Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer. Photos: Getty Images
the national interest

Republicans Now Say Bathrooms Are a Great Place to Store Military Secrets

‘There are 33 bathrooms at Mar-a-Lago!’

Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer. Photos: Getty Images

Donald Trump’s aberrant behavior falls into two categories: things that grow out of longstanding trends in American conservative politics (racism, paranoia, authoritarianism) and things that only Donald Trump does.

His indictment for holding on to and refusing to surrender classified documents mostly falls into the latter category. The episode features several idiosyncratically Trumpist touches — a hopeless confusion about the distinction between government and personal property, a poorly executed scheme to fool his own lawyers — but the Trumpiest element of the story is the central role afforded to toilets.

Trump has undoubtedly produced more news stories involving toilets than any American president in history, and probably more than all of them combined. He complained about the White House toilets when he moved in, showed off replacements to guests, gave speeches about toilets (and the need to flush them double-digit times), and fired a cabinet official while he was on the toilet. Even the subcategory of stories involving both toilets and classified information has a robust paper trail, as Trump habitually flushed classified documents down the toilet (a fact that potentially explains why he believes ten to 15 flushes are often needed).

And so it is fitting that toilets feature prominently in Trump’s latest legal imbroglio. Photos showing that the former president stacked boxes of classified documents in the bathroom have led, inevitably, to the humiliating spectacle of fellow Republicans insisting Trump had every right to do this.

Kevin McCarthy insists that Trump’s storage practices are superior to those of Joe Biden (who was found to have mistakenly taken classified documents after his vice-presidency but, unlike Trump, immediately returned them). “I don’t know, is it a good picture to have boxes in a garage that opens up all the time?” said McCarthy. “A bathroom door locks.”

The Speaker of the House appears to lack a familiarity with the operations of either door, so a refresher is in order. Garages can be opened “all the time,” as he says, but they are usually designed so that they only open when a person standing right there chooses to open them. They do not simply open at random times throughout the day.

And while it is true that bathroom doors can be locked, they are usually locked from the inside. In contrast, a facility to store sensitive documents or some other valuable non-human material would be locked from the outside. To use the bathroom door to lock in documents would require either having a staffer posted in the bathroom with the documents 24 hours a day or that the documents could somehow open the door themselves. Failing either unlikely option, the door of the bathroom containing the documents would have to be unlocked.

Representative Byron Donalds asserts that the bathroom is a safe-storage location because there are many of them, and many of them are located in parts of the social club that are not always accessible to the public:

You guys are throwing up the pictures about they were in a bathroom or on a stage. As somebody who has been to Mar-a-Lago, you just can’t walk through Mar-a-Lago of your own accord because Secret Service is all over the place. So if the documents are in a place, they are in a room, depending on the time of year, you can’t even get into said room. There are 33 bathrooms at Mar-a-Lago! So don’t act like it’s in some random bathroom that the guests can go into. That’s not true!

If an enemy spy knew there were documents in the bathroom, there’s a strong chance they would try the wrong bathroom and give up before they located the correct one. It’s a very secure system. If Trump wins reelection, they should commit to storing all classified material in the bathrooms of the various Trump properties.

Republicans: Bathrooms Great for Storing Military Secrets