The life of a former U.S. president has long been a performatively dignified one. The typical modern ex-POTUS writes a mostly unremarkable memoir, retires to a house on a plot that has its own name (e.g. “The Oak Aspen”), endorses his party’s nominee every four years at the national convention, engages in occasional diplomatic and humanitarian work, and otherwise hopes the national press will gradually forget the controversial, stupid, and cowardly things he did during his actual career so he will be eulogized when he dies as a great leader and role model. (Barack Obama has shaken up the tradition by working with glamorous figures like Bruce Springsteen, but only on the least glamorous activity, podcasting.)
There are two stories in the news today, Monday, about the U.S.’s most recent ex-president, Donald Trump.
• Axios reports, with visual proof, that the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman has obtained photos—taken during Trump’s term at locations where he had just been present—of toilets in which torn-up documents bearing words written in his handwriting are visible.
In a February 2022 scoop (also given to Axios by the Times reporter in a confusing book-publicity maneuver), Haberman had revealed that Trump’s staff “periodically discovered” wads of printed paper clogging his toilets and believed him to have been responsible for attempting to flush them. (Discarding paper in a toilet is a violation of best practices concerning both presidential record-keeping and plumbing.) Trump had called this report—the report that he, an adult man, was apparently under the belief that one can successfully dispose of office documents by putting them in a toilet—”fake news.” But now it has been proved fairly definitively that the president tried (many times) to flush regular paper down a toilet in the White House and then lied about it.
• The New Yorker has printed an excerpt from a different forthcoming book (co-authored by a different Times reporter) in which Trump is said to have asked his chief of staff, ex–Marine Corps general John Kelly, why American military officials couldn’t be “like the German generals” who, in Trump’s imagination if not in real life, were “totally loyal” to Hitler.
The former president, who has already been in the news a number of times for stories relating to toilets and his evident admiration for Hitler, lives in Florida and is not known to engage in diplomatic or humanitarian work.