Consequently, he is plainly out of sorts, say former close associates, longtime Trump watchers and mental health experts.
It's not just his odd behavior—the testy, tiny desk session with the press, the stilted Medal of Freedom ceremony that ended with his awkward exit, the cut-short trip to the Army-Navy football game. It's even more pointedly his conspicuous and ongoing absences. The narcissistic Trump has spent the last half a century—but especially the last half a decade—making himself and keeping himself the most paid-attention-to person on the planet. But in the month and a half since Election Day, Trump has been seen and heard relatively sparingly and sporadically. No-showing unexpectedly at a Christmas party, sticking to consistently sparse public schedules and speaking mainly through his increasingly manic Twitter feed, he's been fixated more than anything else on his baseless insistence that he won the election when he did not.
Over the course of a lifetime of professional and personal transgressions and failures, channeling lasting, curdled lessons of Norman Vincent Peale and Roy Cohn, Trump has assembled a record of rather remarkable resilience. His typical level of activity and almost animal energy has at times lent him an air of insusceptibility, every one of his brushes with financial or reputational ruin ending with Trump emerging all but untouched. His current crisis, though, his eviction from the White House now just a month out, is something altogether different and new.
"He's never been in a situation in which he has lost in a way he can't escape from," Mary Trump, his niece and the author of the fiercely critical and bestselling book about him and their family, told me. "We continue to wait for him to accept reality, for him to concede, and that is something he is not capable of doing," added Bandy Lee, the forensic psychiatrist from Yale who's spent the last four years trying to warn the world about Trump and the ways in which he's disordered and dangerous. "Being a loser," she said, for Trump is tantamount to "psychic death."
The combination of an unprecedented rebuke meeting an uncommonly vulnerable ego has some people wondering if there is a chance that Trump's unusual actions suggest something potentially more dire. Could he be on his way to a mental breakdown?