“Unprecedented,” a new Discovery+ docuseries that pulls back the curtain on Trump world during the 2020 election, and in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot, debuted Sunday with an unprecedented look at one of the most chaotic periods in American history.
Filmmaker Alex Holder was given such unfettered access to Donald Trump and his family that his footage was subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 committee, making “Unprecedented” appointment viewing for people hoping get a better sense of how the president’s inner circle responded to the attack on the U.S. Capitol. In that regard, they may be disappointed. The series shifts its focus to the Trump-fueled insurrection in Episode 3, but there’s no footage of Trump lunging at his security detail in the Beast, for instance. But there are many shocking, enraging and genuinely WTF moments in the three-part series, which makes pretty clear that Trump doesn’t really think that the people who stormed Congress did anything wrong.
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Here are six takeaways from a docuseries that is sure to make waves.
1. Donald Trump calls the Jan. 6 rioters “smart”
The 45th president sees the Jan. 6 riot as a sad day, but not because it was a violent attack on democracy that left five people dead. No, because his supporters believed that the election was stolen (whoever gave them that idea?) — and, anyway, according to him, only a few of them actually breached the U.S. Capitol.
“People went to Washington primarily because they were angry with an election that they think was rigged,” Trump offers up in a post-riot interview. “A very small portion, as you know, went down to the Capitol, and then a very small portion of them went in. But I will tell you they were angry from the standpoint of what happened in the election because they’re smart — and they see, and they saw, what happened. And I believe that that was a big part of what happened on January 6th.”
Video: Jamiroquai's Jay Kay on resemblance to Capitol rioter
Others in the Trump orbit, such as the usually voluble Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, wouldn’t answer questions about the storming of the Capitol. “Let’s skip the 6th,” Eric Trump tells Holder when asked.
As for the “smart” rioters, Holder’s cameras captured Richard Barnett, better known as the guy who broke into Nancy Pelosi’s office, ranting on the Capitol steps that “this is my house.”
2. Georgia on his mind
In the weeks after the election, Trump’s acolytes were scurrying around the country peddling conspiracy theories, and trying to stop vote counts in states where the 45th president was ahead, while still tabulating ballots in those where he was behind. But one state seemed to obsess Trump above all others. That would be Georgia, where Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger refused to help the president overturn Joe Biden’s victory.
“You can’t have elections that are meaningless,” Trump says, going on to complain that with Kemp “we have a governor, the poor guy doesn’t know what the hell is happening,” while likening Raffensperger to a “hard-headed rock.”
Trump seems quite miffed that they won’t just accept his baseless claims of fraud. “They don’t want to do it and they’re Republicans,” he vents. “What’s their problem? They’re stupid. They’re stupid people.”
3. It’s a family affair
Holder’s docuseries spends a lot of time on the complicated family dynamics of the Trump clan, and the Darwinian way in which the children were raised. There’s Ivanka, the lacquered apple of her father’s eye, whom he wanted to serve as his U.N. Ambassador. There’s Don Jr., the overstimulated attack dog with a Hunter Biden fixation. And there’s Eric, who appears to be minding the family business while his siblings have gotten more involved in politics. Could one or more of Trump’s progeny create a political dynasty? Maybe, but their father wants the credit for it.
“All three have a tremendous following,” Trump says. “They have a base…it’s part of my base.”
So who will it be? Eric says he’s focused on family, while Ivanka makes a point of saying that she’s enjoying being out of the Beltway with her “kiddos.” But Don Jr. clearly enjoys the adulation he received on the campaign trail, and seems the most eager to seek higher office.
“I will stay involved, because I think we need someone who’s willing to initiate those tough conversations that a lot of conservatives are perhaps, let’s call it too prude [sic], to ever go there,” he explains.
4. On Twitter bans … and thugs
In the days after the Jan. 6 riot, Trump was kicked off of Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites, depriving him of an important megaphone. And Trump — well, he’s not too happy about losing his tweeting privileges.
“It’s a shame what Twitter did, and what Facebook did,” Trump says. “That’s what they do. These people are thugs. They allow other people to be on who are horrific people. I’m not a horrific person. I have a big voice. I have a voice that had hundreds of millions of people listening.”
5. Mike Pence would like a print out
One of the weirdest moments of the entire series is when Mike Pence interrupts his interview with Holder to receive an email with a congressional draft resolution demanding he invoke the 25th amendment to remove Trump from power.
“Tell Zach to print me out a hard copy for the trip home,” Pence asks an aide while giving a pained smirk.
The former vice president, who only a few days before had to be rushed to safety from a violent mob chanting “hang Mike Pence,” remains a glass-half-full guy.
“I’m always hopeful about America,” Pence says. “I always believe that America’s best days are yet to come.”
6. What to expect in 2024
Trump doesn’t come out and say he’s running again, but he leaves the door wide open.
“We have a tremendous base,” Trump offers up. “Every poll says I gotta run, I gotta run. But I’ll be making a decision in the not-too-distant future, and stay tuned.”
And Eric Trump makes it clear that we haven’t seen the last of the Trump brand of politics.
“Do I think politics is over for this family?” he muses. “No, I can assure you politics is not over for this family in some way shape or form. I think my father will continue to be probably the most pivotal force in Republican party history.”
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