May 4, 2024 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Trump can’t stay awake at trial, which is far less demanding than being president. That’s the story

He isn’t “compartmentalizing,” writes Stephen Robinson.

Courtesy of MSNBC, via screenshot.
Courtesy of MSNBC, via screenshot.

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Editor’s note: The following essay first appeared in The Play Typer Guy, Stephen’s newsletter about politics and the arts. –JS

Donald Trump, savvy political operator, has realized that repeatedly falling asleep during his current criminal trial does not inspire voter confidence, so he’s instead fallen back on his most reliable crisis management technique — lying. He posted Thursday on his jack-legged social media site:

“Contrary to the FAKE NEWS MEDIA, I don’t fall asleep during the Crooked D.A.’s Witch Hunt, especially not today. I simply close my beautiful blue eyes, sometimes, listen intensely, and take it ALL in!!

This is the man who might win another term in the White House. He thinks he’s Sinatra.

Maggie Haberman at the Times reported on the first day of Trump’s trial that he “appears to be sleeping. His head keeps dropping down and his mouth goes slack.” He wasn’t aware of his surroundings and “didn’t pay attention to a note his lawyer passed him. His jaw kept falling on his chest and his mouth kept going slack.” He cuddled with the Sandman two more times that week.

Last Monday, Times reporter Susanne Craig noted that Trump “struggled to stay awake” before opening statements began. “His eyes were closed for a short period. He was jolted awake when Todd Blanche, his lawyer, nudged him while sliding a note in front of him.”

NBC News reported on Tuesday that Trump’s baby blues “were closed for extended periods and his head at times jerked in a way consistent with sleeping.”

Wait, was Trump lying about his Batman sleep schedule?
Scott Nover at Slate “spoke with esteemed sleep researchers and medical professionals to learn how in the world it’s even possible that Trump is accomplishing this feat of public napping. Surely, there must be something about the pressure of being a defendant in a criminal trial that’s hypnotizing the leader of the Republican ticket?”

Or Trump is 77 years old, sleepy and gassy.

Ann Rogers, a professor at Emory University who studies sleep and is probably a lot of fun, confirmed: “There is nothing specific about the courtroom that is sleep-inducing. In fact, I would assume that most people on trial would be anxious and that would keep them awake.”

She assumes a great deal for a professor.

Excessive daytime sleepiness, especially among senior citizens, is often a result of sleep deprivation, and Trump has a habit of staying up all night posting nonsense on social media. As Rogers points out, Trump boasted in 2015: “I’m not a big sleeper, I like three hours, four hours, I toss, I turn, I beep-de-beep, I want to find out what’s going on.” (Melania’s probably safely in another room, so Trump’s “beep-de-beeps” are a solitary affair.)

Going without sleep was a big part of Trump’s fabricated image. He claimed people who slept too much were lazy.

“Don’t sleep any more than you have to,” he wrote in his 2004 book Think Like A Billionaire. “I usually sleep about four hours per night.”

Republicans would often suggest that Trump rarely slept during his nightmare administration. His former acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said in February 2020 that Trump “never sleeps” and went a full day and a half without sleep during an international trip.

Trump might claim he doesn’t need much sleep, but what’s likely is that he often dozes off during the day and his cronies just play along. Now, he’s in a courtroom at 8 and can’t hide the truth.

“Wednesday morning, [Trump] lands in the helicopter. He flew to India, did day and half of work, flew back, did not sleep on the flight home … he’s emailing, and texting, and taking phone calls … He lands about 7:30 in the morning on Wednesday. He did that press conference Wednesday night … he had not slept.”

Few people can function on just four hours of sleep a night, at least not without cocaine-induced assistance. Trump might claim he doesn’t need much sleep, but what’s likely is that he often dozes off during the day and his cronies just play along. His actual “work day” as president didn’t start until 11, but according to the daily schedule shared with the press, he got up bright and early at 6. The next five hours were devoted to “executive time,” an absurd euphemism for watching Fox & Friends in bed. Now, he’s in a courtroom at 8 and can’t hide the truth.

Wednesday night, Haberman told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins that “there’s this huge sleeping debate,” but it’s not a debate. There are not competing theories. Trump’s openly fallen asleep in court.

“Sometimes, he is — sometimes he is sleeping,” Haberman conceded. “That is a 100 percent true. I’ve seen it. People around him have confirmed to me that he has been sleeping at times that we have said he is.”

“However, sometimes he is closing his eyes,” she added. “And I’ve talked to people around him about this too, because that is how he tries to just basically stay calm and deal with it. And whether that then leads to sleep or whatever, who knows? But he is sitting there with his eyes closed for long periods of time. It’s not always sleeping.”

That’s a very generous sleep analysis. Yes, closing your eyes for an extended period leads to sleep for most mammals, but maybe Trump isn’t always sleeping when his eyes are shut. Sometimes, he’s just completely checked out. He’s imagining himself as a pony running peacefully through a large field, but wait, there’s Kristi Noem up ahead with a shotgun!

The rest of their exchange is just bizarre.

COLLINS: Yes, I noticed this, because he’s very clearly awake, but his eyes are closed, for like a minute at a time as

HABERMAN: Sometimes more, yes.

COLLINS: … as Keith Davidson or the witnesses is answering. It’s like he doesn’t want to hear what they’re saying either.

HABERMAN: I think it’s — I think it is a compartmentalization method. And he’s pretty good at compartmentalizing.

No, he’s not! What are these words that she’s saying? Trump is completely unstable and lacks any sense of emotional discipline. It’s not as if he leaves the trial in the courtroom when he’s campaigning or at home. He’s been issued a gag order and held in contempt because he can’t stop attacking witnesses and jurors.

Trump isn’t “compartmentalizing.” He’s unable to focus and stay awake during his trial, which is far less demanding than serving as commander in chief. That’s the story, but Haberman will still find a way to put a positive spin on a damning situation for the guy who calls her “Maggot.” Maybe she’s the one who should wake up.

Stephen Robinson is the publisher of The Play Typer Guy, a newsletter and podcast about politics and the arts. Follow him @SER1897.

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