One of the most intriguing references in the Department of Justice’s 37 felony count indictment against Donald Trump in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case comes during a discussion about whether to remove some boxes of his papers into a storage room.
According to the indictment, Trump Employee 1 says:
“There is still a little room in the shower where his other stuff is. Is it only his papers he cares about? Theres (sic) some other stuff in there that are not papers. Could that go to storage? Or does he want everything there on property.”
Trump Employee 2, whom The New York Times said was identified by multiple people as Trump’s former assistant Molly Michael, replied:
“Yes — anything that’s not the beautiful mind paper boxes can definitely go to storage. Want to take a look at the space and start moving tomorrow AM?”
So what does that reference to “beautiful mind paper boxes” say about their opinion of Trump’s mental state?
The New York Times reported that the phrase “beautiful mind” material was used by aides during Trump’s years in the White House “to refer to the boxes full of papers and odds and ends he carried around with him almost everywhere.”
And where did the reference to “A Beautiful Mind” come from? The Times made this link:
It was a reference to the title of a book and movie depicting the life of John F. Nash Jr., the mathematician with schizophrenia played in the film by Russell Crowe, who covered his office with newspaper clippings, believing they held a Russian code he needed to crack.
The phrase had a specific connotation. The aides employed it to capture a type of organized chaos that Mr. Trump insisted on, the collection and transportation of a blizzard of newspapers and official documents that he kept close and that seemed to give him a sense of security.
One former White House official, who was granted anonymity to describe the situation, said that while the materials were disorganized, Mr. Trump would notice if somebody had riffled through them or they were not arranged in a particular way. It was, the person said, how “his mind worked.”
Now, Nash was an actual genius who won the Nobel Memorial Prize in economics in 1994 for his pioneering work in game theory. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at age 31 in 1959. His wife Alicia Nash said he developed the idea that all men who wore red ties were part of a Soviet conspiracy against him. In the film, he’s depicted as having the delusional belief that he was doing top secret work for the government to look for hidden patterns in magazines and newspapers and deliver his results to a secret mailbox to thwart a Soviet plot.
From “A Beautiful Mind”:
Donald Trump is a self-described “very stable genius.” But as The Atlantic pointed out, Trump has an aversion to reading. Author Michael Wolff, in his book “Fire and Fury,” quoted Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn as writing in an email: “It’s worse than you can imagine … Trump won’t read anything—not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers, nothing. He gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored.”
That raises the question of why this non-reader is so obsessed with keeping boxes full of written material, including classified documents.
Trump has always kept boxes filled with news clippings, documents, and other mementos, according to more than a half-dozen people who have worked with Trump, including before he took office as president, the Times reported. His Trump Tower office in New York had a desk that was piled high with papers and magazines that featured Trump on the cover and a couch filled with sports memorabilia, including a game shoe given to him by Shaquille O’Neal.
The Times reported that starting early in his administration, Trump would use a cardboard box to take papers and documents from the West Wing up to the residence at the end of the day.
Officials familiar with Trump’s practice told the Times that Trump was “meticulous” about putting things in specific boxes and was generally able to identify what was in the boxes immediately around him in the White House.
The newspaper said Trump “was not especially interested” when then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and other aides expressed concern that some presidential records might go missing if they were kept in the residence. The officials told the Times that Trump even insisted on taking specific boxes with him on Air Force One when he was traveling.
The indictment says Trump and White House staff members, including his body man Walt Nauta, personally packed material into boxes before leaving the White House. Nauta was indicted for allegedly helping Trump mishandle classified government documents at Mar-a-Lago.
And Trump kept up the practice of filling up one box after another after he left the White House to reside in Mar-a-Lago, the Times reported. Dozens of boxes stacked in a storage room, ballroom, and even a bathroom could be seen in photos provided by the Department of Justice, according to Trump’s indictment.
Just hours after his arraignment in a federal courtroom in Miami last Tuesday, Trump told supporters at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf resort that the boxes contained “all types of personal belongings,” including “newspapers, press clippings” and “thousands of White House pictures,” as well as “clothing, memorabilia and much, more more.” He omitted any mention of the classified documents that the FBI found in its search.
Trump has repeatedly claimed that the materials in the boxes belong to him, using the phrase “my boxes.” According to notes from one of his lawyers detailed in the indictment, Trump reportedly said, “I don't want anybody looking through my boxes.”
That prompted Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson to comment on MSNBC that “in addition to being a bad person, Donald Trump is a deeply weird person."
"It is almost a kind of Gollum in 'Lord of the Rings' moment. ‘My Precious.’ It’s like a hoarding instinct about these documents. Some sort of weird security blanket ...It boosts his ego and reminds him that he actually somehow became president of the United States," Robinson said, adding, "I don't know what it is about it, but it's pathological, in addition to being criminal."
On MSNBC’s “The Last Word,” host Lawrence O’Donnell interviewed Dr. Lance Dodes, a retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. In 2019, in an interview for Raw Story, Dodes said Trump met every diagnostic term for an “Antisocial Personality Distorder,” saying that “all his actions are signs of this severe, continuous, mental disturbance.”
O’Donnell asked Dodes whether there was “a psychiatric explanation” for why Trump kept those classified documents even though the federal government demanded them and his attorneys told him to give them back.
"My guess would be that it makes him greater in his own mind," Dodes said. "Now, he has secret documents, which he had when he was president, but if he loses the presidency, at least he has the secret documents. It's like having a badge when you’re four years old that says you're a secret policeman. I think it's something like that. He needs it for himself."
Dodes predicted that as Trump's legal troubles continue to mount, he will "look worse and worse."
"He will be worse and worse, but there’ll be less of the veneer and we’ll see how much of a psychopath he is. That’s the psychiatric explanation. He is fundamentally different from normal people. We'll see more and more of that.”
And maybe it’s time for Democrats to go for the jugular and emphasize over and over—using Trump’s speeches, social media posts, and criminal indictments—to simply say that Donald Trump is unfit for office.
After all, the GOP has propagated the false meme that President Joe Biden is cognitively impaired, has dementia, and isn’t fit to serve a second term. And Russia has been assisting by spreading disinformation about Biden’s mental health.
Biden’s accomplishments in office, of course, prove otherwise. But Trump’s “beautiful mind paper boxes” are indicative that even those closest to him have doubts about his mental state.