In 1970, American poet and multifaceted artist Joe Brainard published the book I Remember, which became a classic. The book, which Paul Auster called, “one of the few totally original books I have ever read,” is an experimental memoir about the author’s childhood in Oklahoma and of his life in New York City in the 60s and 70s. As an homage to Brainard, I wrote the following about one of the most influential political figures of our time.

I remember Donald Trump

I remember a friend telling me that when he was a young father, he lived in the Jamaica Estates neighborhood of Queens, a few blocks away from the Trump family home. One day when his children were fighting and making mischief, he told them that if they stopped fighting, on Halloween he would take them to the Trump mansion where they would be showered with candy. When the day came, they knocked on Trump's door several times and nobody answered the door, although voices and laughter could be heard from inside. Heartbroken, the children reverted to fighting.

I remember that in 1959, Donald Trump started his military education at the New York Military Academy. He was sent there by his father, Fred Trump, to be disciplined. Donald Trump had a penchant for creating mischief, as he acknowledged in his book The Art of the Deal. I remember that Trump provoked the envy of his classmates for his frequent leaves on weekends and for bringing beautiful women to the school.

I remember that when he was in college, he obtained four student draft deferments during the Vietnam War, although in 1966 a medical examination deemed him fit for military service. In the fall of 1968, he received a 1-Y classification, a temporary medical exemption, due to bone spurs, disqualifying him for military service unless there was a national emergency or an official declaration of war. In 1972, after the 1-Y classification was eliminated, Trump’s status was changed to 4-F, a permanent disqualification, thus depriving the nation of his potential heroic deeds. During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump said that he couldn’t recall who had signed off on the medical exemption.

I remember how in 2018 a New York Times investigation revealed that the two daughters of Dr. Larry Braunstein, who had signed Trump’s exemption papers, Dr. Elysa Braunstein and Sharon Kessel, suggested that Trump didn’t have a foot ailment but the certification was done as a favor to Fred Trump, who owned the building where Dr. Braunstein had his office. According to Dr. Braunstein’s daughters, as told to The New York Times, every time that there was something wrong with the building, he would call Fred Trump and everything would be immediately taken care of. Dr. Braunstein, who died in 2007, left no documents related to Donald Trump. I remember how in 1977 Trump married Ivana Marie Zelnickova. An immigrant born in Czechoslovakia who became a U.S. citizen in 1988. After Ivana found out about Trump’s affair with Marla Maples they divorced in 1990. In a famous cameo appearance in the film The First Wives Club, Ivana famously told a group of divorced women, “Don’t get mad, get everything!”

I remember that the famous Zsa Zsa Gabor once said, “I am a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man, I keep his house.”

I remember that Trump then married Maples in 1993, and divorced in 1999. I remember that in 2005 Trump married model Melania Knauss, an immigrant from Slovenia. Melania gained U.S. citizenship in 2006. They had one son, Barron, born that same year. I remember that in 1982 Trump made the Forbes list of the wealthiest people in the U.S. In 1984, pretending to be a fictional Trump Organization official named “John Barron,” Trump called American journalist Jonathan Greenberg and falsely asserted that he owned more than 90 percent of his father’s business to get a higher ranking on the Forbes 400 list of wealthy Americans.

I remember that in 2018 Trump and his family were reported to have committed tax fraud and an investigation was started by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. Refuting his claims of financial health, Trump’s tax returns from 1985 to 1994 show net losses totaling $1.17 billion, an amount higher than that of any other American taxpayer. In 1995, his losses were estimated at $915.7 million, equivalent to $1.83 billion in 2023. In 2020, Trump owed $640 million to banks and trust organizations, among them Bank of China, Deutsche Bank, and UBS, plus $450 million to undisclosed creditors.

I remember that, as a man of high intellectual ambitions, Trump co-funded Trump University, which sold real estate seminars for up to $35,000. Several lawsuits were filed against Trump, accusing him of defrauding or lying to his students. After winning the 2016 presidential election, Trump agreed to pay $25 million to settle those cases.

I remember that Trump is also a prolific (fake) author, having written 19 books under his name. The first one, The Art of the Deal, had Tony Schwartz as the co-author, although it is widely believed that Schwartz was the sole author. With his characteristic modesty Trump said that after the Bible, his was his second favorite book of all time.

I remember that during his presidency Trump rejected all scientific consensus on climate change, calling it a hoax, and reversing Obama’s policies aimed at curbing it. In addition, in June 2017, he announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. The agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 Parties at the UN Climate Conference (COP21) in Paris, France, on 12 December 2015. The U.S. was the only nation which didn’t ratify the agreement. I remember that Trump signed 14 Congressional Review Act resolutions repealing federal regulations, among them a bill that made it possible for severely mentally ill persons to buy guns. During his first six weeks in office he delayed, reversed, or suspended ninety federal regulations, often after requests by the regulated industries themselves.

I remember that during his campaign, Trump pledged to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA,) colloquially known as Obamacare. Had he succeeded, it would have eliminated health insurance coverage for up to 23 million Americans. Showing his concern for the poor, Trump suggested he was willing to consider cuts to Medicare and other social safety-net programs. I remember that in January 2017, three American intelligence agencies—the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA—jointly stated with “high confidence” that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election to favor the election of Trump as president.

I remember that in May 2017, Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, special counsel for the Department of Justice (DOJ), ordering him to examine any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. Trump sought to fire Mueller and shut down the investigation multiple times, and he only backed down after objections from his staff. The report found that Russia interfered in 2016 to favor Trump’s candidacy and hinder Hillary Clinton’s, but “didn’t establish” that Trump campaign members conspired or coordinated with Russian operatives. Although Trump falsely claimed that the investigation exonerated him, the Mueller report expressly stated it didn’t. I remember that on December 13, 2019, the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to pass two articles of impeachment: one for abuse of power and one for obstruction of Congress. After debate, the House of Representatives impeached Trump on both articles on December 18, 2019. Trump was acquitted of both charges. Following his acquittal, Trump fired all impeachment witnesses and other political appointees and career officials he considered not loyal to him.

I remember that the Trump administration separated more than 5,400 children of migrant families from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, sparking public outrage. In 2018, Judge Dana Sabraw stated that the Trump administration had “no system in place to keep” separated children, nor any adequate measures for family communication and reunification. Judge Sabraw ordered the families to be reunited and family separations stopped.

I remember that on January 12, 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported that in October 2016, Michael Cohen, lawyer for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, arranged a payment of $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to stop her from disclosing an affair she allegedly had with Trump in July 2006. Although Daniels had signed a non-disclosure agreement (DNA), she later talked openly about the incident. I remember that although initially Cohen denied that Trump had the alleged affair, a month later publicly acknowledged making the payment. In August 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges and stated, under oath, that he had paid Daniels “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office”.

I remember that Stormy Daniels was threatened not to talk about her affair with Donald Trump. She said on one occasion while she was getting her infant daughter out of their vehicle in a Las Vegas parking lot, an unknown man showed up at her vehicle and told her, “Leave Trump alone. Forget the story. That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom”. Trump later declared that the parking lot incident was “a total con job”.

During an interview with TV personality Jimmy Kimmel on October 2018, Daniels told him that her sexual encounter with Trump “may have been the least impressive sex I’d ever had.” She also told Kimmel that Trump’s penis resembled a mushroom, like a character in the comic strip Mario Kart. And she added, “Do you know how much hate mail I’ve gotten from people who love Mario Kart...In one day, I managed to ruin half of America’s childhood and mushroom farming everywhere.”

I remember that after engaging in a war of words with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, they exchanged 27 letters. During a rally in West Virginia Trump declared, “He wrote me beautiful letters, and they are great letters. We fell in love.”

I remember when in December 2019 the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in Wuhan, China, and soon spread worldwide. Trump called the outbreak “horrible” but only a temporary problem. Initially, Trump dismissed public health actions from health officials within his administration, and even proposed unproven treatments without any scientific basis, such as injecting a disinfectant to treat the infection. Doctors called Trump’s proposal “ridiculous.” In addition, defying his administration's own guidelines, Trump often refused to wear a mask at public events.

I remember when in July 2020 Trump announced the withdrawal of the U.S. from the World Health Organization (WHO,) a decision that was widely condemned by public health officials as “shortsighted” and “dangerous.” Trump’s refusal of his own public health officials’ recommendations weakened national efforts to mitigate the pandemic.

I remember that on October 2, 2020, Trump tweeted that he had tested positive for COVID-19, part of a White House outbreak. He was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where he was treated with antiviral and antibody drugs still under experimentation. In spite of his denial, it was later revealed that his condition had been very serious with low oxygen levels, high fever and lung infiltrates, evidence of a severe infection.

I remember when Trump appointed three judges to the Supreme Court: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, shifting the Court to the political right. He took credit when in June 2022 Roe v. Wade was overturned in Dobbs v. Jackson Women Health Organization, thus eliminating the federal right to abortion. All three of Trump’s Supreme Court nominees voted for the ban to abortion. I remember that immediately after the 2020 election, at 2 a.m. the morning after, Trump declared victory. Joe Biden was projected the winner days later. Trump, however, stated that “this election is far from over” and without any proof declared election fraud. Trump’s many legal challenges were widely rejected finding no legal or factual basis. Trump didn’t attend Joe Biden’s inauguration, thus giving new significance to the expression “sour grapes”.

I remember how on January 6, 2021, as congressional certification of the 2020 election results was taking place in the U.S. Capitol, Trump held a rally at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. He demanded that the election results be overturned and encouraged his supporters to “take back our country” and “fight like hell” marching to the Capitol. The assault on the Capitol left 140 police officers injured and five people dead. I remember how, on January 11, 2021, an article of impeachment charging Trump with incitement of insurrection against the U.S. government was introduced to the House, which voted 232-197 to impeach Trump two days later. Trump became the first U.S. president to be impeached twice. On February 13, after a five-day Senate trial, Trump was acquitted. One wonders now what will happen to Trump’s political ambitions if he is found guilty in one or more of the several trials against him. The whole world is expectant.

César Chelala is an award-winning writer on human rights issues.