Donald Trump on election night was like “Mad King George, muttering, ‘I won. I won. I won,’ ” according to one close adviser, who spoke to The Washington Post for a remarkable recap of the 20 days since the election.

More than 30 senior administration officials, members of his legal team, campaign aides and advisers told the paper of his increasingly unhinged attempts to overturn the election result, and how those left within the White House humoured him.

Those around the president after 3 November were “happy to scratch his itch,” the close adviser said.

“If he thinks he won, it’s like, ‘Shh, we won’t tell him.'”

Of the ensuing legal strategy, a senior administration told the paper that the theory was: “Just roll everybody up who is willing to do it into a clown car, and when it’s time for a press conference, roll them out.”

The paper confirmed that, on the night of the election, Mr Trump was enraged by Fox News being the first network to call Arizona for Joe Biden – a call which ultimately proved correct – and that he ordered his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to ring Rupert Murdoch and demand a retraction.

In the days that followed Mr Trump surrounded himself by people who told him what he wanted to hear, the paper reported, such as campaign pollster John McLaughlin, who told the president of a poll he had conducted after the election that showed Mr Trump with a positive approval rating and a majority in the country who thought the media had been “unfair and biased against him”.

“Trump scrambled for an escape hatch from reality,” the authors write.

Thanksgiving was spent for the first time at the White House, further insulating him from the real world. He played golf in the morning and spent part of the day calling advisers to ask if they believed he really had lost the election.

“You really have to understand Trump’s psychology,” said Anthony Scaramucci, a longtime Trump associate and former White House communications director, who has now distanced himself from the president.

“The classic symptoms of an outsider is, there has to be a conspiracy. It’s not my shortcomings, but there’s a cabal against me. That’s why he’s prone to these conspiracy theories.”

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