Trump’s Weird Toilet and Paper Habits, Together at Last

Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer. Photos: Getty Images

For fans of odd presidential behavior in general, and Donald Trump being weird with paper specifically, it’s been an exciting few weeks. The Washington Post has published a series of reports that suggest a half-forgotten 2018 story about Trump’s penchant for paper-ripping was just the tip of the iceberg. And now, toilets are involved.

It all began when the Post revealed that some of the Trump White House records sent to the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection had been torn up and taped back together. Next the paper reported that “Trump’s shredding of paper was far more widespread and indiscriminate than previously known and — despite multiple admonishments — extended throughout his presidency.” Then we learned that at the end of Trump’s presidency, 15 boxes of White House documents and other items were squirreled away to Mar-a-Lago, including Trump’s “love letters” to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

But on Wednesday night, a New York Times report threatened to turn this delightful tale of the former president’s inability to handle sheets of paper in a normal fashion into something far darker. Apparently, when the National Archives and Records Administration retrieved those hastily assembled boxes from Mar-a-Lago last month, it found what it believed was classified information. National Archives contacted the Justice Department, which doesn’t seem inclined to do anything about it; they said the agency should have its inspector general look into the matter.

Should I care that Trump might have broken the law and will probably get away with it, like all those other times he mishandled classified information? I guess, and I’m glad some smart reporters are looking into all this! But honestly, I just don’t have any “But her emails!” left to give.

But it turns out my fears that this would become another tiresome retread of the Hillary Clinton email scandal were unfounded. I shouldn’t have underestimated Trump’s capacity for weirdness. On Thursday, I woke up to this headline: “Haberman book: Flushed papers found clogging Trump WH toilet.” Axios reports:

While President Trump was in office, staff in the White House residence periodically discovered wads of printed paper clogging a toilet — and believed the president had flushed pieces of paper, Maggie Haberman scoops in her forthcoming book, “Confidence Man.”

Yes, thank you to all involved. The post doesn’t offer any further details about Trump’s alleged toilet-clogging, but now it’s all coming together.

As my colleague Jonathan Chait wrote in January 2021, when we look back, “We may conclude that the Trump administration was the story of a group of people fixated with control over their toilets.” Trump reportedly loved showing off bathrooms to White House visitors. He hired Matthew Whitaker, who before his brief stint as acting attorney general marketed a toilet for men whose genitals could not be accommodated by standard-size commodes. And Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner erected a porta-potty in their swanky D.C. neighborhood, and eventually rented a nearby apartment, because they would not let Secret Service members relieve themselves in their home.

Most memorably, Trump once delivered a bizarre monologue on the inadequacy of today’s bathroom fixtures. “People are flushing toilets ten times, 15 times, as opposed to once,” he asserted, as absolutely no one nodded in agreement.

Could Trump’s fondness for paper-flushing be the key that unlocks all of these perplexing incidents? Was the former president so enamored with the White House bathrooms because their toilets allow for superior document disposal? Did he hire Whitaker because he needed his expertise on fitting huge literal junk in the toilet? Did Javanka bar the Secret Service from their lavatories because they didn’t want to expose an elaborate flushing operation? Was Trump hitting that toilet lever ten to 15 times because he couldn’t make his giant wad of tear-stained love letters to various dictators disappear? The mind reels!

Trump’s response is, as usual, suspiciously defensive. Rather than simply ignoring the story, he issued a denial within hours:

You can tell me my fixation on this literal toilet humor is juvenile, but unlike Trump I refuse to be shamed. I intend to wring all the enjoyment I can out of this metaphorically crappy period in American history.

Trump’s Weird Toilet and Paper Habits, Together at Last