Did you miss him? That is-this-how-people-smile smile, that leftover dauphinoise hair, that Bratwurst skin... For four years while he was in the White House, Donald Trump was all we talked about.
Then he was dragged from the stage, kicking, screaming and YMCA-ing all the way to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where he has largely remained since January. What is he plotting? We wondered. Is Melania there? We doubted it. Was he happy? Meh, we weren’t as bothered by that. And finally, what was his office set-up like?
Well, we at least now have an answer to the latter. On Monday, former White House aide Stephen Miller tweeted a photograph of he and Trump in the latter’s Mar-a-Lago office, giving us all a look at the 45th president’s post-power working space. There was a lot to look at, but some things sent more obvious messages than others…
1. He liked his old office…
… That much was clear from the way he stopped just short of supergluing himself to it in December and January. The Oval Office contained the famous 141-year-old Resolute desk, and having been denied the chance to take it with him, he’s bought a replica. Specifically, a $3,600 Telluride Wood Executive Desk from Hooker Furniture.
Nobody expected Trump to buy a modern, ergonomic standing desk or whimsical writing bureau, but the fact he bought one so close to his old one is, like many things in this photograph, quite adorable. It’s like Nigel Mansell sleeping in a racing car bed. Or Admiral Boom, the retired Navy man in Mary Poppins, with his fake ship on the roof. The message? “I miss the old me.”
2. He is a creature of habit
Like Uncle Albert or Marty Crane or The Queen, Trump evidently has His Chair. It is the same colour as his skin (possibly made from lab-grown samples or surgical off-cuts? We can look into that), it is high-backed, it is on wheels, and it is his.
A former White House official told Politico that Trump not only used this exact chair in the Oval Office, but brought it from his Trump Tower office in New York. After that much wear, the groove in it must be like an alternative Mount Rushmore, two great Martian craters, with a line of sweat dividing them. Anyway, the message? “I like what I like.”
3. He isn’t hung up on achievements
On the front right corner of Trump’s desk sits a plaque commemorating the wall he promised to build on the US-Mexico border. For years, Trump promised a “big beautiful wall” that covered the length of the border. He was practically elected on that pledge. In reality, only 80 miles of new wall were built during his time in office.
Celebrating this with a plaque is like putting an English Heritage Blue Plaque bearing the words, “Dave, who did nothing, lived here for a bit” outside your flat as a lark, or framing a photograph of the time you attempted to make Crème Brûlée and accidentally threw it at the wall.
He is humble. He has a sense of humour. He acknowledges his failings. There is no other interpretation of this object.
4. He is a family man – even if he can’t remember them all
As much as we try, it’s not easy to forget that there is more than one Trump on the planet. Think you’ve dealt with one, and another will just pop up, armed with a severe inheritance and semi-fluency in dogwhistling.
To remind him, and us, of his Trump Army, Donald has a dozen or so photographs on a table behind him, all lined up like as if they’re at a rally. There is his late father, Fred; his children, Eric, Ivanka and Don Jr in London; he and Barron in New York; his late mother, Mary, an oddly cropped headshot of his wife, Melania; one of him walking at the White House; a throwback to him as a younger man… And that’s it.
The message? The Trumps will go on for generations yet. “There they are,” you can imagine him saying, “all done, all accounted for, my family…” Then you can imagine a silence. Then more silence. Then…
“Ah s***. I forgot Tiffany again.”
5. He has secrets
Here we go again. The Ark of the Covenant in Indiana Jones; the briefcase in Pulp Fiction; the box in Seven; the other box in that John Lewis advert – history is full of mysterious objects that should never be opened for fear of what’s inside, and now we have another: the small, rectangular wooden box on Trump’s desk.
We can see it has his name and presidential seal on it, but what is inside? Pens? Diet Coke cans? An emotional support gerbil? A tiny accordion he likes to play? A complete list of his achievements in office? His middle son, Eric? I pray we never know.
6. He still doesn’t care
Hidden away behind his phone and reading glasses is a half-drunk bottle of Coca-Cola. Like Rishi Sunak, coke is never normally far from Trump (it was once reported that he goes through 12 a day), except that only last week, he urged Americans to boycott the company over its criticism of Georgia’s new voting law.
“Don’t go back to their products until they relent,” he wrote in a statement, naming Coca-Cola along with several other companies. “We can play the game better than them.”
If he really meant that, he – or someone else in the room – might have removed the bottle from his desk before Miller’s photo was taken. Swapped it with something less controversial, like a Capri Sun or Bovril. As it is, the Coke stayed.
He said one thing, did another. Trump’s not changed, and that’s exactly the message he wanted to send.