We need to talk about the bathroom chandelier in the Trump indictment photos - The Washington Post

Last week, former president Donald Trump was indicted on charges that he mishandled classified documents, allegedly storing them in, among other places, a Mar-a-Lago bathroom. A photo of the scene included in the indictment depicted stacks of boxes under a large crystal chandelier that was somehow simultaneously decadent and drab, the light fixture equivalent of Miss Havisham.

Despite the implications of this indictment for national security, the 2024 presidential race and American democracy, it was the chandelier (and the smaller, adjacent crystal sconce) that generated significant reaction from the public in the following days. Its silent witness to the (alleged) crimes unfolding below offered a different sort of indictment — of wealth and the things to which we, the middle-class masses who grew up with one or two chandelier-free bathrooms, were taught to aspire. And it raised questions, both of design and hygiene. Chief among them: Are toilet chandeliers even a thing? Large Modern Crystal Chandelier

We need to talk about the bathroom chandelier in the Trump indictment photos - The Washington Post

According to interior designer Lacy Keller, who owns a design firm in Portland, Ore., chandeliers in bathrooms aren’t that unusual. She’s had several installed for high-end clients. When choosing a style, Keller takes into account several factors, including whether the fixture can resist heat and moisture.

Would she ever install something like this?

“I wouldn’t put that chandelier in any bathroom,” Keller says. It’s far too big and elaborate, and it hangs too low — anyone trying to use the shower would immediately hit their head.

“It’s overwhelming,” she says. “It’s an example of what not to do.”

Keller suspects that the bathroom is used rarely, if at all. She puts the style as late or even early ’90s, and “overly traditional.” The toilet, she notes, is far from the wall, and might not be plumbed. Additional file boxes stowed in the shower, behind a flimsy beige curtain hanging from a tension rod, further suggest the bathroom was out of order. This suggests a reality that is almost impossible to fathom in its banality: that the former president, like so many of us, has an outdated bathroom in disrepair.

Ruth M’rav-Jankelowitz, an interior designer based in Vancouver and owner of Janks Design Group, has also put the occasional chandelier in a bathroom, but nothing so ornate as what’s in Mar-a-Lago.

“It’s very odd,” she says.

Chandeliers are used to create focal points, M’rav-Jankelowitz explains. They bring a warm, soft aura of light, so she tends to use them in foyers or dining rooms. But something like the one at Mar-a-Lago is over the top, she says.

“It’s the focal piece. It draws your attention away from everything else.”

This feels useful when “everything else” could be 36 boxes of incriminating evidence.

Stop trying to flush your secrets, and other helpful advice from plumbers

Which prompts another urgent question: Is a chandelier in the loo even hygienic? M’rav-Jankelowicz explains that probably isn’t a concern for Trump — he has people who clean for him. But what about regular folks who want crystals suspended from the ceiling in intricate formation above their toilet, in hopes that it might draw a visitor’s eye away from a dated countertop or boxes of classified documents?

I asked Aaron Wendelboe, professor of epidemiology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City, about the implications of having unexpected items in a bathroom, whether they be a large crystal chandelier or stacks of papers containing proof of alien life, and he didn’t immediately hang up on me, which was nice.

Wendelboe said that when you flush a toilet, fecal material can get aerosolized and “will pretty much go everywhere,” even in distant corners and door jambs.

Did this mean the boxes in Trump’s bathroom were potentially covered in poo particles?

“Yes, theoretically,” he said. “If someone’s using the bathroom, your items are going to get contaminated. If no one’s using the bathroom, they’re probably not contaminated.”

There are a number of factors that can influence how much bacteria is spread, including how contaminated someone’s feces was to begin with, whether the toilet lid is up or down and proximity to the bowl. The boxes adjacent to the commode would have higher levels of bacteria. But the boxes probably protected the documents inside.

Was the chandelier — with its prime position in the fecal blast zone — an area of concern?

“Honestly, not really,” Wendelboe said. “People aren’t going to be touching it. It’s not going to be a source of fecal matter.”

Follow the alleged path of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago

This is the nature of bathrooms: They are inherently intimate and embarrassing places. I have always regarded the human acts that occur behind their doors to be the great equalizer, a moment of parity for our species. There, every king and queen, every president, every rock star, every billionaire who has been to space and the rest of us mere mortals behave in the exact same, unspeakably disgusting human way. They are one of the places we are most vulnerable; this is why so many of them have locks. The chandelier hanging in Trump’s toilet was his dynasty in a microcosm: something opulent and gaudy, a caricature of wealth that screamed for our attention, while hoping we would not notice any potentially dirty deeds happening below.

An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Ruth M’rav-Jankelowitz.

The latest: U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon overseeing Donald Trump’s classified documents case suggested that she might delay the planned scheduled, which includes a trial in May 2024.

The case: The criminal investigation looks into whether Trump took government secrets with him after he left the White House and obstructed a subsequent investigation. Trump has pleaded not guilty. Here’s what to know about the classified documents case.

The charges: Trump faces 40 separate charges in the documents case. Read the full text of the superseding indictment against Trump and our top takeaways from the indictment.

We need to talk about the bathroom chandelier in the Trump indictment photos - The Washington Post

Modern Chandeliers Can Trump still run for president? While it has never been attempted by a candidate from a major party before, Trump is allowed to run for president while under indictment in four separate cases — or even if he is convicted of a crime. Here’s how Trump’s indictment could impact the 2024 election.