Donald Trump was calling from Mar-a-Lago. It was a Monday afternoon in the middle of December. He was at his desk in what is known as 45 Office, a room on the second floor, above what is known as the Donald J. Trump Grand Ballroom, 20,000 square feet festooned with 16 sedan-size crystal chandeliers and what he claims to be $7 million of gold leaf.
Members of the Mar-a-Lago Club, who pay $200,000 initiation fees and annual fees of $14,000, may use the space, at an additional cost, for “important occasions that inspire, enchant, and exceed every expectation.” At the galas and bat mitzvahs and weekend weddings, Trump often wanders in. How could he resist a room like this? He smiles and waves. He joins groomsmen for photos. He steps onto the dance floor with the bride. Dark suit jacket, no tie, shirt unbuttoned, red MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN hat on his head. He tilts his face to the strobe lights and pumps his fists in the air. Sometimes he grabs a microphone and gives a speech. He knows what the people who show up here want.
It was in that optimistic spirit, 28 days ago, that the former president, impeached and voted out of office and impeached again, amid multiple state and federal investigations, under threat of indictment and arrest, on the verge of a congressional-committee verdict that would recommend four criminal charges to the Feds over his incitement of a mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol and threatened to hang his vice-president in a failed attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 election results, announced his third presidential campaign. Since then, he has barely set foot outside the perimeter of Mar-a-Lago. For 28 days, in fact, he has not left the state of Florida at all.
He is sensitive about this. He does not like what it suggests. So he does not accept the premise. “Sometimes I don’t even stay at Mar-a-Lago,” he told me. What do you mean you don’t stay there, I asked. Where do you stay? “I stay here,” he said, “but I am outside of Mar-a-Lago quite a bit. I’m always largely outside of Mar-a-Lago at meetings and various other things and events. I’m down in Miami. I go to Miami, I go to different places in Florida.”
What he means when he says “Miami” is that his SUV rolls down the driveway, past the pristine lawn set for croquet and through the Secret Service checkpoint at the gate, for the two-hour trip to another piece of Trump real estate, the Trump National in Doral, about eight miles from the airport in Miami-Dade County. There, he meets regularly with an impressive, ideologically diverse range of policy wonks, diplomats, and political theorists for conversations about the global economy and military conflicts and constitutional law and I’m kidding. He goes there to play golf. “He just goes, plays golf, comes back, and fucks off. He has retreated to the golf course and to Mar-a-Lago,” one adviser said. “His world has gotten much smaller. His world is so, so small.” [Continue reading…]