Trump’s call suggests that he may actually believe his own fantasies

I listened and read the entire transcript of the call that Trump made to Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, on Saturday trying to get him to just ‘find’ 11,780 new Trump votes to overturn Joe Biden’s 11,779 margin of victory in the state. In the one-hour call, he spoke for about 90% of the time and shifts around from pleading (“So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.”) to threatening to whining, but mostly whining. All the while he flings around all manner of numbers that he got from who knows which he purports to show that he won by tens of thousands of votes or by hundreds of thousands or even by half a million. As Raffensperger and his lawyer Ryan Germany try to rebut each point, Trump just moves to another one.

But there was one thing that jumped out at me. I had been working on the assumption that Trump knew that he had lost the election and that his claims about a stolen election was a grift to get people to send him money. The grift angle is still valid but my reason for thinking that he knew he had lost was because no person in his right mind could think otherwise. But listening to him and reading the transcript raised the disturbing possibility that Trump is actually living in a delusional world.

Remember, he said all these things in what he thought was a private phone call, not in some public forum where he is talking to his cult followers who seems to be willing to believe anything he says, however outlandish. He seems to have really fallen into a mental abyss where he thinks that he really did win the election but that a huge conspiracy has been at work to thwart him.

I had assumed that once Congress certifies the election on Wednesday, he would find some face-saving way of easing himself out of the White House. But now, given my dark forebodings about his mental state, I am not so sure, which raises the question of what happens as January 20th draws near. Much attention has been paid to the official transition between outgoing government officials and the Biden transition team. But what about the personal aspect? On January 20th, after the inauguration ceremony, the president and spouse take the traditional walk to the helicopter and fly away, and the new president and spouse move in. That traditional ritual signifying a peaceful transition is becoming increasingly unlikely.

But what about all their stuff? When do they normally start the process of moving the outgoing resident’s stuff and the new one’s stuff in? This article outlines what happened when Barack Obama moved in back in 2009.

The president-elect is responsible for arranging transportation for his furniture, clothes, and personal effects from Chicago to a White House storage facility in Maryland (where they also keep antiques, Easter decorations, paintings, etc.). The Secret Service oversees the whole process, which usually happens the week before the inauguration. It provides an escort for the moving vehicles and screens all items—books, desks, chairs—before they enter the facility. But Obama has to cover the transportation costs, either with personal funds or money raised for his campaign or transition.

Once the incoming president’s stuff is on White House grounds, the residence staff takes custody of his possessions. The chief usher, who coordinates move-in day, provides the staff with White House floor plans and photos that indicate where each item goes.

The Inauguration Day move-in takes about six hours. It starts at 10:30 a.m., when the sitting president and the first lady have a traditional tea with the president-elect before heading over to Capitol Hill for the swearing-in. Once they leave, the 93-person staff shifts into high gear. (They don’t hire outside help for security reasons as well as privacy.) The operations personnel does the heavy lifting while a housekeeping detail helps prepare the bedrooms, curators make sure the furnishings and décor are just so, florists worry about bouquet arrangements, and the chefs prepare the post-inauguration dinner. At the same time, the staff moves the ex-president out. Items get loaded into boxes, which get loaded into vans and then military cargo planes that carry everything to the former president’s new residence. With only two elevators, it’s organized chaos. [My italics-MS]

So it looks like Trump’s stuff will not get moved out until inauguration day.

While it is true that the furniture and other big stuff does not get moved, making things a little easier, surely some preparatory work has to be done even before that day to make sure that all and only the personal effects are taken? What if Trump refuses to cooperate in that process?


  1. kestrel says

    I think he knows he lost.

    I’ve mentioned before that we had a family member who behaved in nearly the exact same way DT does -- even down to some of the phrases that he uses. Whenever she said something, I think she believed it -- as far as that goes. Then 10 minutes later she would say something completely contradictory, as DT does, and she’d believe that too. On the other hand there were times when she would admit she knew that she was causing trouble, and actually really did know what was going on. What I’ve read from psychologists is that such people do know they are causing trouble, they just don’t care. It’s like they are in a play, starring them, that is all about them. They write the lines as they go along, and as they get ideas they think will make them even more important and impressive. The rest of us are props. I think DT is having a hard time grasping that his props are not cooperating. Imagine how stunned you’d be if your chair suddenly refused to let you sit in it. So yes, he’s basically negotiating with a chair, but at the same time, I think he actually does really know that he lost. He’s just decided that in his play, he didn’t.

  2. says

    Since “narcissism” is both a popular term, and a psychiatric diagnosis in DSM-5, it’s best to refer to the clinical version as “narcissistic personality disorder” [medscape]

    Mayo Clinic describes it as:

    Narcissistic personality disorder — one of several types of personality disorders — is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

    A narcissistic personality disorder causes problems in many areas of life, such as relationships, work, school or financial affairs. People with narcissistic personality disorder may be generally unhappy and disappointed when they’re not given the special favors or admiration they believe they deserve. They may find their relationships unfulfilling, and others may not enjoy being around them.

    It does sound familiar.

  3. says

    sonofrojblake@1. I wonder if Trumps flight plans will be ruined by the fact that Scotland has just gone on another Covid lockdown. Might they not allow any incoming flights? Oh, silly me. Of course Trump will ignore whatever they say.

  4. brucegee1962 says

    I have read that, if Trump were to be prosecuted for that phone call, his attorneys could use the argument that he sincerely believes the election was stolen as a defense.

    I think that, like many people, he believes things that he wants to believe. It sounds as if, at first, he listened to advisors who knew what they were talking about and was convinced that he lost. But then he discovered conspiracy theory web sites and dove right in, and they fed him exactly the kind of bs that his ego wanted to hear. Unfortunately, QAnon has bamboozled folks considerably smarter than he is (of course, that group includes most of the adult population and a large number of the kids as well).

  5. says

    I think that, like many people, he believes things that he wants to believe.

    All I suggest is a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.
    (Simon and Garfunkel)

  6. machintelligence says

    Trump may be starting to believe his own propaganda. That is never a good idea.

  7. Reginald Selkirk says

    In the movie A View to a Kill, widely regarded as one of the weakest James Bond films, there is a scene in which the female lead(played by Tanya Roberts, who may or may not be dead as I write this) tries to shame the villain (Zorin, played by Christopher Walken) into doing the right thing. Bond(Roger Moore) tells her, “Don’t bother, he’s a psychopath.”* Due to his personality disorder, he literally feels no shame. Trump is like that. He likes to see his name in the headlines every single day. Every issue is about him. If people are wearing masks or not, it is as a comment on him. And so on.

    * Paraphrased. I’m not going to watch that thing again just to nail a quote.

  8. DonDueed says

    Mano, a small correction: the Georgia SoS is named Raffensperger, not Raffenberger as you have it in a couple places. I noticed because I made a similar mistake myself yesterday..

  9. xohjoh2n says

    @11 almost. Zorin is telling her that she should have seen things his way. She tries to insult him in reply:

    Zorin (catching them searching an office): Alive and well, I see. And still bungling in the dark.
    Bond: Well then why don’t you enlighten me, Zorin?
    Zorin: You’re out of your depth. And you, Sutton, you should have accepted my more than generous offer.
    Sutton: You can take your offer and shove…
    Bond (interrupting): Don’t bother Stacy. He’s a psychopath.

  10. Mano Singham says

    DonDueed @#12

    Wow, I don’t know why I had not noticed that! Once I thought it was Raffenberger, I got locked into seeing it that way.


  11. sonofrojblake says

    @Jorg,8: Sturgeon is grandstanding. What’s she going to do? Shoot down his plane? No. Instruct ATC to turn it away? I doubt it. Turn back Trump and his heavily armed Secret Service detail at passport control? Not really. If Trump wants to go to Scotland there’s not a fucking thing anyone in that country can realistically do to stop him. You can’t possibly imagine he’d care about how it’s going to look?

  12. says

    Turn back Trump and his heavily armed Secret Service detail at passport control? Not really.

    Why not? Trump might be crazy enough to try to shoot his way into a foreign country, with no backup, but are the agents?

    It’ll be impossible to prevent him from landing if he really wants to (short of shooting the plane out of the sky, which I don’t imagine anyone wants to try), but detaining him at the airport might well be feasible.

  13. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    But listening to him and reading the transcript raised the disturbing possibility that Trump is actually living in a delusional world.

    Seriously. You’re only coming to that conclusion now? Join the rest of the club. Trump is an extreme textbook narcissistic, e.g., colloquially, he’s crazy. Truth and falsehood doesn’t exist for him -- just whatever is convenient to his own personal benefit at the time. This has been obvious for quite a long time.

    Sociopathic narcissists like this are physically incapable of accepting blame. It’s never their fault. They always blame someone else. Sometimes they can admit fault in order for their own personal benefit, but it’s always a lie. Trump will never admit to himself that he lost fairly, and/or he will find others to blame for the failure.

    To people like Trump, the world is all about them. They do not and cannot care about other people. Other people don’t exist. He views other people like we might view our pets, or our cattle. They are simply tools that he might be able to use for his own gratification.

  14. John Morales says


    He views other people like we might view our pets, or our cattle. They are simply tools that he might be able to use for his own gratification.

    That is informative — about you.

    I assure you, many people see their pets as part of their family. Me included.

  15. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    John Morales
    I misspoke. I was typing quickly, and projecting how I thought Trump would think. I explained poorly.

    PS: You’re still an asshole.

  16. KG says

    Sturgeon is telling Trump it would be illegal under Covid-19 regulations to fly to Scotland to play golf. She would be remiss in her duties if she did not do this. He can’t now say he has not been told. In itself, her statment does not imply anything at all about what Scottish police or airport authorities would or would not do if he chooses to break Scottish law. However, Scotland’s health secretary Jeane Freeman said that if Trump ignored the warnings to stay away, the Scottish Government “would use every power available to it to protect the health of its citizens”. I imagine they would try to impose quarantine on him and his entourage. Whether the latter would be prepared to shoot Scottish police or airport authorities in order to break quarantine I can’t say; but if they did, I think the UK government would be obliged to support the Scottish authorities in taking any necessary action to arrest the perpetrators.

    Just today Scottish politicians of at least three parties (SNP, Scottish Greens, LibDems) have asked the UK government to issue an exclusion order banning Trump from entering the country. Sturgeon, like everyone else in Scottish politics, is well aware that this is a reserved power, i.e. resides with the UK government.

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