Donald Trump tells Rantz he’s ‘very proud’ of role in fast-tracking COVID vaccine
In an appearance on KTTH’s Jason Rantz Show, former President Donald Trump reflected on his tenure in the office, and from that perspective addressed a number of current issues, ranging from the United States’ COVID response to Seattle’s lost East Precinct during protests in the summer of 2020.
Army Gen. Mark Milley’s congressional testimony
The interview began with Army Gen. Mark Milley’s Congressional testimony in which he disclosed that, without the knowledge of then-President Trump, he communicated with Chinese government officials and allayed their concerns about the likelihood of a nuclear strike. The calls allegedly happened during Trump’s final days in office, and, at the time, Chinese intelligence was reportedly concerned about U.S. military agitation.
Trump reframed the issue as one underscored by Chinese disapproval of his tariffs on imported manufacturing materials such as steel and aluminum. He indicated that Milley’s discrete communication undermined the United States’ position in that regard.
“I think it’s very inappropriate because China was having a very difficult time with me because of the tariffs that I was putting on them taking in billions and billions of dollars,” Trump stated. “Nobody has to get in between me and negotiations.”
“If they were worried, they were worried more economically because of what I was doing to them. So China was very concerned about what I was doing economically, and nobody has to get in and say, ‘oh don’t worry about things. Things will be just fine.’ Not good. Not appropriate,” Trump said.
Treason was a word mentioned as a summary of Trump’s perspective on Milley’s actions.
“Well, I would certainly say it borders on [treason] because I didn’t know about it,” Trump continued. “I’m the one that’s supposed to know about it. He was afraid to come in and talk to me. He was a weak sister. I found that out he is a very weak man, … and you see that with Afghanistan, the way they pulled out. He has a look of strength, but his innards are very weak.”
The US withdrawal from Afghanistan
Trump discussed the recent withdrawal of the United States’ military presence from Afghanistan. He criticized President Biden’s sequencing of the withdrawal, and the removal of troops before all U.S. civilians had been evacuated from the country.
“Instead, he took the military out first,” Trump said. “Regardless of anything, who would take the military out first? No agreement says that you take the military. Nobody has ever seen anything so stupid as that. Americans are stuck, and they’re going to be stuck for a long time. Their lives are in danger.”
Trump addressed a question about how his own approach to Afghanistan would be different were he in office.
“What I do would be much, much different,” he claimed. “But I can’t tell you what I would do.”
“I would have that problem solved very quickly. You know, I had a very good relationship with the Taliban. It was a tough relationship, but they knew, I said, ‘you do anything to our soldiers, our American people, you shoot them, you kill them, and you will pay a price, the likes of which no country has ever paid before.’”
He advertised his own foreign policy accomplishments.
“Not one American soldier was shot or killed,” he recounted. “Not even shot at. Even Biden said — and his side was not happy — he said it, ‘I will say that no soldier has been killed for the last 18 months.’”
Trump opened up the conversation to a broader range of issues, and clarified his perspective on partisan politics.
“These people are sick, these people. That’s why there’s such division in the country, tremendous division in the country,” he said.
That division is one which has entered the realm of public health. Trump implied that the Biden administration’s messaging around vaccines has been adversarial and inconsistent, something which has led to distrust and suspicion of the vaccine.
“That’s why they don’t take the vaccine,” Trump stated. “When I was president, they were all, everybody was lining up for the vaccine. We were doing over a million people a day. And that was early. We would have had many times that number.”
“But when they started doing and saying things about the vaccine and pausing Johnson and Johnson, they caused it. How stupid was that? People get scared, and they don’t trust Biden,” he added.
He doubled down on the counterfactual that more Americans would be vaccinated under a Trump presidency.
“The lines were long and strong and everybody wanted it, there was no talk about mandates or anything,” Trump continued. “Everybody wanted it. When he came in, they started talking about mandates.”
“I think I am getting the credit for the vaccine. I’m very proud of it. I got it done in less than nine months. It was supposed to take five years, and it wasn’t supposed to work, actually. They didn’t know if they could come up, and not only that. Not only did I get it done, but I bought billions of dollars worth before we even had it,” he said. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t have your shots yet.”
“Everybody knows the vaccine was my deal,” he added. “Operation Warp Speed was a tremendous success. We did a great job. They’re not doing a good job right now.”
Despite his allegations of mismanagement of the COVID vaccine rollout, he recommends people get it.
“I recommend taking it,” he suggested. “I took it. It’s good. It works. I think you’d have millions of more deaths right now in the world. I think you’d have another Spanish flu like in 1917.”
On the subject of public health and messaging to that effect from the executive office, Trump leveled criticism against Dr. Anthony Fauci within the context of their former working relationship.
“Well, I listened to his advice and, as you know, I often did the opposite,” Trump said, laughing.
“He didn’t want to close to China, and I immediately did it. He didn’t want to close to Europe, and I immediately did it. He said, ‘masks are no good.’ I felt, you know, they have some kind of a purpose. But he actually said, you know, masks have no, they serve no purpose. He was very strong on that. If you go back to the beginning, and I felt they could be helpful. You know, I said, ‘hey, they wear them in operating rooms, right? Doctors.’ But he said no. Now he’s a radical masker. Now if you wear five masks, he’s happy.”
“He’s changed. He’s a great promoter, and he’s been there a long time, and I always liked him,” Trump said. “I got along with him very well. But oftentimes did exactly the opposite of what he said, fortunately.”
“He would say things that were so inconsistent, tremendous.”
“Even now I see the things they’re saying. And you know, if you have COVID and you recover beautifully, they don’t want you to be able to go anywhere when actually that’s a powerful version of the vaccine,” Trump said. “You know, you’re in good shape, and they don’t accept that, and they should accept that.”
Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone
The conversation turned to Seattle, and how the former Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone is indicative of problems with democratically held states and cities.
“Well, I wanted to go in right away, but as you know, unless you do a very, very strong and take a very strong legal stance on various elements, you can’t do that,” Trump recalled.
“What we were doing is I was going in the day after what they heard, we were going in, we were prepared to go and we were getting ready to go in. We were going to go in as soon as they heard that it broke up.”
“In many ways, I wish I did it earlier,” Trump said. “But you know, we’re supposed to rely on the people running the state and the various cities.”
“And in those cases, Democrats … run bad cities, and they run largely bad states. You take a look at the states with problems, and we had to rely on Democrats. In theory, they’re supposed to ask you to come in, and I spoke with your governor and I said, ‘well, we would love to go in, we would love to go in.’ It was not a nod, but eventually I was going to it, you know, not too late. But in the meantime they took over a good chunk of your city. And it was an embarrassment to what was a great, great city.”
“I don’t know what’s going on with Seattle, you hear things today. The Democrats do a terrible job of running cities.”
“You look at Chicago. You look look at what’s happened all over with crime and murders. You know, I told you we didn’t lose one soldier in 18 months in Afghanistan when I was there. Yet you lose 25 people on some weekends in Chicago and many more than that shot. It’s like a war zone.”
A potential 2024 presidential run
Donald Trump addressed the likelihood that he would run again in 2024. While he did not answer directly, he referenced campaign strategy for a future presidential bid.
“We went from 63 to 75 million votes. I was told if we got 63 [million] again, we’d win.”
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