What do US presidents do once they leave the White House? Barack Obama kite-surfed with Richard Branson. Jimmy Carter returned to his peanut farm and found that it was $1m in debt. George W Bush got into painting.
It’s early days, but Donald Trump’s post-presidential life has been just like his presidency: non-traditional. Aside from setting up an eyebrow-raising new website, and releasing wannabe tweets as official statements, he’s spent most of his time inside his new home at Mar-a-Lago, the giant and exclusive resort he owns in south Florida.
We know very little about what he’s doing there, and after the unavoidable spectacle of his presidency, many people are probably comfortable with that. But for those still interested we decided to take a virtual holiday there, and look inside the gilded walls of Mar-a-Lago via the only way we could: Instagram.
Using the Instagram page that collects all the public posts geotagged Mar-a-Lago, anyone can comb through thousands of photos and videos to see what’s been happening inside its gilded walls, and catch glimpses of what Trump has been up to.
We know already that he recently crashed a wedding, giving a speech where he railed against Biden and China before raising a toast to himself, and then the happy couple. But that’s not everything. Here’s what we found from guests’ photos:
Trump loves to surprise Mar-a-Lago members
Taking photos with fans is something all past presidents do. But there is still something unique about how Trump lives at his own resort, wakes up in the morning and walks throughout his new home taking photos with its paying members.
In one video uploaded recently from Mar-a-Lago, Trump suddenly appears as a couple pose for engagement photos. He was also spotted wandering around a car show on 21 March hosted at the resort. And in March he appeared at a fundraiser for the Big Dog Ranch Rescue, a charity linked to Lara Trump that was recently in the news for spending almost $2m at Trump-owned properties in the last seven years.
Trump has been mingling with Mar-a-Lago members for many years now. During his early presidency he even crashed a wedding right after receiving news of a North Korean missile test, while hosting the former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe. Trump told the wedding guests that he had bumped into the newlyweds earlier and tried to cajole Abe over to them. “I said to the prime minister of Japan, I said, ‘C’mon Shinzo, let’s go over and say hello. They’ve been members of this club for a long time. They’ve paid me a fortune.”
Republican lawmakers are flocking to Mar-a-Lago to pay their respects
The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, was the first top Republican to signal the party wasn’t abandoning Trump after the attack on Capitol on 6 January, when he appeared in a photo with Trump at Mar-a-Lago three weeks later.
This seemingly opened the gates for Republicans to make the pilgrimage to Palm Beach and hobnob with Trump. Many of them have uploaded their photos with him to Instagram, or can be spotted in photos uploaded to the app. This includes the 25-year-old House representative from North Carolina Madison Cawthone, the former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and the Republican extremist from Georgia Marjorie Taylor Greene.
On 13 March a delegation of Alabama Republicans also presented Trump with a framed resolution at Mar-a-Lago, which declared him “one of the greatest and most effective presidents in the 245 year of this republic”.
Very few guests seem to be wearing masks at the resort, but staff are
In many ways Mar-a-Lago is just another US venue where people don’t wear masks. Given the lack of mask-wearing at Trump’s White House, where he hosted at least one super-spreader event in the Rose Garden, it’s not surprising that many Mar-a-Lago guests are also mingling mask-free.
But there’s something still striking about seeing so many maskless people inside a building owned by a former president who contracted Covid himself, had access to the best information about it, and whose mismanaged response to the crisis saw half a million Americans die from the virus.
In one video uploaded on 13 March, the charity fashion show for Big Dog Ranch, (called Wine, Women and Shoes) is in full swing inside a huge function room. The room seems to be filled with hundreds of people. Another photo shows a slide projected on to a screen that reads “More than 47,000 lives saved since 2008”, referring of course to the dogs.
None of the guests seem to be wearing masks, but the staff serving them are. Some may be vaccinated, but Covid is still very much a risk at Mar-a-Lago. The charity event took place just six days before the resort was partly closed due to an outbreak among its staff.
Sylvester Stallone is visiting – and Roger Stone too
Unless you count the Trump family, Sylvester Stallone is the only celebrity I’ve been able to find in photos taken at Mar-a-Lago. From the date and caption it looks like he was there having dinner on 6 March when he took a photo with a fellow guest.
In another photo uploaded less recently on 20 December, we can also see Roger Stone having a good time with another guest. Their caption on the photo reads “Only positive comments please … he was far nicer than someone else!”
Trump is now showing off his office in Mar-a-Lago, where he pretends to boycott Coca-Cola
You may have seen the photo already of Trump posing with Stephen Miller in his Mar-a-Lago office – it’s by no means exclusive to Instagram.
Seemingly set up to project an all-American work ethic (that we know from the last four years Trump doesn’t have), what’s most striking about the photo is the bottle of coke hidden behind Trump’s phone. Two days earlier, Trump had called on his supporters to boycott companies speaking out about Georgia’s new voting law which, funnily enough, included Coke.