Dr. Phil asks Donald Trump if he is willing to forgive, forgo revenge

Dr. Phil McGraw visits "Jesse Watters Primetime" on Feb. 26, in New York. McGraw interviewed former President Donald Trump this week.

Dr. Phil McGraw visits "Jesse Watters Primetime" on Feb. 26, in New York. McGraw interviewed former President Donald Trump this week. (Andy Kropa)

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SALT LAKE CITY — During an hourlong interview with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, daytime talk show host Dr. Phil McGraw, a psychologist who goes by Dr. Phil, repeatedly expressed sympathy for the former president over the criminal cases brought against him by local and federal prosecutors.

McGraw's first question to Trump was prefaced by him saying the former president was "fighting this fight and standing up for the rights of due process and fighting against prosecutorial misconduct and prosecutorial abuse."

"They need to stop pursuing you. Since you started your campaign in 2015 to run for office, there have been so many attempts to get you off the board, even before you started your campaign," he said to Trump, including Trump's two impeachments and other investigations into alleged misconduct in the list of things he considered a "never-ending" pursuit of the former president.

"I really wonder how that affects you," McGraw said, which was just one of the questions framed to get at Trump's state of mind. At one point, Trump said the interview was like a visit with a psychiatrist.

Trump accused those who oppose him of having "Trump derangement syndrome," and complained about the gag order put in place by New York Judge Juan Merchan, who oversaw the hush money trial that ended with Trump convicted of multiple felonies for falsifying business records while running for president.

"Think of it. I'm the Republican nominee. I was the president, and I'm leading the current Democrat by a lot, and I have a gag order from a local judge that was appointed by the Democrat Party," Trump said.

Much of the interview was spent discussing the criminal cases against Trump, which also include charges for his handling of classified documents, and his alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

Will Trump seek revenge?

Toward the end of the interview, McGraw asked Trump if he would seek revenge against Democrats if he won the 2024 election.

"There are headlines out there that say, when you win your second term, that you are going to make the people that have come after you pay retribution and revenge," McGraw said. "And let me ask you this, before you even respond to that, I want to play 'what if' with you for a minute. What if, when you win this election, you said, 'Enough is enough? Too much is too much. This is a race to the bottom, and it stops here.'"

"I'm OK with it. I am. I'm OK with that," Trump said. "Sometimes, I'm sure in certain moments, I wouldn't be. You know, when you go through what I've been through — they spied on my campaign. You know, they spied on my campaign. Remember, I announced it. They did things that people don't even talk about. ... What they've done is bad. With all of that being said, we have to unite the country, Phil. The country has to be united. The country is a mess."

Trump wondered aloud what would have happened if he had followed through on pursuing criminal charges against former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who was his Democratic opponent in the 2016 presidential race. "I didn't want to do that," he said. "I could have done that pretty easily. She busted up her phones, and she busted up her laptops. ..."

"Retribution is going to be through success," Trump said. "We're going to make it very successful. We have to bring the country together."

McGraw followed up by saying, "We are all brothers and sisters, and there must be no resentment ... and forgiveness is necessary; otherwise, what will follow is not justice but revenge."

Trump responded by saying, "Sometimes revenge can be justified, though. I have to be honest, sometimes it can."

Why would Trump run?

McGraw also asked Trump repeatedly why, as a wealthy older man, he would run.

"What do you say to yourselves, when the crowds aren't cheering, alone, you're riding in the car, you're by yourself. What is the hardest, darkest moment that you can think of in this journey you've been on the last several years?" he asked.

"You have to be very strong," Trump replied. "You're fighting off very evil forces."

Trump said he'd watched McGraw's show, and he'd watched people cry after being asked a similar question.

"I said, that's never happening to me. If that happens to me, that's the end of my political career," he said. "I think people — actually, maybe people would like me better — but I'll tell you what, you need strength. You have to have strength, and people don't want to see that."

McGraw's new network Merit+

The interview was broadcast on Merit+, a new online network started by McGraw, a network offering "traditional family content" and news that is "unbiased and unfiltered."

In his intro, McGraw said he wouldn't endorse a presidential candidate and said he's reached out to President Joe Biden and to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to see if they would also sit down for an interview with him.

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Suzanne Bates
Suzanne Bates is the national politics editor for Deseret News.


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