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President Trump’s interview this week with the New York Times made headlines for his revelation that he would never have chosen Jeff Sessions as attorney general if he had known Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Here at STAT, however, we combed through the transcript of the Oval Office interview for something else: examples of the emotional subtexts that psychiatrists and psychologists told us offer a window into the president’s mind.

Overall, Trump was more articulate than he has been in some recent appearances, an important reminder than his tortured syntax might reflect not mental decline but emotional stress: He seemed comfortable with the reporters. Nevertheless, the workings of Trump’s mind, as inferred by experts who have described their observations to STAT since January, shone through. “Most of the now-familiar Trumpian patterns are here,” said psychologist John Montgomery of New York University. Among them:


The New York Times

This was a quick pivot from a brief answer to a question about working with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Trump instead used the question to extol his own knowledge. It’s an example of what psychologists call “compulsive more-than behavior”: a deep need to never feel even slightly less than others in terms of knowledge, intelligence, power, or popularity. That need often arises when someone finds the idea that he could fall short of anyone on virtually any measure a profound threat to his sense of self. Montgomery and other experts all cautioned that they have never spoken to Trump, but are drawing inferences from his past behavior and public statements.

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