What can a documentary filmmaker add to the record of the Jan. 6 attacks?
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Next, let's hear a man who's been cooperating with the investigation of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Alex Holder is a filmmaker from the U.K. And he interviewed then-President Trump for a documentary before and after the attack.
(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "UNPRECEDENTED")
ALEX HOLDER: Can we talk for a minute about January 6?
DONALD TRUMP: Well, it was a sad day. But it was a day where there was great anger in our country. People went to Washington primarily because they were angry with an election that they think was rigged.
INSKEEP: The January 6 panel has now subpoenaed that footage. Alex Holder turned it over and spoke with the committee yesterday in a private session. And he is now on the line. Mr. Holder, welcome to the program.
HOLDER: Hello. Good morning. How are you?
INSKEEP: What is your project?
HOLDER: So the project is a three-part series about the U.S. 2020 presidential election. And it starts from around sort of September, 2020. And it runs all the way through until after the election, after sort of the chaos and tragedy of January 6, up until sort of June of 2021.
INSKEEP: OK. So...
HOLDER: And we follow the - sorry.
INSKEEP: Go on.
HOLDER: So we follow the - President Trump's three eldest children, as they sort of crisscross America during the election campaign. And then we conduct interviews with them directly and also with the president himself as well.
INSKEEP: OK. So you got a lot of interviews here. What kind of access did you get to the president?
HOLDER: So I interviewed the president three times - once in the White House, once in Mar-a-Lago and then again in Bedminster at his golf course. And then we also joined the president on a few of his rallies during the campaign and then also after the election at his sort of, quote, "stop the steal" rallies as well.
INSKEEP: You've released some clips of your footage here. There's one that's particularly amusing that you put on Twitter. Amusing or interesting - I don't know what the word is. He's preparing for an interview. He's settling down in his chair. And he's very, very image conscious. He is thinking about what is in the frame. What's happening there?
HOLDER: So it was very - actually a very interesting moment. And I think that on that day - you know, this was about a month after the election. And I had absolutely - I genuinely didn't think he was going to come, actually. And then - so he then comes in. I hear Secret Service outside saying mogul on the move. And he starts walking down this beautiful sort of red carpet, into the diplomatic reception room in the White House and sits down. And it was obviously a surreal moment. I'm there across from the sitting president of the United States, who hasn't spoken to any reporters at all during this period because he sort of barricaded himself in the White House. And then he starts moving around a glass of water for about a minute and a half, which was sort of quite surreal. I mean, the entire thing was just fascinating. And I think what's interesting is that different people can interpret that in different ways in terms of what he is. It sort of is an insight to his character, I thought, which is quite interesting.
INSKEEP: Well, it certainly shows he pays attention to his image.
HOLDER: Indeed. Absolutely.
INSKEEP: How would you describe his state of mind about the election that he had obviously lost?
HOLDER: Well, he absolutely believes that he won the election without any question. And the truth is, is that before that interview, I did not think that he was - that he actually believed that he had won. I thought that it was all sort of rhetoric.
INSKEEP: You believed that he believed it?
HOLDER: Absolutely. Absolutely. There's no question. And that was terrifying, actually. That was absolutely terrifying.
INSKEEP: Did you present him with any of the facts?
HOLDER: So I let him come to his own conclusions himself, you know? I didn't want to sort of be there to debate with the president of the United States, you know? He knows what he knows and - or rather, what he doesn't know, in fact. And the idea of trying to rationalize with somebody who, you know, is seeing all the evidence and hearing it all and is then saying the opposite seems to be sort of a slight waste of time, frankly. And I think, especially with the former president, the idea that I, a British filmmaker, is going to try and persuade him that, actually, you know, what he's been saying for the last month or so is wrong...
HOLDER: ...Is just not really going to go anywhere.
INSKEEP: But then the question arises. This is a man who is very repetitive, has said the same things over and over and over again. It's very difficult to get him off of what is, in his mind, is his script. Was he at any moment any different in your interviews than in every other public appearance?
HOLDER: I think there were moments, yes, in some of these interviews that we conducted, so especially when we talked about things outside of the election. So this documentary isn't solely about the 2020 election campaign. It's also a - sort of a portrait of him and his three children and the dynamics between his three eldest kids and sort of a succession-type vibe. Who will take over from President Trump, you know, at some point down the line, with respect to his kids? Who will take over from the Trump - you know, in the Trump family and be in charge? And I think that is actually very interesting as well. And I think you get to see a side of him which people haven't really seen before, a side that shows sort of, perhaps, a sympathy or a pride towards his kids, but also moments of maybe some sort of jealousy when he sees his kids getting a huge amount of attention from crowds during the election campaign.
So it's a really interesting portrait. Obviously, the election is a key part. And then, with respect to his position on the election, I think there is a fundamental difference between Donald Trump standing up on a stage in - at a rally and sort of, you know, espousing his rhetoric in quite a belligerent way to him sitting in the White House as the sitting president of the United States and looking me in the eye and saying that, you know, President Biden, that guy didn't get 80 million votes. There's no way. Or when he says to me that the Georgia election officials are stupid people, now, these are Republicans as well. Or when he says to me that he needs to find brave judges who will, you know, agree with his position on the election is pretty fascinating and also quite terrifying.
INSKEEP: If it's clear - in the few seconds we have, if it's clear to you that he believed the false things that he was saying, is it also clear to you that he had intent to do something or cause something or incite something violent to the Capitol on January 6?
HOLDER: So I don't know, with respect to his intent. All I know is, is that there's no question that the events that took place on January 6 could only have happened because of the position that he had vis a vis the election.
INSKEEP: Meaning that it was his words that would have caused people to do that, otherwise it wouldn't have happened?
HOLDER: I mean, yeah, I don't see any other way that could have happened. Exactly.
INSKEEP: Alex Holder is a documentary filmmaker who interviewed then-President Trump before January 6 and former President Trump after his departure from office and has now himself been interviewed by the January 6 committee. Mr. Holder, thanks very much for your insights, really appreciate it.
HOLDER: Thank you very much.
(SOUNDBITE OF FELBM'S "REFLECTIONS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.