“I’m getting Donald Trump for my birthday,” Maher told The Daily Beast by phone this week. “I keep saying, God, what did I do? And then I remember: Yeah, made fun of you for the last 25 years on TV.”
The last time we saw Maher on Real Time, it was three days after Trump’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton, and the host was seemingly surrendering to our new orange overlord.
“He won. He ran a vicious, vulgar campaign and I gave it back exactly in measure—I was also vicious and vulgar—but he won,” Maher said to groans from his studio audience. “And he did it his way. Nobody gets to sing that song more than Donald Trump. Everybody told him he couldn’t do this, he couldn’t do that—and he won. He did the hardest thing in the entire world to do: Win the election as the leader of the free world.”
Maher stands by that statement, despite what certain members of Congress have said about the “legitimacy” of Trump’s win in recent days. But that doesn’t mean he thinks Trump is a “legitimate” president.
“I don’t think he’s legitimate,” Maher says now. “But I don’t think it does any good to harp on that because he is the president and you only get one at a time.” No amount of protesting or complaining is going to change that.
That being said, Maher has enormous concerns about where Trump’s loyalties lie, and was one of the first commentators to highlight the bizarre lovefest between the president-elect and Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was in July of last year that Maher called Trump the “voice of treason” for calling on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.
“I don’t want to say he’s a Russian agent, but he certainly is more loyal to Vladimir Putin than he is to the loyal opposition of America,” Maher says. “I don’t want to say for sure that there’s some tape that Vladimir Putin has of him doing something in a hotel room with a hooker, but he sure acts exactly like a man would if you had a blackmail tape on him.”
It took eight years and a petition signed by more than 320,000 people to convince President Obama to appear on his show, so he’s not holding his breath for an appearance by President Trump. Maher invited Trump to be his guest on his post-election show in November, but the president-elect declined.
Echoing comments made by Jimmy Kimmel this week regarding other hosts who claim they might ban the president from their shows—as Seth Meyers jokingly did early last year—Maher says that President Trump is “absolutely” welcome to come on Real Time whenever he wants. “Of course, he’s the president,” he adds. But unlike some other late-night hosts, Maher says he would never let Trump “use” him to further his agenda.
You have to treat him like a “politician” and not the “celebrity” that he once was and still is at heart, Maher adds. “But if you’re going to have the president on, no matter who the president is, you have to hold their feet to the fire.”
Stay tuned for The Daily Beast’s full interview with Bill Maher, which will run on Monday, January 23rd.