Fact Check

Did Trump Use Notes To Self in Sharpie Pen That Said 'I Want Nothing'?

Some news stories in late 2019 were pretty sensational, so readers naturally questioned surreal-looking notes in the president's clutch.

Published Nov 22, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 20: U.S. President Donald Trump holds his notes while speaking to the media before departing from the White House on November 20, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump spoke about the impeachment inquiry hearings currently taking place on Capitol Hill. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) (Getty Images)
Image Via Getty Images
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In talking to journalists, U.S. President Donald Trump used some notes to himself written in Sharpie pen that said, in part, "I want nothing."

In late November 2019, hearings were underway in an impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Donald Trump, in which he had been accused in a whistleblower complaint of attempting to extort damaging information on a potential political rival from the Ukrainians by withholding crucial military aid.

So when Snopes readers saw images online of Trump clutching notes written with a Sharpie pen that read in all-capital letters, in part, "I WANT NOTHING," some people were skeptical.

The notes in fact were real. The image was shot by Getty photographer Mark Wilson on Nov. 20, 2019, which he managed to capture on the South Lawn of the White House. Trump was speaking to journalists just before departing on Marine One. In full, the notes said, "I WANT NOTHING. I WANT NOTHING. I WANT NO QUID PRO QUO. TELL ZELLINSKY [sic] TO DO THE RIGHT THING. THIS IS THE FINAL WORD FROM THE PRES OF THE U.S.”

The notes apparently refer to the debate during impeachment proceedings as to whether Trump had demanded a quid pro quo exchange of damaging information about former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump's potential 2020 political rival, from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for U.S. weapons.

However, some on Twitter used the opportunity for humor after noticing the words on the page seemed to echo the tone of melancholy rock music.

Part of the reason the image of the notes went viral may have been due to another Sharpie-related Trump incident. In September 2019, Trump was widely criticized for displaying a map of areas that would be affected by Hurricane Dorian. The map had a Sharpie mark on it that falsely indicated Dorian would hit Alabama.

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Barrett, Brian. "How the Photographer Got That Iconic Shot of Trump's Notes."   Wired. 20 November 2019.

Gallagher, Brenden. "Trump’s Impeachment Notes Get Riffed into Punk Songs."   Daily Dot. 21 November 2019.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who started her career as a daily newspaper reporter and has covered everything from crime to government to national politics. She has written for ... read more

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