When Donald Trump announced Monday that the FBI had raided Mar-a-Lago, looking for classified materials taken from the White House to the Florida estate and private club where he claims his legal residence, he mentioned as an aside the matter of a safe. “Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before,” he said, adding that, after “cooperating” with all relevant agencies, the “unannounced raid” was proof of “prosecutorial misconduct” from a criminal-justice system weaponized by his political enemies. “Such an assault could only take place in broken, Third-World Countries. Sadly, America has now become one of those Countries, corrupt at a level not seen before. They even broke into my safe!”
Earlier Monday, Axios published photos that confirmed a report from Maggie Haberman’s upcoming book, Confidence Man, that Trump had flushed documents down toilets in the White House. With this in mind, I called a few former Trump aides to see what they remembered about his secure storage methods. Had he talked about his safe? Had anyone seen it? Was it gold?
During a renovation at Mar-a-Lago, one former staffer said, the safe stuck out amid furniture and personal belongings moved from Trump’s bedroom or office. “It wasn’t like a huge one from old western movies,” this person said. It was just, well, a safe that belonged to Donald Trump. It was hard to miss, even if it didn’t seem all that significant. “I don’t know, black? Silver? I saw it for a second, it registered in my brain, and I was on my way.”
Michael Cohen, the reformed Trump fixer, said he couldn’t speak for Florida. “At Trump Tower, the only person who had access to the locked” — he hesitated; “you can call it a safe, you can call it locked file cabinets, and so on — was Matthew Calamari,” Trump’s former head of security (nicknamed “Matty the Squid” by the writer Matt Labash). Cohen said he didn’t know the specifics. “There was a safe down on Matt’s floor in a closed room, from what I understand. I never saw it.” Cohen said he couldn’t remember which floor Calamari worked on. I asked if it was the 24th floor, where many Trump Organization employees, including the Trump children, kept offices. “Lower than 24,” Cohen said. The fifth floor? “No, that’s where they did The Apprentice.” (The old reality-show studio then served as the headquarters of the 2016 campaign.) “Not 26,” Cohen said, referring to the floor where Trump kept his own office. There was a commotion in the background. “Hey,” Cohen said. “Can I call you back?”
Cohen eventually called me back. He didn’t understand why everyone had to speculate about what was in Trump’s safe, he said, although he acknowledged that he was booked back to back to discuss precisely that on cable news, and he had more information to share with me. “Look,” he said, “The guy has a license to carry a firearm. A concealed firearm. He got it — years and years and years ago — because it was the cool thing to get and there are only a thousand of those licenses in New York. I know he has a .38. Plus, he also has an H&K .45. They’re probably in there. He probably also has his will in there. Probably the trust papers. Things like that.” Cohen reiterated that “all the NDAs” and documents related to the family business were kept by Calamari.
Reached for comment, Calamari hung up on me.
But another former Trump staffer did remember something from 2015. “We were talking about him running for president, and he was saying he was serious,” this person said. Trump was scheduled to stop in Louisiana before flying out of the country. On the 24th floor of Trump Tower, two staffers waited on the boss. “He comes down and he goes, ‘Shit, I have to go to the safe,’” this person said. “He comes down with one of those ‘TRUMP-MAR-A-LAGO’ bags — downstairs, if you bought a tie or something at the Trump store, you’d get a nice fancy shopping bag like you’d get at Saks — with about $50,000 in cash and six containers of white Tic Tacs. And he was going through the border. I know he didn’t declare that to customs!”
When the Access Hollywood tape came out, this person said, the image of the Tic Tacs came roaring back. Before Trump says “grab ’em by the pussy,” he talks about the mints: “I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
The former staffer, who said Trump always carried cash, assumed the safe had ten times the amount in the shopping bag at any given time. “He wants to travel with cash; he doesn’t like to use credit cards. Think about Stormy, etc.,” as in Daniels, whom Trump (via Cohen) paid to keep quiet about an affair. “He was always a big tipper too — not $50,000 in tips, but he would give the waiters and the waitresses $100 each.” Staffers got tipped, too. From the shopping bag, Trump grabbed $1,500 and handed it over. “For doing a good job,” the former staffer said.
Maybe Trump’s problem is he’s just too generous. On Monday night, Eric Trump defended his father during an appearance with Sean Hannity. “My father never got so much as a speeding ticket,” he said, though Trump’s preference for chauffeured limousines is well documented. And: “He didn’t even have anything in the safe!”