Former Massachusetts governor William F. Weld, who is challenging President Trump as a Republican candidate in 2020, blasted the president for his attacks on democratic institutions and for stoking nationalist rhetoric as Trump seeks money for a wall along the Mexican border.
“It’s part of his strategy to try to get everybody upset, and divide the country and persuade us that we shouldn’t be patriots who love our own country and our own people,” Weld said.
Instead, Trump believes “we should be nationalists who hate everybody else,” Weld said.
Weld made the remarks during an appearance on WCVB-TV’s “On The Record” with hosts Janet Wu and Maria Stephanos, which aired Sunday morning.
Trump wants to make the United States a “more autocratic” nation without the need of the First Amendment or a free press, while supporting despots and attacking other democracies, Weld said.
“He’s doing what you’d expect [Russian leader] Vladimir Putin to do, and I think he sees himself — everyone knows that he’s a narcissist — I think he sees himself as the man on horseback,” Weld said. “And he really doesn’t want to have primaries, and he really doesn’t want to have an election.”
But Weld, who served as governor from 1991 to 1997 and ran as a Libertarian vice presidential candidate in 2016, faces tall odds against Trump in a Republican primary election.
The president enjoys soaring poll numbers among Republicans — according to one Gallup poll earlier this month, 89 percent of Republicans approved of the job Trump is doing.
Weld acknowledged as much in the WCVB interview and said local Republican state and town committee members are lined up solidly behind the president. He described himself as “at a loss to understand” support for Trump, but said voters he has talked to have reservations about the president.
The same Gallup poll found 39 percent of independents and 8 percent of Democrats approved of Trump’s job performance.
Weld said his job will be to “enlarge the electorate” by attracting more unenrolled voters, women suburban voters, and voters who are millennials and Gen-Xers.
Weld, who is running as a self-described “economic conservative,” supported Trump’s tax cut.
As president, Weld said he would address how changing technology — including the use of artificial intelligence and automated vehicles — will impact the nation’s workforce.
“We got to plan ahead and give those people, the displaced workers, the skills they need to get the replacement jobs,” Weld said.
Weld said he was “horrified” by the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller, who recently wrapped up his investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election.
Mueller documented Trump’s efforts to curtail the investigation, but Mueller did not accuse the president or his associates of collusion, nor did he charge Trump with tampering with the inquiry.
Before serving as governor, Weld worked at the Justice Department, including as an assistant US attorney general from 1986 to 1988, and as the Massachusetts US attorney from 1981 to 1986. For a time during his Justice Department tenure, Weld oversaw Mueller.
Trump told people to lie and dangled the offer of pardons to help interfere in the investigation, Weld said.
“There’s more than enough evidence to indict and convict for obstruction of justice,” Weld said.
John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.