Former President Donald Trump declined to stake out a clear position on the future of abortion rights in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” but he repeatedly expressed interest in serving as a mediator between “both sides” of the issue to reach an agreement.
“I think they’re all going to like me,” he said. “I think both sides are going to like me.”
During his wide-ranging interview with moderator Kristen Welker, parts of which appeared on NBC “Meet the Press,” Trump seemed to seek wiggle room on an issue that has plagued Republicans at the ballot box since the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision last year.
The interview, which was taped on Thursday, was Welker’s first as moderator of “Meet the Press.” NBC News has also extended an invitation to President Joe Biden to sit down for an interview.
Trump declined to endorse a standard number of weeks after which abortion would be illegal, with some exceptions, and he similarly refused to say whether he feels the issue would be best settled at the state or federal level.
“We’re going to agree to a number of weeks or months or however you want to define it,” Trump said. “And both sides are going to come together and both sides — both sides, and this is a big statement — both sides will come together. And for the first time in 52 years, you’ll have an issue that we can put behind us.”
In response, Welker asked whether such an agreement would take place at the federal level.
“It could be state or it could be federal,” Trump said. “I don’t, frankly, care.”
Abortion has proven to be a tricky issue for both Trump and Republicans at large. While Trump has not been as hardline on the issue as some of his rivals in the presidential primary, he personally played a large role in creating the current state of affairs: He nominated three of the conservative Supreme Court justices who voted to toss out the ruling that allowed for abortion to be legal for the first 24 weeks of pregnancy.
The overturning of Roe led to a groundswell of activism from abortion-rights advocates, and Democrats capitalized on that energy in critical swing-state races last fall. Meanwhile, a number of ballot initiatives seen as hostile to abortion rights were voted down across the country, including in deep-red states.
Trump said members of his own party “speak very inarticulately about this subject.
“I watch some of them without the exceptions, et cetera, et cetera,” he said, referring to conservatives who don’t support abortion exceptions in cases including abortion and rape. “I said, ‘Other than certain parts of the country, you can’t — you’re not going to win on this issue. But you will win on this issue when you come up with the right number of weeks.”
“Because Democrats don’t want to be radical on the issue, most of them, some do,” he continued. “They don’t want to be radical on the issue. They don’t want to kill a baby in the seventh month or the ninth month or after birth. And they’re allowed to do that, and you can’t do that.”
Abortion was not the only issue in his interview with Welker where Trump declined to stake out a clear position, preferring a stance that offered him more flexibility in a general election matchup with Democrats — which polls increasingly show is likely to have Trump on the Republican side.
To that extent, President Joe Biden’s campaign fired back at his remarks shortly after the interview, painting him as “the reason” why the issue has taken center stage in the past year.