ABC News

As Donald Trump faced backlash for saying some immigrants who come to the U.S. are “not people” but “animals,” the former president defended some of his divisive characterizations of people crossing the border, insisting that he has to use “certain rhetoric” to “stir debate.”

“It also gets people thinking about very important issues that, if you don’t use certain rhetoric, if you don’t use certain words, and maybe they’re not very nice words, nothing will happen. That did stir debate,” Trump told Fox News’ Howard Kurtz in a pretaped interview that aired Sunday.

Kurtz had pointed to Trump previously saying migrants who come to the country illegally are “poisoning the blood” of the country. That rhetoric echoes past dictators like Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

“I didn’t know that,” Trump said on Fox News.

But, he added, “Our country is being poisoned.”

“Everything I’ve said has been right. … We have millions of people coming into our country that shouldn’t be here,” Trump continued, repeating baseless warnings about “migrant crime.”

U.S. citizens commit crimes at higher rates than unauthorized immigrants, according to a 2020 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Throughout the 2024 election cycle, Trump has frequently used derogatory language while talking about immigrants who come into the U.S. illegally.

In recent weeks, he has dedicated a considerable amount of time on the campaign trail to emphasizing border security and highlighting immigration issues, claiming that immigrants are taking over the jobs of Americans and blaming President Joe Biden for the death of Georgia nursing student Laken Riley, who was allegedly killed by a suspect identified as an immigrant who came to America illegally.

Trump’s most recent attacks on some migrants came Saturday, during what was scheduled to be a guest appearance at a campaign rally for Ohio Senate candidate Bernie Moreno.

Instead, the event quickly turned into Trump saying there would be a “bloodbath” for the country if he doesn’t win the 2024 general election — while also railing against the electric vehicle industry manufacturing automobiles outside the U.S.

“We’re gonna put a 100% tariff on every single car that comes across the line, and you’re not gonna be able to sell those guys if I get elected,” Trump said while criticizing overseas manufacturing production.

“Now, if I don’t get elected, it’s gonna be a bloodbath for … that’s gonna be the least of it, it’s gonna be a bloodbath for the country, that’ll be the least of it,” he said.

Trump’s campaign has pushed back on claims that he was talking about violence throughout the country should he lose reelection in 2024, arguing he was talking about the destruction of the auto industry.

However, President Biden’s campaign seized on the comments, highlighting how Trump has often praised authoritarian leaders and starts many of his rallies saluting the American flag while “Justice for All” by the “J6 Prison Choir” plays.

“This is who Donald Trump is,” Biden spokesperson James Singer said in a statement Saturday night.

At the Saturday rally, Trump also claimed some unauthorized immigrants are “not people” while making unfounded claims that other countries are letting criminals out of prisons to cross into the United States.

Trump then quickly downplayed the weight of his comments, saying Democrats will criticize him for his rhetoric by saying he lacks humanity.

In his pretaped interview on Fox News, beyond talking about his rhetoric on migrants, Trump discussed his recent reversal on pushing a ban on TikTok.

He claimed he did not know that Jeff Yass, a billionaire GOP donor he met with a few days prior to publicly changing his stance on the issue, had a major financial interest in the China-based parent company of the popular social media app.

He also said he never spoke to Yass about legislation currently being considered in Congress that could lead to TikTok being banned if it isn’t sold.

Trump posted on his social media platform earlier this month that getting rid of TikTok would benefit Facebook and that he doesn’t want that to happen, suggesting Facebook is a bigger problem for the country.

Yass has praised TikTok as supporting “free speech and innovation.”

Elsewhere during his Fox News interview, Trump sounded hesitant to blame Russian President Vladimir Putin for the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, though he conceded Putin “probably” had a role in it and said “something happened that was unusual” while repeating “I don’t know.”

The Kremlin denies any role in Navalny’s death, while the White House blames Putin.

“I don’t know, but perhaps, I mean, possibly, I could say probably, I don’t know,” Trump said when asked if he believes Putin was responsible.

“He’s a young man, so statistically he’d be alive for a long time, if you go by the insurance numbers, he’d be alive for another 40 years. So something happened that was unusual,” Trump said of Navalny.

When pressed for a more direct answer, Trump said, “Well, I don’t know, you certainly can’t say for sure, but certainly that would look like something very bad happened.”

He then dodged a question on whether he’d provide further funding to Ukraine or allow Russia to seize some Ukrainian territory if reelected, saying the nine months between now and Jan. 20, 2025, the date for the next presidential inauguration, are “an eternity in terms of war.”

“I hope that it doesn’t come to that,” he said, adding, “If we had a real leader, he [Putin] would have never never done that.”

Trump again boasted of his “good relationship” with Putin and blamed Biden for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which he called a “terrible situation.”

Trump also alluded to a possibility of backing a nationwide abortion restriction, saying “there will be a certain spot” as he railed against Democrats for being “radical” on the issue for typically supporting access later in pregnancy.

He said he wants to seek to make “both sides happy” but praised the U.S. Supreme Court decision two years ago that ended Roe v. Wade’s guarantees of national abortion access.

Since then, numerous GOP-led states have widely restricted or essentially ended access to abortion.

Polls have shown the issue has been a key motivator for voters in some states and abortion access has prevailed each time it has directly been put up for a vote since the Supreme Court decision in 2022.

Trump has so far avoided endorsing a federal abortion ban while signaling in public comments that it would be better as a state issue.

In private, he has expressed support for a 16-week abortion ban, ABC News reported in February.

He said on Fox News that he will be making a recommendation on the issue “fairly soon” while again emphasizing his support for three exceptions: rape, incest and life of the mother.

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