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Trump attacks rivals in an online interview with Tucker Carlson as he skips the presidential debate

NEW YORK (AP) — As eight Republican presidential candidates tried to make their case in Wednesday night’s debate that their party should step away from Donald Trump by 2024, the former president tried to argue that everyone but him is irrelevant.

Trump, the early front-runner for the nomination, skipped the first Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee and opted to appear in a pre-recorded interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson posted Wednesday night on X, the website formerly known stood like Twitter. The interview was posted online five minutes before the debate aired.

“Should I sit there for an hour or two, whatever it is going to be, and be harassed by people who shouldn’t even be running for president?” Trump said in the 46-minute interview. a network that is not particularly friendly to me?”

Trump attacked some of his rivals early on, calling former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson “nasty,” calling him an example of someone who shouldn’t be on the debate stage, along with former New York governor Jersey, Chris Christie. Both Christie and Hutchinson have criticized Trump, saying he should not run for president.

“I get all those people yelling at me, yelling questions at me, all of which I love to answer and love to do. But there’s no point in doing them, so I’ll allow it,” Trump said.

Trump, who faces a barrage of legal trouble — including in Georgia, where he is expected to turn himself in on Thursday on state charges of conspiracy to overthrow the 2020 presidential election — has said it lies beneath him to to appear along with the other candidates. the debate stage in Milwaukee because of his large lead in the polls.

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His ongoing feud with the Fox News Channel, where the debate takes place, seemed to cement his decision.

In a post on his social media network Truth hours before the debate, Trump insulted two Fox hosts and complained about the network.

He then touted his poll numbers, writing, “FOX NEWS REFUSES TO POST OR DISCUSS.”

His third bid for the White House has come as he continued to ally with those who espouse extreme views and conspiracies as he wrapped his campaign around false claims about the last election.

Performing with Carlson instead of debating tends to do that. The former Fox host has promoted the view that white people are being “replaced” by people of color and spread disinformation on issues such as the January 6, 2021 riot at the US Capitol and the war in Ukraine.

Carlson tried to implicate Trump in conspiracy theories about disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein and then asked Trump if his political opponents could threaten his life, which Trump did not deny.

“They are wild animals. It’s people who are sick. Very sick. You have great people in the Democratic Party, great people who are Democrats,” Trump said. “But I’ve seen what they do, I’ve seen how far they go.”

He also told Carlson, “I think getting rid of you was a terrible move.”

The night before the interview, Trump spoke at a fundraiser at his New Jersey golf club for the Patriot Freedom Project, which supports the defendants charged for their role in the uprising.

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Trump has remained dominant in the party even as he faces mounting legal risks in four separate criminal cases related to his attempts to reverse his 2020 election loss, allegations that he mishandled classified documents and hush money payments made to cover allegations of extramarital affairs.

The day after the debate, he will appear as a criminal defendant for the fourth time this year when he appears in Georgia to answer charges in an extensive racketeering case related to his efforts to overturn that state’s 2020 election results.

Polls show his standing among Republicans remains strong despite the legal challenges.

Before Trump announced his decision to skip the debate on Sunday, several Fox News personalities and executives had encouraged him to participate. While many hosts on the network have boosted Trump over the years, the former president has complained since his tenure about what he says is unfair reporting.

His decision to sit down with Carlson instead also appears to send a message to the network, which fired the host earlier this year. The network offered no explanation, but it came shortly after Fox agreed to pay $787.5 million to the Dominion Voting Systems libel suit over the network’s coverage of Trump’s false claims after the 2020 election.

Trump and his team have not made it clear whether he will skip every Republican debate, or at least those announced so far. He has complained about the venue for September’s second debate, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, because Fred Ryan, the publisher and CEO of the Washington Post, is chairman of the foundation’s board of directors.

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Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is in Milwaukee as a surrogate for the Trump campaign, called it “pointless” for Trump to debate because he is so far ahead in the polls.

“There’s nothing he has to prove on that stage with them,” she said in an interview on Wednesday. “They have everything to prove against him.”

Many of the candidates on the debate stage have embraced Trump’s policies, including his closest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has criticized Trump for not going far enough to push through with his policies. Three other candidates all worked for Trump: Mike Pence, his vice president; Nikki Haley, who served as Trump’s UN ambassador; and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who helped Trump prepare for debates in 2016 and 2020 and led his 2016 transition team.

“They’re all playing the same playbook and they’re all embracing the same unpopular positions that Donald Trump led, and he continues to push this party to its limits,” said former Democratic Congressman Cedric Richmond, co-chair of the US president. Joe Biden’s campaign, told reporters Tuesday. “And so, whether he’s on the podium or not, his extreme agenda will be.”


Associated Press writers Bill Barrow in Atlanta and Sara Burnett in Milwaukee contributed to this report.

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