Trump’s missed strategy

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I had the misfortune to survive two malignant narcissists in the early and middle parts of my life. However unpleasant those twin black clouds may have been for me, they provided rare silver linings of insight into the fiendish motivations of Donald Trump. For example, the crowning irony of narcissism, it seems to me, is that the narcissist always destroys the thing he or she craves more than anything else: universal worshipful adoration. In no one else does this peculiar contradiction apply more than to Donald Trump.

A certain humble vulnerability is an important key to being liked, and that is the one quality narcissists such as Trump can never summon, no matter how much they might need it. Narcissists might have weak-minded and stupid followers who love them, but they are never universally well-loved, because they can’t bring themselves to concede minor points to achieve larger goals.

For example, both my narcissists were highly intelligent. But they could never concede that they didn’t already know something, unless the thing itself was something they held in contempt, like, say, television or modern music. The know-it-all is seldom widely popular. Above all they can never admit when they’ve made a mistake. Such admissions are often endearing in intelligent people, but narcissists simply don’t know how to be endearing.

Which brings me to some insights I came across, compliments of two online lawyers Ben Meiselas and Michael Popok of the Midas Touch Network. They outlined a possible defence strategy for Donald Trump in his election interference trial that could have been quite effective. They share it now because it’s too late for it to do Trump any good. In any case, it’s a strategy that he would have rejected out of hand, because, as a narcissist, he’s incapable of following it.

It goes like this: Trump could have agreed to stipulate that, yes, he really did know and have sex with Stormy Daniels, and yes, in an excess of embarrassment and a wish to be liked by American voters he covered it up, but he honestly didn’t know that the method he used to pay her was unlawful and for that he’s genuinely sorry. Had he done that he might have won the case. He could have said he was not guilty because there was never any criminal intent. Of the many ways he chose to reimburse Michael Cohen for paying Ms Daniels, he accidentally chose one that was illegal.

While that strategy also might not have saved him, it would have helped him to gain sympathy with the jury and possibly even the court. At least he would have had a chance to win.

I think Meiselas and Popok got it right. It would have been thumping great defence, particularly if it had been presented with a certain regretful humility by his lawyers. But above all, there would have been no reason to call Trump’s most personally devastating witnesses, Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels, because everything they testified to was about what Trump already stipulated. What would be the point?

Moreover, even had Trump ultimately been found guilty, that strategy would have probably earned him a lighter sentence. Perhaps even a sentence that would have carried no jail time. Any stronger sentence would have provided Trump with considerable sympathy from the American people.

Instead, Trump forced his lawyers to lie and to pursue a belligerent strategy so transparently dishonest as to destroy any potential sympathy he might have otherwise gained with the court and the jury. His defence is to insist that the brief encounter with Ms Daniels never happened, and that Cohen and Daniels concocted a frame up intended to blackmail and ultimately destroy him. The problem with this strategy is obvious. Trump’s fingerprints are all over the crime scene, and the paper trail, witness testimony and even a digital recording of Trump’s voice prove his guilt well beyond a reasonable doubt.

So once again narcissism destroys the narcissist. For his troubles Donald Trump will almost certainly become the first former US president to be convicted of a felony. As a felon Trump will also become the first president in US history who will be ineligible to vote for himself. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

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