Former President Donald J. Trump said he hoped Mark Meadows — his final White House chief of staff and a co-defendant in a sweeping racketeering indictment in Georgia stemming from efforts to thwart the 2020 election — was still “loyal” to him.
Mr. Trump made his comment during a lengthy interview with Kristen Welker, the new moderator of NBC’s “Meet The Press,” broadcast on Sunday morning. Mr. Trump has been warned by the federal judge in a case also stemming from his efforts to stay in office, brought against him by the special counsel Jack Smith, to avoid saying anything that might affect the testimony of witnesses. His comment about Mr. Meadows could attract new interest.
A lawyer for Mr. Meadows did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Both Mr. Meadows and Mr. Trump are among 19 co-defendants in the Fulton County, Ga., indictment brought by the district attorney, Fani T. Willis. It accuses those charged with a criminal conspiracy to overturn Mr. Trump’s loss in the state in his re-election effort.
“By the way, do you think your former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, is still loyal to you? He just pleaded not guilty in the Georgia case,” Ms. Welker asked.
“Well, I hope he’s loyal to me,” Mr. Trump said.
“Do you worry about him flipping?” Ms. Welker asked.
“I mean, I didn’t do anything wrong,” Mr. Trump replied.
Legal experts have suggested that prosecutors may push to have some of the defendants in the case plead guilty and become witnesses against others involved.
Mr. Trump recorded the interview with Ms. Welker late last week. On Friday, a day after the interview, prosecutors asked the judge in the federal election interference case, Tanya S. Chutkan, for a limited gag order against Mr. Trump after weeks of attacks on the special counsel, among others.
“Like his previous public disinformation campaign regarding the 2020 presidential election,” they wrote, “the defendant’s recent extrajudicial statements are intended to undermine public confidence in an institution — the judicial system — and to undermine confidence in and intimidate individuals — the court, the jury pool, witnesses and prosecutors,” Mr. Smith’s office wrote in the request, which they said they wanted to be narrowly tailored.
Mr. Trump attacked Mr. Smith again shortly after the request was made, writing on his social media site, “I’m campaigning for President against an incompetent person who has WEAPONIZED the DOJ & FBI to go after his Political Opponent, & I am not allowed to COMMENT? How else would I explain that Jack Smith is DERANGED, or Crooked Joe is INCOMPETENT?”
Judge Chutkan has yet to rule on the request.
In his “Meet the Press” interview, Mr. Trump extensively reiterated his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, despite facing indictment in both Georgia and Washington on the matter.
When Ms. Welker pointed out to him that the most senior lawyers in his administration had told him following dozens of legal challenges that he had lost, and that he listened to outside groups of lawyers, Mr. Trump said it was because “I didn’t respect them.”
“But I did respect others. I respected many others that said the election was rigged,” Mr. Trump said.
And when Ms. Welker noted that he himself had reportedly said some of his outside lawyers had “crazy theories” about election interference, he replied, “You know who I listen to? Myself. I saw what happened. I watched that election, and I thought the election was over at 10 o’clock in the evening.”
As she asked fresh questions, he went on: “My instincts are a big part of it. That’s been the thing that’s gotten me to where I am, my instincts. But I also listen to people. There are many lawyers. I could give you many books.” But ultimately, he told her, “It was my decision. But I listened to some people.”
Mr. Trump’s statements were in keeping with — and yet could ultimately complicate — his efforts to raise what is known as an advice of counsel defense in the election interference case. Under the strategy, defendants seek to avoid liability for criminal charges by arguing that they were merely following the professional advice of their lawyers.
Alan Feuer contributed reporting.