Axios on Monday published photos showing former President Donald Trump's handwritten notes flushed down a White House toilet that were obtained by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman.
White House staff "periodically discovered wads of printed paper clogging a toilet — and believed the president had flushed pieces of paper," according to an excerpt from Haberman's upcoming book "Confidence Man" published by Axios earlier this year. The report raised concerns that Trump may have illegally destroyed records that are required to be preserved.
Trump at the time called the report a "fake story," issuing a statement calling the claim "categorically untrue and made up by a reporter in order to get publicity for a mostly fictitious book."
Haberman turned the photos over to Axios to corroborate her reporting. One photo shows a White House toilet with an unintelligible note, a source told Haberman. Another photo shows a note with Trump's handwriting thrown into the toilet on an overseas trip. It's unclear what the note says but it mentions the name of Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., the No. 3 Republican in the House.
"The document dumps happened multiple times at the White House, and on at least two foreign trips," according to the report.
"That Mr. Trump was discarding documents this way was not widely known within the West Wing, but some aides were aware of the habit, which he engaged in repeatedly," Haberman told Axios. "It was an extension of Trump's term-long habit of ripping up documents that were supposed to be preserved under the Presidential Records Act."
The National Archives previously reported that some of Trump's White House documents had to be taped back together after they were destroyed. Other records and gifts were improperly taken from the White House to Trump's residence in Mar-a-Lago.
Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich did not specifically deny the content of the photos but pushed back on the report.
"You have to be pretty desperate to sell books if pictures of paper in a toilet bowl is part of your promotional plan," Budowich told Axios. "We know ... there's enough people willing to fabricate stories like this in order to impress the media class — a media class who is willing to run with anything, as long as it anti-Trump."
Haberman on CNN called her reporting "gross and important."
"The point is about the destruction of records which are supposed to be preserved under the Presidential Records Act, which is a Watergate-era creation," she said. "It's important because who knows what this paper was? Only he would know and presumably whoever was dealing with him, but the important point is about the records," she added.
CNN's Dana Bash said the photos "look nefarious."
"It's not legal," she said citing the Nixon-era law, adding that "it's a Sharpie and it looks like Donald Trump's handwriting."
Twitter exploded after Haberman shared the photos.
"Too early in the week for this kind of news dump," quipped Amanda Carpenter, a former aide to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
"The former guy shredding & flushing documents down the toilet makes sense. The shitter was always full at the Trump White House," tweeted Olivia Troye, who served as an adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence.
"A flushing toilet should be the last sound we ever hear of the Trump presidency. A clogged toilet being plunged will forever be my lasting image of his presidency," wrote former Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill.
"How many essays will be launched by folks pondering the metaphor of Congresswoman Elise Stefanik's name firmly stuck to the bottom of Trump's toilet bowl," wondered journalist Soledad O'Brien.
"Maybe this is why Trump was so obsessed with water flow regulations," joked Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell, referring to Trump's frequent White House rants about water pressure.
"We have a situation where we're looking very strongly at sinks and showers, and other elements of bathrooms," Trump mused in 2019. "People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once."
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