5 things we learned from the Trump documentary

·7 min read

“Unprecedented,” the highly anticipated documentary from British filmmaker Alex Holder, is more about Trump family dynamics than the attempted coup on the Capitol.

The three-part documentary, which premiered Sunday on Discovery+, has been on calendars since the Jan. 6 committee subpoenaed Holder in late June, asking for the raw footage he and his team filmed on the day of the insurrection, as well as footage of interviews with former President Donald Trump; former Vice President Mike Pence; Trump’s eldest children, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka and Eric; and Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner.

But the documentary provided little that hadn’t already been reported as Trump’s presidency drew to a close in the months before the election and after his loss to President Joe Biden.

Instead, the interviews, which were taped from September 2020 through January 2021, were much of the same that the Trump team was saying publicly: the election was stolen, he was the rightful winner, and Jan. 6 wasn’t his fault.

“Well, I think I learned with the 2020 election that you have to be very untrusting,” Trump told Holder. “I assumed it would be a very straight-up election and it wasn’t. It was very unfair.”

Here are the biggest takeaways from “Unprecedented”:

1. Trump has spent his entire life pitting his kids against each other — and he’s still doing it

“Unprecedented” might as well have been a modern version of “King Lear” for all the children vying for daddy’s love and affection (except for Tiffany and Barron, who did not sit for any interviews). Eric, Donald Jr. and Ivanka are all presented as children desperate for their father’s attention, even if that meant throwing themselves into a political arena with which they were completely unfamiliar.

“All three have a tremendous following,” Trump said of his eldest children. “They have their own base, but it’s part of my base.”

Ivanka was his right-hand woman, the voice of reason and the most skilled of the three at moving through that world. Eric was the businessman, following in his father’s footsteps. And Donald Jr., who had earned disappointment from Dad with his guns and his hunting, was suddenly the golden child of the far right, spreading grandiose statements and stories at rallies around the country.

But it was all about “The Trump Brand,” said the talking heads, including journalists Peter Baker, McKay Coppins and Philip Rucker. They were fighting, like vice presidents at a company, for the keys to the castle.

When Ivanka tried to talk Trump out of his election fraud conspiracy theories, or at least refused to entertain them, Donald Jr. stepped in to “outflank” her from the right, Coppins said.

“He knew that’s what his father wanted to hear,” he said.

2. He actually was scared when he caught COVID-19

Trump spent three days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after testing positive on Oct. 2, airlifted to the hospital on Marine One from the White House lawn where he made a big show of walking out himself. On Oct. 5, he returned home, throwing off his mask for a photo op on the balcony.

“Don’t be afraid of COVID,” he tweeted that day. “Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”

But Ivanka let on that not all was as cool and collected as Trump, his aides and even his doctors were letting on.

“I heard it in his voice,” she said of a phone call his first morning at the hospital. “I knew right away he was not OK.”

Trump also hinted at a little concern, talking about several friends who had died from the disease. Vanity Fair previously reported that the then-president was “visibly anxious,” asking aides if he was “going out like Stan Chera,” a Brooklyn-born real estate developer who died of COVID-19 in April 2020.

3. No one wants to talk about Jan. 6, including former Vice President Mike Pence

Pence was on camera, getting settled for his interview, when he got an email with the congressional draft resolution demanding he invoke the 25th Amendment, which would have removed Trump from office, according to the documentary.

“Yeah, excellent,” the 63-year-old former Indiana governor said before asking an aide to print out a hard copy.

But a spokesperson for the former vice president previously told CNN that the email was actually a confirmation that his letter had been sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refusing to do so. A time stamp in the documentary reportedly confirms that.

For the rest of the interview, though, Pence, as well as the rest of the Trumps, refused to talk about the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“I’m always hopeful about America,” Pence said. “I always believe that America’s best days are yet to come, and I still believe that.”

Trump himself had more excuses, as he has since that fateful day.

“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. A very small portion, as you know, went down to the Capitol and then a very small portion of them went in,” he said.

“But I will tell you they were angry from the standpoint of what happened in the election. Because they’re smart and they saw what happened. And I believe that that was a big part of what happened on Jan. 6.”

4. The most anger still goes to Twitter and Facebook

Trump is still raging at the social media sites that banned him for inciting violence, including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

“It’s a shame what Twitter did and Facebook did, but that’s what they do. These people are thugs,” he said.

“They allow other people to be horrific people. I’m not a horrific person. I have a big voice. I have a voice that had hundreds of millions of people listening. So it’s going to be adjudicated over a period of time.”

5. Trump — and the Trumps — aren’t done with politics yet

Trump’s 2024 plans have been a near constant conversation since Election Day 2020 and continue to be, but the former president seems to be enjoying the mystery.

“We are all working together, we’re getting along incredibly well, we have a tremendous base, every poll says I gotta run, I gotta run,” he said. “But I’ll be making a decision in the not too distant future. Stay tuned.”

But the ex-president's not the only Trump with politics on the mind.

Donald Trump Jr., asked if he intends to run for president, said he has “no plans” to do so, but that doesn’t mean he’s out of the race.

“I’ll stay involved in it. I have a lot to still do. It’s one of the great compliments I could possibly receive. When we started doing the primaries, before all the lockdowns, I’d open up for my father and there’s 15,000 people in an arena chanting ‘46′ for me, that’s pretty cool. It’s an honor,” he said.

“We need someone who’s willing to initiate those conversations that a lot of conservations are, perhaps, let’s call it too prude to ever go there.”

While Jr. has been courted by the far right of the base, Ivanka has always been posed as the natural successor to the mainstream Republicans. She, similarly, has stayed coy about any future plans.

“I’m just enjoying every second I’m having with my kiddos and that’s what I’m focused on for now,” she said.

“We’ll see. We’ll see what’s next.”