Donald Trump’s Diet Coke button was his most iconic addition to the White House. When he pressed the red button in a small wooden box on the Resolute desk in the Oval Office, it would inform staff that he was in the mood for another soda — a frequent occurrence, as he reportedly consumed around 12 Diet Cokes per day.
The button always seemed like one of the more innocuous manifestations of Trump’s kingly posturing. Even he seemed to know it was absurd; former White House aide Cliff Sims wrote in his 2019 book, Team of Vipers, that Trump would prank guests by letting them think the button triggered nuclear weapons:
Out of nowhere, he’d suddenly press the button. Not sure what to do, guests would look at one another with raised eyebrows. Moments later, a steward would enter the room carrying a glass filled with Diet Coke on a silver platter, and Trump would burst out laughing.
But the Diet Coke button may have shaped history in ways we did not previously realize.
On Monday, CNN shared some reporting from New York Times writer Maggie Haberman’s forthcoming book, Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America, revealing that, at first, he appeared to acknowledge that he’d lost the 2020 election:
Haberman writes that in the immediate aftermath of the November 3 elections, Trump seemed to recognize he had lost to Biden. He asked advisers to tell him what had gone wrong. He comforted one adviser, saying, “We did our best.” Trump told junior press aides, “I thought we had it,” seemingly almost embarrassed by the outcome, according to Haberman.
But at some point, Trump’s mood changed, Haberman writes, and he abruptly informed aides he had no intention of departing the White House in late January 2021 for Biden to move in.
While publicly, Trump said he’d “certainly” leave the White House if the Electoral College voted for Biden, Haberman writes that during the transition period, he latched onto the stolen-election narrative and was frantically looking for some advice on how to proceed — even from his Diet Coke server. Per CNN:
Trump couldn’t decide which path to follow after his 2020 defeat. Haberman writes that he quizzed nearly everyone about which options would lead to success — including the valet who brought Diet Cokes when Trump pressed a red button on his Oval Office desk.
It’s unclear if Haberman’s book reveals what the Diet Coke valet advised. Maybe the server suggested that Trump invite his supporters to a “wild” January 6 rally, and they suddenly found themselves swapping ideas with Rudy Giuliani and the rest of Team Definitely Not Normal. Or maybe the valet responded to his unhinged rambling with a look that said, “Sir, this is (basically) a Wendy’s,” handing him his Diet Coke and asking if he’d like fries with his next massive hamburger order.
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