Donald Trump might actually be looking down the barrel of accountability, for once in his life. And he’s terrified at the prospect.
“He’s scared shitless,” John Kelly, Trump’s former chief of staff, told The Washington Post. “This is the way he compensates for that. He gives people the appearance he doesn’t care by doing this. For the first time in his life, it looks like he’s being held accountable. Up until this point in his life, it’s like, I’m not going to pay you, take me to court. He’s never been held accountable before.”
And while Trump faces 37 counts of mishandling secret government documents, the overcompensation is certainly evident. Inside the courtroom Tuesday, Trump reportedly remained silent, with special counsel Jack Smith’s eyes trained on him throughout the entire arraignment.
After his arrest, Trump fled to his Bedminster, New Jersey, private golf club, to deliver remarks to a mix of Republican donors, party members, and a slew of other allies (all people whose eyes wouldn’t make him feel uncomfortable, unlike earlier in the day).
The Post reports that the crowd included the likes of Senator Tommy Tuberville (whose attendance allowed Democrats to confirm Biden’s pick for the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, 50–49), conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell, and Ohio Senate candidate Bernie Moreno (who wants reparations for white people and whose family gave maximum donations to serial liar George Santos). All that to say, Trump enjoyed a friendly crowd to cleanse his palate from being in the courtroom earlier.
“It’s part public relations and part babysitting,” Stephanie Grisham, one of Trump’s former White House press secretaries, told the Post. “He wants people to see the cheering crowds so they don’t think anything is going wrong. It’s also because the staff around him want to keep him busy and wants to have people cheering for him and giving him the ego stroke that he’ll need so they don’t have to deal with him being completely pissed.”
After the arraignment but before the lovefest, Trump also visited Versailles, a Miami Cuban restaurant. There, a reporter asked Trump if he was ready to go to jail, and hordes of loyal supporters immediately activated, targeting her like sharks smelling blood:
Most members of the press were kicked out from the event, perhaps to make sure Trump had the safest space possible, so he wouldn’t feel triggered or uncomfortable. Trump has weathered being impeached twice, indicted, and found liable for sexual abuse. But as he faced perhaps the strongest legal challenge yet—with more and more Republicans beginning to actually come out against him—all he could look to as a crutch was his final, most relentless fans singing “Happy Birthday” to him one day before his seventy-seventh birthday.