Trump says 'Israel literally owned Congress' in interview

The former US president echoed an antisemitic conspiracy theory in an interview on the Ari Hoffman Show Friday. "Israel had such power – and rightfully," he said.

DONALD TRUMP has said on many occasions that he will be president for life.  (photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)
DONALD TRUMP has said on many occasions that he will be president for life.
(photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)

Former US president Donald Trump said "Israel literally owned Congress" in an interview with Ari Hoffman on 570 KVI Friday, as originally reported by Haaretz.

During the interview, Hoffman mentioned to Trump that he had bought yarmulkes with the former president's name on them and that when he asked the vendor if they sold Joe Biden ones, they laughed.

Trump quickly went on a tangent, saying the biggest change he had seen in Congress was the shift of power from legislators under Israel's influence to anti-Israel politicians:

"Well, you know the biggest change I've seen in Congress is Israel literally owned Congress – you understand that, 10 years ago, 15 years ago – and it was so powerful, it was so powerful, and today it's almost the opposite," Trump said.

The former president referred to certain left-wing progressives in Congress who he accused of hating Israel. "You have – between AOC [Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez] and [Rep. Ilhan] Omar and these people that hate Israel, they hate it with a passion – they're controlling Congress and Israel is not a force in Congress anymore, it's – I mean – it's just amazing. I've never seen such a change," he said.

Trump's quote can be found at 10:27-11:10

"Israel had such power – and rightfully – over Congress, and now it doesn't. It's incredible, actually."

Hoffman nodded throughout the non-sequitur, then replied, "it's really a shift we're seeing inside the Democrat Party," before segueing to a question about Trump's reopening strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump's statements seem to echo an antisemitic conspiracy theory that the so-called "Israel lobby," often used as a euphemism for Jews, controls US politics in order to promote Israeli interests.

When Trump was in office, Jewish Americans were polarized along ideological lines regarding support for the former president. Though the overall majority voted against him in both 2016 and 2020, many religiously observant and Orthodox Jews supported his campaign, the Jewish News Syndicate cited exit polls as saying.

While his administration was largely seen as supportive toward Israel and then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing government, Trump, considered by many to be a nationalist and a populist, was accused of courting or being hesitant to denounce white supremacists and other far-right extremists within his political base who were hostile to Jews.

At the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, a protest against the planned demolition of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee and the renaming of an eponymous park that was organized by a white supremacist, video obtained by PBS showed participants carrying torches chanted "Jews will not replace us." The protest turned violent after a far-right extremist attending the event plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer.

Neo-Nazis and white supremacists encircle counterprotesters at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson after marching through the University of Virginia campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 11, 2017 (credit: SHAY HORSE/NURPHOTO VIA GETTY IMAGES/JTA)Neo-Nazis and white supremacists encircle counterprotesters at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson after marching through the University of Virginia campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 11, 2017 (credit: SHAY HORSE/NURPHOTO VIA GETTY IMAGES/JTA)

In Trump's initial public response to the terrorist attack, he said: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides.” The statements were widely condemned for equating the protest's alt-right attendees with the counter-protesters.

Two days later, he clearly condemned the alt-right protesters, saying "racism is evil" and called the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists "repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans."

The next day, however, Trump again returned to his previous stance, blaming both sides for the violence and adding that there were also "very fine people on both sides."

With regards to Israel, the Trump administration recognized the country's sovereignty over the Golan Heights and Jewish settlements in the West Bank, moved the US embassy to Jerusalem and played a key role in organizing the Abraham Accords, a series of diplomatic agreements promoting the normalization of relations between Israel and neighboring Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law through his marriage with Ivanka, was closely involved in the Trump administration's Middle East diplomacy strategy. Both Kushner and his wife Ivanka are Jewish.