What Chris Christie nails about Donald Trump’s psyche

Then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks with then-President Donald Trump on October 26, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC.

CNN  — 

Chris Christie knows what makes Donald Trump tick.

Which is why it’s worth listening to the former New Jersey governor – and onetime Trump ally – when he explains why he thinks the former President kept classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home after leaving the White House.

“I think it’s much more likely that they’re a trophy, that he walks around and says, ‘Look, I’ve got this, I’ve got this classified document or that,’” Christie said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.” “Because, remember something, he can’t believe he’s not president. He can’t believe he still doesn’t get these documents. And he needs to display to everybody down at Mar-a-Lago, or up in Bedminster during the summer, that he still has some of those trappings.”

Which is super interesting!

I think for many people – especially some Democrats – the guiding belief is that Trump kept all sorts of classified documents because he was (or is) up to something nefarious.

What Christie is proposing seems to me to be much more plausible.

Consider that so much of what Trump does is for the sake of appearances. What matters to him is how people perceive things, not how they actually are.

Put another way: He has spent a lifetime playing the role of “Donald Trump.” And his four years as president was the crowning moment in that lifetime role. He simply won’t – or can’t – accept that he no longer has that power and influence.

It’s why he continues to push debunked election fraud conspiracies. And it’s why he continues to act – for his base – like he is still president. Being able to, in the course of a conversation, to say to someone (using Christie’s words) “I’ve got this classified document” helps preserve the illusion that Trump remains, at some level, still in power. He still (at least his own mind) has the trappings of being president, which allows him to act (and more importantly be regarded) as president.

To be clear: The reasons why Trump decided to keep classified materials at Mar-a-Lago to is largely irrelevant as part of the ongoing Department of Justice investigation into his retention of those documents. Trump did what he did and the DOJ investigation is less interested in the “why” than the “what.”

But as a way to understand Trump’s psyche, Christie’s observation is invaluable. Trump is deeply invested in continuing to appear as though he is president. The retention of classified documents just make him sound and seem like he is still important.

Again, how things LOOK matters much more to Trump than how things ARE. Always has, always will.