Exclusively Online | Spring 2022 Issue

“A Lighter Look” — Packing the Oval Office

Rick Meyer’s regularly appearing column takes a lighter look at politics and public affairs around the world. This month: "Tchotchkes"

By Richard E. Meyer

Overheard in the White House study, next to the Oval Office, during the early weeks of 2021:

“What’s he doing?”


“President Trump. He looks like he’s praying.”

“No. He’s thinking. He’s declassifying documents. Shhhhh! He doesn’t know we’re here, in the study, packing boxes. These are the documents he’s declassifying – the ones we’re bundling up.”

“But he is sitting on the couch. He’s not even at his desk. Doesn’t he have to confer with Cabinet members, or with heads of the agencies that wrote these documents, so there aren’t any national-security risks?”

“We’re just box boys, but even I know the rule. As he says, ‘If you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying: It’s declassified. Even by thinking about it.’”

“Why are his eyes closed?”

“Because he’s thinking hard. This is serious stuff. Look! Bright yellow cover sheets. Bright red cover sheets. ‘Secret.’ ‘Top Secret.’ This one is from the NSA. Here’s one from the CIA. It’s about some country’s nuclear capability, and it tells how we know.”

“That could get a source killed!”

“Look at all this. There are at least 100 classified documents here. And these aren’t the only boxes. I know of 15 other boxes in one place, 20 or so boxes in another, about 40 in another – and there are still a couple of dozen up in the residence. We are going to ship hundreds and hundreds of all kinds of documents.”

“While he’s in there, thinking, shouldn’t he wave his hands toward these documents? Like he’s blessing them, or something?

“He says that all he has to do is think – and send them.”

“Where to?”


“None of them go to his golf club in New Jersey? Or his hotel in New York? He spends time up there, too?”

“It doesn’t matter where they go. After he thinks, ‘Declassified,’ then there’s no more need to put these documents under lock and key, or to have a control officer keep an eye on them. These boxes can go into his office at Mar-a-Lago, or to a bedroom, or a storage room.”

“Has he said which boxes should go where?”

“No. He’s been too busy granting last-minute pardons.”

“I’m just a box loader, but I am worried. This is so rushed and haphazard. Mostly I’m worried about him in there thinking, ‘Declassified. Declassified.’ Back when John Bolton was the national security advisor, I heard him say that even a standing order to declassify is a complete fiction.”

“You know why he wants these documents? They’re tchotchkes, mementos of his presidency. Look! They are all mixed together with his notes, briefing papers and newspaper clippings. Here’s a letter Barack Obama left for him on the Resolute Desk. And here’s a letter from Kim Jong-un in North Korea.”

“He likes to show off this stuff. I saw him waving the Kim letter in front of photographers. I’ve heard that the National Archives wants him to turn over these letters from Kim and Obama especially. They are part of history. They don’t belong to him. They belong to the United States.”

“But he thinks all of this is his. It’s all one big enterprise. Everything he does: his company, the presidency, everything. I can hear him now: ‘They’re mine. They’re mine.’ ”

“What if somebody, like the FBI, finds these documents at Mar-a-Lago?”

“He could always say the FBI planted them. Or that the people who packed the boxes are to blame.”


“Don’t worry. He’s rich. He can hire lawyers. They’ll get us all out of trouble.”

“Maybe I could be rich too – if I just think about it.”


Richard E. Meyer

Richard E. Meyer

Meyer is the senior editor of Blueprint. He has been a White House correspondent and national news features writer for the Associated Press and a roving national correspondent and editor of long-form narratives at the Los Angeles Times.

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