Trump Privately Rages About His Sketch Artist, Courtroom Nap Reports

Donald Trump, if you take it from him, is cherishing the opportunity to stand trial on criminal charges related to a hush-money payment to a porn star. “I’m very proud to be here,” he told reporters before heading into court on Monday, calling the proceedings an “assault on America” that his presence, presumably, would serve to expose. “I’m very honored to be here,” the former president added.

Trump hasn’t been taking to martyrdom very well behind the scenes, though, three sources with knowledge of the matter tell Rolling Stone. He has privately raged over everything from reports that he can’t stop dozing off, to how the court sketch artist is rendering him, to late-night talk show hosts joking about his legal troubles. The former president is reaching levels of fury over the judicial process and all it entails that are “maxed out, even for him,” says one source who has had to personally endure Trump’s recent rantings about his trial.

The presumptive 2024 Republican presidential nominee has a lengthy track record of getting volcanically angry, and often allowing his rage to dictate political, legal, and policy decisions. But with the historic first criminal trial of an American president now underway, his public and private wrath has become particularly multi-faceted, and sustained to the point that longtime confidants have taken notice.

Among the heavily recurring topics in Trump’s private sniping this past week — according to the source, another person familiar with the situation, and a different Trumpworld figure briefed on the matter — is the former president’s bitterness towards New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who reported in print, online, and on CNN that Trump was visibly nodding off while in court. “He appeared to be asleep,” she told the network. “He didn’t pay attention to a note his lawyer passed him. His jaw kept falling on his chest, and his mouth kept going slack.”

The observation immediately went viral, provoking an irate denial from Trump’s campaign and reigniting the former president’s antipathy towards Haberman, who has been reporting on him for years. The resentment lasted the entire week, the sources add. It did not help Trump’s denial that he continued to doze off while seated in the Manhattan courtroom throughout the rest of the week. “Trump appears to have fallen asleep in court again,” Haberman wrote on Friday. “His eyes were closed for extended periods and his head dropped down twice.”

In recent conversations with Republican associates, Trump has repeatedly torn into Haberman and her CNN appearances, attacked her journalistic credentials, and bizarrely insisted that she was wrong about him falling asleep. Despite his dozing being widely reported, the former president has laid much of the blame for the detail going viral at Haberman’s feet. He was even observed glaring at her on Monday as he exited the courtroom following her CNN appearance.

It’s not just Haberman who’s been inflaming Trump during the first days of his criminal trial.

Trump has also privately asked people close to him if they agree that the courtroom sketch-artist must be out to get him, two of the sources say. Trump has critiqued the sketches of him that have circulated in the media this week, and insisted some of the images were likely drawn to make fun of him. One such sketch captured Trump snoozing, with his eyes closed and head tilted.

When court broke for lunch on Tuesday, Trump was observed licking his lips as he walked down the middle aisle before flashing a small smile at the courtroom sketch artist as he exited.

“None of these sources know what the hell they’re talking about and clearly have no access to any type of factual information,” says Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung. “These are the types of losers who will try to peddle fantasy as fact because they live miserable existences.”

The former (and perhaps future) president has also voraciously monitored the media and entertainment coverage of the trial. He appeared especially upset with Jimmy Kimmel, the comedian and ABC late-night host who has been commenting on the trial with relish, and whom Trump has long despised — to the point that, as Rolling Stone reported, he tried to get his White House staff to pressure Disney, which owns ABC, to force Kimmel to stop making fun of him.

“Stupid Jimmy Kimmel, who still hasn’t recovered from his horrendous performance and big ratings drop as Host of The Academy Awards, especially when he showed he suffered from TDS, commonly known as TRUMP DERANGEMENT SYNDROME, to the entire World by reading on air my TRUTH about how bad a job he was doing that night,” Trump wrote on Wednesday, referring to Kimmel reading one of Trump’s posts criticizing him during the Oscars last month. Trump added that Kimmel pulled off a “CLASSIC CHOKE” job by fumbling the Best Picture announcement, confusing the host with Al Pacino.

Trump, sources recount, has also been savagely annoyed about some of the rejected jurors — and the memes and social-media mockery that they posted that he was forced to engage with in court. Jury selection wrapped up on Friday, but dozens were dismissed over posts they had made roasting Trump or after admitting they could not be impartial.

The court dismissed one potential juror after Trump’s legal team had flagged their social media post last month of an AI-generated video featuring Trump saying “I’m dumb as fuck.” Trump’s lawyers sought to strike another potential juror over social media posts made or shared by her husband in 2016. In one, Trump’s head is in the hands of a character from The Simpsons. In another, Trump is pictured next to former President Barack Obama with a comment about how this is not what was meant by “Orange Is the New Black.” A third post was set in the theme of “The Avengers Unite Against Trump.” While the challenge failed, the woman was ultimately dismissed.

Judge Juan Merchan reprimanded Trump for being “audible” and “gesturing” within 12 feet of a juror who was asked to explain a social media post showing people celebrating Biden’s 2020 win. “I will not have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom,” Merchan said before directing the defense team to counsel their client on his behavior.

Trump has also, of course, been publicly wailing about several aspects of the trial, including the “freezing” temperature in the courtroom; the jury selection process, which he seemed to think allowed his team the ability to blackball an “unlimited” number of prospective jurors; and the expansive gag order Merchan imposed on Trump in the wake of Trump repeatedly attacking his daughter on social media.

Trump was especially incensed about the order Friday morning. “People are allowed to speak about me and I have a gag order, just to show you how much more unfair it is,” he ranted to reporters outside the courtroom, before calling the people who continue to talk about him “real scum.”

To those who’ve known Trump for a long time, or who used to work for him, it’s no surprise that the gravity and process of this criminal trial would uniquely, severely grate on him.

“I was actually just thinking this morning about how cold [Trump] kept complaining to be yesterday. In his normal world, someone would have jumped up and run, not walked, to get the temperature perfect for him,” says Stephanie Grisham, Trump’s former White House press secretary who fell out with him years ago. “This entire experience must be beyond uncomfortable for him, not just the fact that it dives into such personal details, but he has absolutely no control for probably the first time since he was a young child.”

Grisham adds that Trump being on trial this week “reminded me that not only in the White House, but every facet of his life — be it at Mar-a-Lago or Trump Tower or Bedminster — he has a group of people that cater to his every whim. At Mar-a-Lago, people literally stand and applaud him just for walking into the room, and in court, he has to sit there quietly while some people talk about how much they don’t like him. I can’t imagine how hard it has been for him not to get up and storm out of the place like a five-year-old.”

He’ll have plenty more chances to do just that, as opening arguments don’t even begin until Monday. Judge Merchan warned Trump this week, however, that if he misbehaves or skips out on the proceedings, he’ll be subject to arrest. Trump said he understands.

More from Rolling Stone

Best of Rolling Stone