early and often

Photos of Trump Notes in Toilet Were Better Left to the Imagination

Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photos: Getty Images

Donald Trump managed to get caught up in a White House document-destruction scandal last winter, though he had been out of office for a year. The Washington Post revealed that some Trump White House records turned over to the House committee on January 6 had been torn up and taped back together. Additional reporting suggested that, as the paper put it, “Trump’s shredding of paper was far more widespread and indiscriminate than previously known.” Finally, reporter Maggie Haberman put a cherry on top of this perfect scandal sundae. As Axios reported at the time:

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.

As a connoisseur of Trump’s bizarre antics, I was delighted. I vowed to enjoy every moment of this rare presidential controversy that, to paraphrase our current commander-in-chief, “Benefits everybody. Hurts nobody!” (Except Presidential Records Act enthusiasts.)

But now I’ve learned that you should be careful what you wish for — especially when you’re dealing with comedic elements as volatile as Donald Trump and literal toilet bowls.

Yes, Haberman has now supplied Axios with two photos to back up her reporting on Trump’s unorthodox document-destruction practices. She “obtained the photos recently,” which explains why we’re just seeing them now, two months before her book’s release date, and six months after Trump himself dismissed the story as fake news.

Why are we seeing these photos, more generally? The simple answer is that they ostensibly back up Haberman’s reporting. A White House source says the photo on the left was taken in a White House bathroom, and the one on the right is from a Trump trip overseas. Both of the submerged, shredded-up papers are covered in what looks like Trump’s distinctive Sharpie scrawl. But the photos are cropped so tightly that it’s hard to say conclusively where and when they were taken. And I’m not willing to go down a Trump toilet-truther rabbit hole, seeking out photos of White House baseboards and sources who can positively identify Oval Office commodes.

“Why are we seeing these photos?” is also an existential question that every consumer of bizarre Trump news must answer for themselves. I’m sorry to say that for me, the pictures have sucked all the fun out of the Trump toilet saga. I still find the idea of Trump frantically trying to flush away evidence darkly hilarious (especially in light of his infamous lament that these days, “people are flushing toilets ten times, 15 times, as opposed to once”). But these shots of mundane toilet bowls clogged with the remnants of presidential memos make it all a little too real. At the end of the day, we’re just talking about one erratic man creating a mess for some poor White House staffer.

Thankfully, there’s still plenty of surreal Trump family gossip that’s yet to be sullied by the harsh light of reality.

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Trump Notes in Toilet Were Better Left to the Imagination