In private, according to interviews with a half-dozen people close to him, Trump frequently asserts that people he likes have genius-level IQs. At various points during his presidency, he’s told aides that Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson and Apple CEO Tim Cook are high-IQ individuals, for example, former White House officials said. Trump has also dubbed himself a “very stable genius” on multiple occasions…

While the exact reason for Trump’s IQ obsession is difficult to nail down, people who know him suspect it stems in part from his desire to project an image of success and competence, despite scattered business failings and repeated allegations from critics that he’s incompetent. Trump is also known for being thin-skinned. He often fires back at anyone who criticizes him with a barrage of insults, while simultaneously building himself up.

“I don’t think you have to put him on the couch to see that someone who has such a consistent need to build himself up and belittle everyone else must have some problems with self-esteem,” said Trump biographer Gwenda Blair, who wrote a book about the Trump family. “It’s a lifelong theme for him.”

“Part of it comes from his insecurities about not being perceived as intelligent,” a former White House official added.