During a meeting with top aides, President Donald Trump was told that if he doesn't stop his incendiary behavior he'll lose in November, reported The New York Times on Wednesday.
Trump has taken to Twitter over the past several weeks to attack people of color, blast Black Lives Matter as "thugs" and "terrorists," and spouting phrases used by white supremacists.
“I have to be myself,” Trump told aides, according to three people present. Hours later, he tweeted a letter from his personal attorney calling the protesters "terrorists."
"In those moments, and in repeated ones since then, the president’s customary defiance has been suffused with a heightened sense of agitation as he confronts a series of external crises he has failed to contain, or has exacerbated, according to people close to him," said the Times. "They say his repeated acts of political self-sabotage — a widely denounced photo-op at a church for which peaceful protesters were forcibly removed, a threat to use the American military to quell protests — have significantly damaged his re-election prospects, and yet he appears mostly unable, or unwilling, to curtail them."
Trump is most concerned about being seen as a "loser," while running against former Vice President Joe Biden.
After a series of polls showed him dropping below double-digits in the race, "the president is acting trapped and defensive, and his self-destructive behavior has been so out of step for an incumbent in an election year that many advisers wonder if he is truly interested in serving a second term."
The report continued, saying that Trump has been "wallowing in self-pity" about the news coverage, including his embarrassing polling. He told advisers he can't get good coverage for anything he does.
“These people,” Trump reportedly "growled" at his staff about the media, along with a few expletives. He believes nothing he does will be good enough, and is angry that people are saying he hasn't done enough in wake of the slaying of George Floyd.
The White House staff has always had an uphill battle trying to control Trump's darker angels. His behavior, the Times said, "goes far beyond the bounds of traditional presidential conduct."
Republican Rep. Peter King (R-NY) told the Times that the challenges Trump is facing aren't normal circumstances.
“This is not something he’s used to,” he explained. “Mueller, in a way, was easy. It was a variation of what he’s had to deal with his whole career. He’s always fighting, and there’s always at least 40 or 50 percent of people who start out on your side.”
This is different, King claimed.
Most leaders aren't prepared to take on the presidency, even if they've spent years working in government.
“In private, Trump was interested in winning the presidency,” said former campaign adviser Sam Nunberg. “Over a three-year period between 2012 until 2014, he was focused on the details and even the minutiae of the primary and the general election process. It was always clear that Trump wanted to be elected president. But the reality of being president was never discussed.”