(The Hill) – Former President Trump acknowledged he was scared when he discovered he had COVID-19 given how many friends of his had died during the pandemic, he told a British documentarian filming him in the months leading up to Jan. 6.
The remarks are a shift from his public comments after he was infected with the coronavirus in October 2020. After Trump left Walter Reed Hospital, where he spent three days being treated for COVID-19, he told people “don’t be afraid of it.”
Filmmaker Alex Holder was subpoenaed by the House committee investigating Jan. 6 and asked to turn over his interviews with Trump, his adult children and Vice President Pence.
His footage touches on a variety of topics, from the attack to the fallout of Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis.
“At that point he was no longer the president, but when he was, he was in charge of the entire the COVID response, and hundreds of thousands of people had died. What he said to me was that the reason why he was sort of scared of COVID was essentially because he knew people who had died of COVID, basically he was referring to his friends, he was referring to people he knew personally that had got COVID and that some of them had died,” Holder said.
“And that’s why it was quite shocking to him when the doctor said to him he actually had COVID, so his way of understanding the danger of COVID came from his own personal connections to people rather than a national or global scale.”
Niece Mary Trump indicated in her book that Trump was scared but the family otherwise had not spoken publicly about their fear for him during that time.
“I believe it’s the first time he and members of his family admitted how sick he was and how scared they were,” Holder said of his footage.
Holder met with the House committee investigating the riot Thursday, where some of the questions focused on an interview he did with Ivanka Trump.
In the interview with Holder, Ivanka Trump asserted about a month after the 2020 presidential election that “every single vote needs to be counted and needs to be heard” and that Trump “has to take on this fight.”
That departed from a clip the committee recently showed of her videotaped deposition in which she said she “accepted” Attorney General William Barr’s conclusion there was no widespread voting fraud.
In the trailer for the Discovery+ documentary released Wednesday, Trump and his adult children are each seen sitting down for interviews.
“I think I treat people well, unless they don’t treat me well, in which case you go to war,” Trump tells filmmakers.
Asked if he would be willing to talk about what happened at last year’s Capitol riot, Trump replies, “Yep.”
The video is a big get for the committee, which has not been able to sit down with either Trump or Pence, and who have relied heavily on video in making their case to the public.
“Well, it’s been significant. It’s a lot of video we had not been privy to,” Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told reporters Friday.
“We will include that in some of our hearing presentations. But you know, we had to go through it and make a decision as to what is the best place we can put it.”
Holder spent two hours with the committee reviewing his time with the Trump family, which kicked off in September and lasted beyond his presidency.
Trump would say those who were protesting, including those who entered the building, were riled up due to voter fraud because they’re “smart.”
“That was actually a very shocking way of referring to those people as being smart, which is a very awful way of describing them,” Holder said.
Trump’s children did not speak to him about Jan. 6.
“And with respect to the kids, I think their silence speaks volumes,” he said.
The day certainly made an impression on Holder, who arrived on the scene along with those who marched from the Capitol.
Even amidst the adrenaline of the moment, it was clear to him, “this is a historic game-changer in American politics, and it won’t be the same again. The world also won’t be the same again depending on how this plays out. And the impact of Jan. 6 is obviously bigger than that day because it happened by virtue of weeks of denigrating the most important aspect of democracy: voting.”
However, Holder also said his conversations with the former president gave him the impression Trump remains truly convinced the election was stolen from him.
“It doesn’t matter if you tell him 200,000 times and give him every bit of evidence in the world,” he said.
“The idea that he was putting out this information and knowing it not to be true I think dilutes the issue. It’s more that he has — on this point and on others as well — has an irrational position and therefore trying to prove him wrong is moot.”
In the days since Holder’s subpoena was made public, some Trump aides at both the campaign and the White House said they were unaware the Trump family had even agreed to do a documentary.
It pushed Holder to clarify that the Trumps had never sought nor been granted any editorial control over the piece.
But in retrospect, Holder says he saw ways the Trumps may have steered them away from being observed.
“I thought through certain things that may have been done without my knowledge, where they sort of kept us away from the press and under wraps,” noting that at times White House staff would put up partitions to keep their interviews shielded.
Emily Brooks contributed.