I admit it, I am not a lawyer. Nevertheless, I think I have the key to Donald Trump’s very best plea. In fact, it’s the only plea that might actually work. But I hasten to add that I am in absolutely no danger of giving the game away, because it’s a plea that won’t happen. Not in a million years.
The plea is “not guilty by reason of insanity.” The great paradox is that despite the indisputable fact that this is, in my view, Donald Trump’s very best defence, possibly his only chance for an acquittal, he will never agree to it. Trump’s “insanity” is NPD, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. He will never use it as a defence because his narcissism won’t allow it.
I am all too bitterly familiar with the type, and I know Trump will not and can not admit that he is “weak.” He sees mental illness as a weakness, you see, something for losers, and he won’t agree to admit he’s weak. This is in fact a feature of his disorder. Because he is a narcissist he will never admit he’s a narcissist. That is why I am in no danger of giving the game away. It’s a defence Donald Trump will not and can not use.
Instead, Trump’s lawyers are going to use the laughably naive “freedom of speech” defence. In other words, they will claim Trump had a first amendment right to plot the insurrection. Besides, they will insist, Trump really believed he won the 2020 election.
There’s an immediate problem with that defence. Most crimes involve talking. You can’t get away with robbing a bank just because you spoke about it in advance and, therefore, prosecuting you would be a violation of your first amendment right of free speech! Even if you really believed the money in the bank belonged to you, it is not yours to take, and if you try to take it you will go to prison.
It’s a defence a child could demolish. But when spoken in grave undertones by talking heads on Fox News, lots of stupid people believe it. And they will repeat it, over and over and over, until it becomes a kind of mantra, a MAGA slogan. But while it might sway the weak minded, it will never fly in a court of law.
The thing about the insanity plea is this. Having endured two narcissists in my life I am convinced that Trump is incapable of admitting out loud that he lost the election. In the early days after the 2020 election a lot of talking heads claimed that Trump would soon admit he’d lost. I knew better back then, not because I have some special gift for political prognostication but because I know my narcissists from firsthand experience. I said it at the time and I say it again: Trump will never admit he lost the election, not in a million years.
A lot of people waste a lot of time claiming he “really knows” he lost. Of course he knows he lost. But with a narcissist, when an immovable fact meets his unstoppable will it’s reality that is going to lose — every single time. It’s a way of thinking most normal people are incapable of pulling off. But not Trump.
Believe it or not Trump simultaneously knows both that he lost the election and that he won the election. That is his insanity, and that is why an insanity plea might work. Fortunately for us and justice he will never use it. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.