaining about the “fake news media” and stuff. So let’s try to understand who they are as people. And I’m talking 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 kind of has a “follow-up” kind of vibe to the project… but also, you know, it’s real life – it’s real follow-up drama†
bassetti: Have you seen their answers change over time? You started filming in September 2020 and you filmed through January 2021. Have their answers changed?
Holder: No they did not. And that was what was quite shocking. The fact that the events that happened just before they left office gave me no indication that it was recorded. Except Eric said when I asked him to talk about January 6, he said, “I don’t want to talk about it.” And he says, “Let’s skip this shit.”
Isikoff: What about Trump? In a clip from the movie, he tells you the supporters of his who came to Washington [on] January 6 were “smart people” who were “upset about an election they think was rigged”.
Holder: I’ve probably heard that clip 400 times, right? And every time I hear it, it gives me goosebumps, doesn’t it? I think what he said was just absolutely horrible. I mean, at the end of the day, he said the reason those people went to the Capitol was because they’re thinking, he’s basically saying, “I think they’re thinking” because the election was stolen, right? But who told them the election was stolen?
Klaidman: Why has Trump been so stubborn about his election claims?
Holder: Donald Trump is not a rational player. I mean, he just isn’t. You can’t talk to him in the same way as most other people. He is someone who lives in a different reality. He had started lying about the election in 2016. What I saw after the first interview with him at the White House was that he now became a person who believed in his own lie, and that is a delusional person. That’s a person who is incredibly dangerous, because you can’t argue with that person. No one can convince Donald Trump that he is wrong. And this is something that characterizes him throughout his life, and the series addresses this in the sense that he will never accept that he has done something wrong. He will always double. He’s always right, and it’s always someone else’s fault. I mean, he lives in cloud cuckoo country. He is in an interview in Mar-a-Lago and says that for a portrait, a real 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 have to tell me about this painting.” I mean, this is a man who literally has paintings of himself in his house. I mean, he’s just not a normal guy. I mean, you know?