Donald Trump dismissed his Republican rivals for the US presidency as they went head to head in the first debate on Wednesday.
The former president, the early frontrunner to secure the party’s nomination, skipped the first presidential debate in Milwaukee, opting for a pre-recorded interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson on X, the website formerly known as Twitter.
The interview was posted online five minutes before the debate between eight candidates aired on Fox News.
Speaking to LBC’s Tom Swarbrick host of the Global podcast The News Agents USA – Jon Sopel said: “When you hear that Donald Trump isn’t going to take part in a debate, never think that’s because he’s suddenly become a shrinking violet, who wants to shun publicity.
“He always wants to be the centre of attention, he always loves it most when the conversation is about him. And of course last night the conversation was all about him.”
Jon said the other debate candidates were left by Trump to “slug it out,” he told Tom that Ron Desantis now looked like he was “fading fast” in his hopes of getting the Republican nomination.
But, Jon did say that Vivek Ramaswamy was “the one to watch at the moment”.
When Tom asked about Trump’s ongoing legal issues, Jon said this evening the former President would be arrested.
“By this evening we will see a mugshot of Donald Trump. It is extraordinary.”
The News Agents host said Donald Trump was “still hamstrung” by the result of the 2020 election, and is “obsessed by the way Fox treated him” and “mad conspiracy theories about what happened to the votes.”
In the 46-minute interview, Mr Trump said: “Do I sit there for an hour or two hours, whatever it’s going to be, and get harassed by people that shouldn’t even be running for president?”
“Should I be doing that at a network that isn’t particularly friendly to me?”
Mr Trump attacked some of his rivals, calling former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson “nasty,” and cited him as an example of someone who should not be on the debate stage, along with former New Jersey governor Chris Christie.
Both candidates have been critical of Mr Trump and said he should not be running for president.
“I’m going to have all these people screaming at me, shouting questions at me, all of which I love answering, I love doing. But it doesn’t make sense to do them so I’m taking a pass,” Mr Trump said.
Mr Trump, who is facing a barrage of legal problems – including in Georgia where he is expected to turn himself in on Thursday for booking on state charges of conspiring to overthrow the 2020 presidential election – has said it is beneath him to appear with the other candidates on the Milwaukee debate stage because of his large lead in the polls.
His ongoing feud with Fox News seemed to cement his decision.
He has continued to align himself with those espousing extreme views and conspiracies while wrapping his campaign around bogus claims about the last election.
Mr Carlson tried to engage Mr Trump in conspiracy theories about disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein and then asked if his political opponents might threaten his life, which the former president did not dismiss.
“They are savage animals. They are people that are sick. Really sick. You have great people in the Democrat Party, great people that are Democrats,” Mr Trump said. “But I’ve seen what they do, I’ve seen the lengths that they go to.”
He also told Mr Carlson: “I think it was a terrible move getting rid of you.”
In the debate in Milwaukee, most of the participants raised their hands to say they would support Mr Trump as the party’s nominee, even if he was convicted in a court of law – even after the moderators noted that Mr Trump is facing more than 90 criminal counts in separate cases across four states.