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Maher wants Trump indicted, says former president ‘has to be held accountable’

The Hill logo The Hill 9/23/2022 Judy Kurtz
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Bill Maher says indicting Donald Trump would likely “turn him into a martyr,” but that the former president “has to be held accountable for what he did.”

“There’s always a risk of everything with anything controversial and anything important,” the “Real Time” host told ITK in an exclusive Thursday interview, when asked if an indictment against Trump could ignite a civil war.

“It’s a valid argument,” Maher said, “You’re going to gin up the other side to an unbelievable degree. And there is going to be violence.”

Trump has repeatedly said in interviews that he doesn’t believe the American public would accept him being indicted, and has warned there would be “big problems” if he were.

“But the alternative is worse. You can’t allow someone to try a coup!” Maher, 66, exclaimed of Trump’s role in the deadly Jan. 6 riot last year at the Capitol.  

“I mean, this country can’t even do a coup right,” the HBO personality cracked. “In other countries, when there’s a coup and it fails, there are repercussions: jail or, in many places, worse.”

“I’m not suggesting worse for Donald Trump, but I am suggesting that if you try a coup — I mean, for f—’s sake, he still hasn’t conceded the last election,” Maher said of the 45th president’s unsubstantiated claims of election fraud in his 2020 loss to Joe Biden.

“And he’s plotting to do it again, as I’ve been saying for years,” Maher added.

The DOJ’s probe into Trump’s handling of classified and top-secret documents at Mar-a-Lago, the ex-president’s Florida resort home, should also lead to criminal charges, according to Maher.

“You can’t steal nuclear secrets and put them in the shed with the croquet equipment. What the f— are we talking about here?” Maher said in an incredulous tone.

“This guy cannot run again. And he has to be held accountable for what he did the last time. This cannot go on,” Maher said. “Enough of this nonsense of we only count elections when we win them.”

But someone who Maher doesn’t necessarily want out of the political picture is Biden.

“If you asked me six months ago, I would have said no, but now I’m not so sure,” the comedian said when ITK questioned whether Biden should run again in 2024. While the commander in chief said in an interview last week that he “intends” to run for reelection, he told “60 Minutes” that he hadn’t made a “firm decision.”

Critics have cited Biden’s age as an issue, noting that he would be 81 in 2024. But Maher defended the 79-year-old president.

“I do think age is the last acceptable prejudice we have in this country, ageism,” Maher said.

“I think it’s ironic would be the most charitable word I could think of for people who can’t stand any kind of bigotry, but have no problem with that kind of bigotry,” he said.

“I’m not saying you should necessarily be president when you’re 100, but I’ve seen people on television who are 100 who were interviewed and they seem to have all their marbles. What this country seems to forget is that experience does matter,” Maher contended.

Ticking off a string of legislative victories for Democrats, including Biden signing the CHIPS and Science Act, as well as putting his signature on a sweeping bill to lower health care costs and address climate change, Maher said, “I think the reason why Joe Biden has had a really great last six months, is because he’s 80 years old, or whatever he is, because he’s seen it all before. That’s what age does, you see the patterns come up over and over again.”

But Maher says despite recent political wins, Democrats desperately need some new blood.

“I think they need 100 new faces,” Maher said with a laugh.

“The Democratic Party I think does look at the moment like they have a weak bench, but maybe that will change in primary season.”

Famously liberal Maher — who described himself earlier this year on “Real Time” as an “unmarried, pot-smoking libertine” — has made headlines and won glowing coverage on the right in recent months for speaking out against Democrats. He said in an interview this week with Variety that the “biggest problem” for Democrats ahead of 2024 was “their woke baggage.”

“I am happy that everybody else is too cowardly on the left to call out their own people when they’re plainly crazy about stuff. And it leaves more comedy for me because I go where the comedy is. If you’re going to be ridiculous, I’m going to call you out,” Maher told ITK.

“I do get a lot of coverage on Fox News now, but they will only talk about like the 10 percent of the show where I say something rotten about the left — always deserved, I think — and they’ll leave out the 90 percent where I’m criticizing Trump and the Republicans,” Maher said.

“The people who watch my show understand.”

But does criticism from the left sting at all?

“No. It’s a badge of honor. Everybody should be doing it. I mean, people on the left understand how nutty a lot of the stuff is that’s coming out from the left,” Maher said, bringing up a piece published earlier this month in The Atlantic that detailed efforts to stop “separating school sports teams strictly by sex.”

It’s not that Democratic lawmakers “believe that the perfect people to read to five-year-olds are drag queens,” said Maher, naming a number of hot-button, cable news topics du jour. “It’s just that they won’t — they won’t say anything about it, so it looks to the whole country like the entire Democratic Party is thinking that it’s equally possible for men to get pregnant, or abolishing the police, or whatever nonsense they’re on to these days.”

Maher said the current polarized political climate — with some Americans fearing about the future of the nation’s democracy — doesn’t make doing his job as a comedian any harder. The former “Politically Incorrect” host is certainly staying busy. In addition to his weekly HBO show, he launched a podcast this year, “Club Random,” in which he delves into hourlong conversations with celebrities — including Woody Harrelson, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and “Saturday Night Live” alum Leslie Jones — on everything except politics. And he’s touring the country doing stand-up, including a Nov. 12 appearance at Madison Square Garden as part of the New York Comedy Festival.

“Comedy’s always gonna be there,” said Maher. “After every president leaves, they always ask the same question in the press: What are you going to do [now that President] Bush is gone? ‘You’re right. I’m just gonna give up and go home. Nothing will be ever be funny again,’” he quipped.

“Especially on the Republican side, they constantly come up with crazier, and nuttier, and more ridiculous candidates. I mean, I thought Bush was bad. And then, you know, [2008 GOP vice presidential candidate] Sarah Palin stepped up. And now we have [Republican Reps.] Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Matt Gaetz (Fla.).”

“They never know any bounds, the Republican Party. I’ll give them that. There is no bottom. You think you’re at the bottom, then they will come up with somebody worse. And they’re also masters of nominating the ‘are you f—ing kidding me?’ candidate. You know, Donald Trump,” Maher said.

“Comedy is fine. And my comedy, especially, is great because I get more of a mixed crowd. I wouldn’t say Trump people exactly, but I get so much love when I go into the critique of the left,” he continued.

“And I think a lot of them are Democrats who want to hear that message. They want their party to get back to a sane, center-left position, and they don’t see anybody voicing that for them.”

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