In a wide-ranging discussion with the conservative broadcaster’s anchor Rob Schmitt, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination claimed that the United States’s status on the world stage has badly diminished since he left the White House in January 2021 due to, as he sees it, President Biden’s mishandling of the wars in Ukraine and Gaza.
“The country is just, it’s so pathetic,” he told Mr Schmitt. “And you know other countries are watching this…
“I’ll tell you what: I got to know [Vladimir] Putin very well, I got to know Xi [Jinping] very well, I got along with everybody, you know, etcetera etcetera, but they knew it was no games.
“I was talking to Putin a lot about Ukraine. It was the apple of his eye. There was no way he would ever have moved [against it].”
Mr Trump has regularly expressed his admiration for authoritarian world leaders since leaving office and has repeatedly claimed that Mr Putin would never have invaded his western neighbour had the Republican won a second term, such was his apparent awed respect for the former luxury real estate mogul.
Mr Trump went on to insist: “We’re very close to World War III. Much closer than anyone understands.
“The power of weaponry is so devastating today and we’re playing with a guy who can’t put two sentences together.”
Asked by Mr Schmitt what another four years of the Biden administration would mean, the Republican answered pessimistically: “I think the country’s finished… It’s not going to be able to function.”
Mr Trump then rather boldly claimed that “everything worked” during his administration, which ended three years ago with the country mired in the Covid-19 pandemic and reeling from the Capitol riot of 6 January 2021.
Elsewhere in the interview, he once more laid the groundwork for his own defeat in November by baselessly claiming: “Our elections are very unsafe. They’re not free. They’re not free and fair. There’s so much evidence, there’s so much proof. We have it all but nobody wants to hear about it.
“If we don’t have free and fair elections and strong borders we don’t have a country.”
On the subject of the United States’s southern border with Mexico, Mr Trump placed further pressure on Republican leaders in Congress by denouncing the border bill currently being discussed in the Senate by it calling “a Democrat trap, it’s a trap for Republicans”.
“It would be so stupid, so foolish to sign a bill like this,” he said.
“This bill can’t be signed. And it’s not only that. It’s massive amounts of money going ‘out of town’, as we say. Billions and billions and billions of dollars.
“And it’s so bad on the border I’ve never seen anything like it. Actually it’s one of the worst, one of the dumbest bills I’ve ever seen. I think it’s totally dead in the House… But I can’t imagine anyone wanting to approve this bill.”
He also attempted to use his considerable sway over the conservative movement by agreeing with Mr Schmitt’s contention that it is time for Ronna McDaniel to step aside as chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC) amid a rising time of criticism over the party’s performance over the last few election cycles, with fundraising regarded as an increasing cause for concern.
“I think she knows that, I think she understands that,” he said.
He returned to his role in deciding Ms McDaniel’s future on Truth Social on Monday evening, writing: “I’ll be making a decision the day after the South Carolina Primary as to my recommendations for RNC Growth.”