April 8, 2023

Why Clarence Thomas shouldn't have had to disclose his trips to visit his close friends

By Hal Brown

In view of what came out since I originally wrote this with the top illustration (see Sunday blog here) I added the bottom image.

Clarence and Ginni have two besties. They happen to be fairly rich. To quote what Clarence said:

“Harlan and Kathy Crow are among our dearest friends, and we have been friends for over 25 years. As friends do, we have joined them on a number of family trips during the more than quarter-century we have known them.”

People, with the exception of hermits and totally anti-social curmudgeons, have friends. Most have a range of friends some of whom are closer than others.

On occasion they may exchange gifts, say for birthdays, and how expensive, or lavish, these gifts are varies. Some people visit each other so often that they rarely if ever bring presents. On special occasions people of modest means may bring a bottle of supermarket wine when they eat over at a friend's house. 

It may look tawdry, or worse, for Clarence and Ginni Thomas to have considered travel on a private jet and being entertained on a big boat not to be things they need to have reported as gifts, but rich people consider their planes and yachts to be homes away from home. What's the difference, really, between having meal prepared by a chef and having your pal flip burgers on a backyard grill? Food is food, right?

People may be served hamburgers or they may serve filet mignon on special occasions. Wealthy people may treat their houseguests to Dom Perignon champagne and expensive cheese. The super rich may serve astronomically expensive vintage wine, Croatian truffles, and  "Strottarga Bianco" caviar .

Headlines like the following included terms that are relative:

What's to be defined as a lavish gift?

There are some people who would scoff at the description of what The NY Times headlines as lavish gifts.

Is there a line between driving to visit friends for dinner, having your kids play in their above ground pool, and having a barbecue, and what the Thomas's did by being transported in a common Bombardier Global 5000 private jet and being entertained on yacht that in the snobby yachting world wouldn't even be considered a super yacht. 

After all the Crows are said to be worth a paltry $2 billion. There are super yachts that cost  almost that much or more

The Michela Rose is the boat the Thomas's were entertained on.

There are private jets that cost much more than the one the couple own. For example the AirBus A380 owned by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal goes for $600 million.

To mirror Marc Antony's eulogy for Julius Caesar indulge me when I say that I come not to bury Thomas nor to praise him. The evil Thomas has done, and is likely to continue to do, will be his legacy. There is no Brutus to end his tenure.  

There are those who argue that no person should be above the law and those who contend that only Donald Trump should be above the law. Clarence Thomas gave the appearance of impropriety, but did he break any laws in accepting the hospitality of his close friends and not reporting this?

There are those in public office who are scrupulous about accepting absolutely nothing of value from anyone who might be trying to influence them.  For example, I have a friend who used to work for a U.S. Senator as a senior aide. From time to time they reminded them that they shouldn't let a lobbyist pick up the tab when they dined out. There are others in official positions who may be a bit looser when it comes to such matters.

What are the ethical boundaries for people who have political power and influence?

I once invited a local lawmaker to lunch for an interview. Lunch would be on me. He wouldn’t allow it. “I wouldn’t even let you buy me a cup of coffee at Starbucks,” he told me.

At least that was a good thing, since I’m not exactly a fan of Starbucks.

A member of Congress, the executive branch, or the judiciary may engage with lobbyists and others who want to influence policy. It's also possible they could be friends with them. This, truly, could put one in a sticky wicket.

These revelations about Clarence hopefully has him meandering in a mucilaginous morass. If he and Ginni are feeling stuck in the muck it makes me happy. However, I rather doubt anything will come of it. I have a feeling that this will prove to be a tempest in a teapot, although it may be an expensive teapot.

Updates: You'll need a subscription to read why The Wall Street Journal says this is a smear.

"The left is furious it lost control of the Supreme Court, and it wants it back by whatever means possible. The latest effort is a smear on Justice Thomas."

Is it illegal for Thomas to receive gifts? 

Generally speaking, Supreme Court justices are required to disclose any perks that they receive if they are valued at more than $415 and they aren't reimbursed, according to public filings for judicial officers and employees. Those perks may include travel, food or lodging. 

But some exceptions can include situations when a person hosts a justice on their own property, in which case food and lodging would not have to be disclosed. But this exception does not apply to travel expenses such as costs for a private plane, however. 

Additionally, it appears Thomas should have reported vacations at Crow's Camp Topridge resort in New York because the developer technically owns the resort through a company, as opposed to owning it personally, according to ProPublica.

This confirms that everything that the Thomases accepted by way of hospitality on the Crow's yacht wasn't different than it would have been if they went to a friend's backyard barbecue. The travel expenses should have been reported.

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April 7, 2023

A pschoanalyst assesses what's likely happening with Trump as he faces legal consequences

 By Hal Brown

Justin Frank's book cover has a giant Trump head on the traditional Freudian couch. 

I made the illustration below showing that Trump is not "normal" which I meant to convey just how atypical his personality is. This doesn't mean it is impossible to understand how his mind works, what motivates him, and how to best predict his future behavior. It means that this is a very difficult endeavor requiring a particular knowledge base and skill set.

Thanks to Raw Story's Tom Boggioni, who summarized the Chauncey DeVega interview which was published in Salon, (link below) with psychoanalyst Justin Frank, MD (here 'Caged animal' Trump may need a 'secure padded cell' as trial progresses: psychiatrist ) I don't have to do it.

If you don't read the interview at least I think you should consider reading the summary on Raw Story. Still, I think you will find the interview illuminating and I hope you read it.

"He is visualizing burning things and blowing them up": How Trump may be coping with being caught

Justin Frank, author of "Trump on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President," on this week's historic indictments

These are the three quotes Salon emphasized:

One more excerpt:

Predators can massively regress in such circumstances and lose even a modicum of self-control. They lash out and need to be restrained for their safety and that of their caregivers. That's why we have secure padded cells (euphemized as "quiet rooms") inside locked wards in mental hospitals.

These are colloquially often referred to as "rubber rooms". Illustration modified by HB.

I have been writing about how people shouldn't assume that they know with absolute certainty what Trump has been feeling these days as he faces the legal consequences of his actions. (see footnote)

Justin Frank doesn't do this. His comments are replete with modifiers which explain that Trump is most likely experiencing certain emotions and why this is the case with him given his personality type. 

What Frank offers is an exposition of what I was too lazy to even try to write about. Besides, he is a psychoanalyst as opposed to a psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapist which I was for the 40+ years of my career. He simply is far better qualified than I am  to dig this deeply into what those in the mental health field call the psychodynamics of an individual.


In this exclusive interview, Thom and Dr. Frank talk about psychosis, whether or not if it is contagious / hereditary, the presidency, plus much much more.

Dr. Frank has also been on the Lawrence O'Donnell show.

Update: This is gratifying

Footnote (my previous blogs on this subject):

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April 6, 2023

Wash. Post artists take liberties in drawing Trump during his arraignment.

 By Hal Brown

The drawing below is what caught my attention in The Washington Post (subscription article) this morning:

Top caption: "Reporters inside the courtroom noted that Trump seemed disengaged with those around him during the arraignment. (Jane Rosenberg/Reuters)" Bottom: two screen grabs from when cameras were allowed in the courtroom. Click image above to enlarge.

In the article there's another sketch by a different artist (click image to enlarge):

Many journalists have speculated on what they thought Trump felt during his arraignment. Of course they don't know. They are basing assumptions based on what a normal person would feel.

Of all the images from the video coverage this is only one shows Trump outwardly expressing what one can reasonably construe as a feeling:

I wrote about how people are making assumptions that they know, or think they know, how Trump is feeling twice in the past few days. 

Nobody knows for certain how Trump feels except Trump


Michael Cohen and others claim to know what's in Trump's headspace. They don't.

Today we have non-written speculation in the form of drawings which, unless Trump changed his facial expressions drastically, exaggerate his feelings.

All I am attempting to convey is that those writing about or talking about how Trump feels ought to be more precise in using modifiers like "probably" and "a typical person" since Trump has an unusual personality. He doesn't experience his external world the way the vast majority of people do.

In this way he is more like the most ardent members of his cult who perceive reality in a distorted, sometime even clinically paranoid way.

My own educated guess, as someone who was a psychotherapist for over 40 years, is that Trump is most likely engaging in psychological denial and keeping his anxiety buried (i.e., unconscious), but that for fleeting moments it leaks into awareness. Even if he doesn't actually think about his plight he may not be able to totally control his facial expressions. He's been an actor all of his adult life, a performance artist. He's no Robert DeNiro who is known not only for playing many kinds of characters, from Travis Bickel to Frankenstein's monster, for staying in character even when the cameras aren't rolling.

Trump has played two similar public roles: whatever he was supposed to be on "The Apprentice" and, as a politician, the uber-confident self-aggrandizing macho-man.

I noted in a previous blog that there is something that Trump can't control. These are his dreams. Whether nightmares or anxiety dreams of being helpless and being harmed, these would show what is in his unconscious mind. Unless he sleeps with Melania (debatable) nobody knows if he wakes up screaming in the middle of the night.


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April 5, 2023

Stage Four Legal Cancer: Trump admitted he committed a much bigger crime than stealing the documents

 By Hal Brown

These are the words he used:

Click image above to go to tweet

“God bless you all. I never thought anything like this could happen in America,” he said, adding that the only crime he’s committed is trying “to defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it.”

Jack Smith might ask the jury that if Trump literally stood on a gallows, put a noose around Mike Pence's neck, and opened the trapdoor under his feet, and then said he didn't commit a crime because he was defending the nation, did this justify what he did.

Trump, it has been pointed out by some in the media, already admitted he took the documents (saying that he could do so because he could declassify them just by thinking the thought) even though taking any documents, top secret or not, is against the law. (See "Trump appears to concede he illegally retained official documents'")

This will make things easy for Jack Smith to indict on the Mar-a-Lago documents case. It shows that Trump knew all about taking the documents, supposedly thinking he had a right to do so, and once he was disabused of this false belief or claim, still refused to return them. This is obstruction, a serious felony. Add all this together we have Michael Jordan levels of several game winning slam dunks for Jack Smith.

This is one of the two cases Smith is working on. From what we know it is seems to be easy to win. 

The other federal case is Trump's involvement and legal culpability in the January 6th insurrection. This may include things he did on the days prior to January 6th, but centers around how he incited the audience at his rally earlier in the day to march to the Capitol and engage in a violent attempt to stop Mike Pence from certifying the election of President Biden.

His statement is an admission of culpability in committing a crime, really crimes, far more significant than the admission in the documents case. It is an admission that he is aware he has committed crimes related to everything he did in an attempt to remain in power despite losing the election. This goes far beyond just trying to find the extra votes in Georgia through fraud. It involves inciting, aiding, and abetting the Jan. 6th insurrection, and an attempt to undermine the Constitution and the peaceful transfer of powers.

These are the only "crimes" that could be what he said would involve his "fearlessly" defending the nation from those seeking to destroy it.

A jury hearing and reading the many hyperbolic claims that Trump made without him as president the country would be destroyed ought to be persuaded to take him at his words. 

In the "only crime I committed" statement he is admitting that he knew what he did to remain in power was a crime.

Jack Smith isn't the only prosecutor for whom Trump has offered up a prosecutorial ammunition on a silver platter. Not only does Fani Willis have a tape of Trump asking Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to recalculate the state's vote in his favorbut Trump said it was an "absolutely PERFECT (sic) call."

Aside from the fact that Trump has to contend with high profile four cases against him he also has two civil suits, ones from Eric Swallwell and from Rep. Bennie Thompson about the insurrection. 

Trump has two years where he'll be slogging though one legal tarpit after another. Through this period he will be trying to put on his warrior face as a fearless presidential candidate.

He's set up this Superman image of himself in his iconography (see the illustration of some of his digital trading cards) and his self-aggrandizing rally speeches and rhetorical like  "I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed: I am your retribution” from his CPAC speech.

Trump will have to strike a pose of being the aggrieved victim without looking like he is experiencing the least bit of fear. Lindsay Graham can get tearful on his behalf, but don't expect Trump's eyes to moisten let alone shed a tear. I have my doubts if his tear ducts are even functional.

No matter how stressed out or anxious he may be feeling - or not be feeling (see below for two previous blogs about what Trump may or may not feel) it is important to note that denial is a primitive defense mechanism. It is brittle and the one most easily to shatter when hit by the ball-peen hammer of reality.

As his legal woes metastasize like various types of cancer from the equivalent of a squamish cell lesion which is uncomfortably treated but easily cured to the aggressive and deadly brain cancer known as glioblastoma which took John McCain's life. 

We may not know for some time what Jack Smith will charge Trump with, if anything. However, if it is something akin to inciting a resurrection in an attempt to overturn an election sticking with the cancer metaphor, for Trump this will be the near equivalent of having to try to survive a stage four malignancy.

Related blogs:

Nobody knows for certain how Trump feels except Trump


Michael Cohen and others claim to know what's in Trump's headspace. They don't.

Addendum: It isn't just American tabloids which have fun with their covers about Trump. Below is the UK Daily Mirror.
They also have an article about Melania and Ivanka not being seen at his post-arraignment Mar-a-Lago speech which they call a rant.


Donald Trump's wife Melania and daughter Ivanka were nowhere to be seen as the former President lashed out at prosecutors and the judge after his historic arrest.

After his appearance at court on Tuesday, April 4, loudmouth Trump returned to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida where he addressed friends, family and supporters and lavished praise on members of his family.

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April 4, 2023

Michael Cohen and others claim to know what's in Trump's headspace. They don't..

 By Hal Brown

We know how Trump wants people to see him. The digital trading cards are in contrast to the photo he choose to be on "The Art of the Deal" cover. 
We might conclude that something in his mind changed between 1987 when the book was published and when he put out his digital cards. Then again, we also might say that the "I'm Superman" narcissistic grandiosity has been an underlying, perhaps driving part, of Trump's personality all of his adult life. It's probably more accurate to say that the choice of the photo on his book cover was a considered marketing decision approved by Trump but that experts at Random House, the publisher, persuaded him to use this one.

All someone like me, who practiced as a psychotherapist for 40 years, or anybody else can do is make educated guesses about what motivates Trump and what he is feeling. For example, many people say he has been frequently motivated by money. On the surface this makes sense. However, nobody, not even Trump himself, knows what money unconsciously represents to him. Even a psychoanalyst would be making an educated guess.

We see what he does but when we delve into the feelings and psychodynamics underlying his behaviors we are in an unknowable realm.

For example, this was the top story on HUFFPOST this morning:


“Diaper Donald will be filling up that diaper, because this is not something that Donald is capable of either understanding or contending with,” Cohen, who worked closely with Trump as his personal attorney for more than a decade, told Ari Melber on Monday on MSNBC’s “The Beat.”

“He believes he could control every situation. This is not a situation that he has any control over, and that’s making him sick to his stomach,” he added. “I think right now he’s beyond petrified.”
There's nothing in the above (taking the diaper remark as a metaphor of course) that Cohen absolutely 100% for certain knows. Even saying that Trump believes he could control every situation, which sounds accurate on the face of it, ought to include modifiers like usually or ought to.

I wrote the following as a comment to the article:

All people like Cohen can do is speculate on what Trump is actually feeling, on the emotions he is experiencing. All anyone knows for certain is what is observable. Let's not forget that he is posting all cap messages on Truth Social in the wee hours of the night. This could be performative but it is a fact that the time stamp say it is, for example, 3AM. Trump has been an actor for decades. Even trying to analyze his facial expressions, even if he tears up, even if his sing-song voice quivers this is an exercise in drawing a conclusion about what is in what Cohen calls his headspace. Add to this imprecision is the possibility his feelings may vacillate. He may experience fleeting anxiety but then may push these feelings down (into the unconscious) and replaces them with anger. Like anyone he has psychological defense mechanisms, the most primitive of these is denial and another is projection. More about this here: https://www.halbrown.org/2023/04/nobody-knows-for-certain-how-trump.html

I admit that part of why I did this was to promote my blog. However this speculation in the media continues to be rampant so I thought a reprise of what I wrote in the blog from April 2, was warranted.

This is what Omarosa Manigault Newman told Joy Reid (video here):

Donald Trump is approaching his arraignment in a Manhattan courtroom. "Yes, he is going to try to pivot and distract and make you all think that he's not upset or nervous, but Donald Trump is terrified,” Omarosa Manigault Newman tells Joy Reid. “I can just certainly tell by his telltale signs... he doesn't look well."

You can look at Trump's posture, for example, and make an educated guess as to how he feels. For example these are from The Washington Post:

Click to enlarge

These are the photos the two New York City tabloids used:

You can also make your own conclusions based on what Trump isn't doing in these photos. For example, below he is waving but not smiling at cameras he knows are taking pictures of him. 

On Fox News with  Sean Hannity Trump said (about the documents at Mar-a-Lago) "I would have the right to take stuff, I have the right to do stuff." Talking heads, for example on Morning Joe, are pointing out that this was basically him admitting to having done something being investigated by Jack Smith. 
We can conclude that admitting something that will be likely be used against him should the documents case go to court shows poor judgement. We can with a high degree of confidence say that in his "headspace" or gut when he said these words he wasn't experiencing anxiety. What we don't know is that whether or not just below the surface of awareness anxiety was roiling around in what is sometimes referred to as the preconscious mind (see below). 

Here's the public domain iceberg graphic
of the mind I used in my other blog story.

Al Sharpton, also on Morning Joe, said Trump is humiliated. Again this is a speculation about what Trump feels. He said people underestimate the effect this has on Trump psychologically. It would be correct to say that if Trump was like the vast majority of people this and all these conclusions would be accurate. 

Here's someone else assuming they know what Trump is feeling (From Raw Story)

"The View" co-host Alyssa Farah Griffin worked for Donald Trump in the White House, and she's not buying reports that he's calmly relishing his legal predicament...
..."I know him well enough to know he is not loving this. He is spiraling. As someone, who despite his terrible actions, does think about legacy and how he is perceived. Now, his life, whether it's his obituary, is going to say he was indicted, the first American president to be."

Trump isn't psychologically like most people. See my Daily Kos essay from 2020 

Add a section to the DSM-5. It doesn't come close to having a category for Trump.

The closest anyone might come to understanding what is in Trump's unconscious mind is if he honestly told them about his dreams. This is what Freud called the royal road to the unconscious in The Interpretation of Dreams.
Nobody but Trump, and Melania if she sleeps with him, knows if he is awakening at night screaming from having nightmares.

Updates: Trump leaving Trump Tower on way to courthouse:

He waved when he was entering the courthouse but his face remained as it was in other photos taken earlier.

Get it? A rain man...

'He looks sad': CNN panel sees reality 'sinking in' on Trump's face

Is he sad or maybe just tired? After all he is posting on Truth Social in the middle of the night. The panelists said he had to feel lonely too. They would feel lonely in a similar situation. Most people would. At the risk of repeating myself, Trump is not most people.

So many in the media are making assumptions abut Trump's emotions  based on what they and everyone they know would feel. He could be feelings this way, but he may not.

Andrea Mitchel on MSNBC just got got it right. She asked if Donald Trump is different and does he process things differently. She asked whether these things penetrate.

Trump just leaving and heading to courtroom where the indictment will be read and he will plead:
The MSNBC commentators observing the pictures below are saying that this is what Trump didn't want televised. They were taken prior to the cameras being removed from the courtroom. They are saying that he looks like someone reacting to being is a situation he doesn't want to be in. 

This is the most expressive screenshot.

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