National News

Picking Up Groceries With Trump? Bring an ID

Posted August 1, 2018 8:40 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON — Just when it seemed like Tuesday’s “Make America Great Again” rally in Florida would end with the typical punch list — Democrats, journalists, immigrants — President Donald Trump added new spice to his usual extemporaneous potpourri by asserting that supermarket shoppers need to show valid identification in the checkout aisle.

“You know,” Trump knowingly told the approving crowd, “if you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card. You need ID.”

It is not often that Trump, a mold-breaking billionaire, is seen as behaving presidential, which he thinks would be too boring, anyway. But with this particular offhand and baldly inaccurate comment, the president landed himself in the company of other presidents and presidential hopefuls who have fumbled while trying to showcase their everyman appeal.

The obvious question immediately surfaced: Has Trump ever been in the checkout line at a grocery store?

Several of the president’s friends — one of them a billionaire owner of a chain of grocery stores — said they cannot recall Trump ever doing his own grocery shopping.

John A. Catsimatidis, the owner of Gristedes Foods, a chain of small grocery stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn, said in an interview that he has known the president for 40 years, but cannot recall a time when Trump entered one of his stores.

“I wouldn’t know,” Catsimatidis said. “I don’t have any pictures with him in Gristedes.”

Trump has, at the very least, shown that he knows his way around a shopping cart. In December, the president was photographed as he nudged a cart around a food distribution center in Utah, pointing at his bounty with a “can you believe this” look on his face and a grin before setting off through the facility.

“It’s good stuff,” he said as he began his journey.

Those who have studied Trump over the years were not willing to let him get away with the grocery gaffe so easily: “Donald Trump is 72 years old,” Tim O’Brien, a journalist who wrote a book about Trump, wrote on Twitter, “and he hasn’t bought his own groceries in 72 years.”

But the scrutiny surrounding the president’s grocery habits did not seem to faze Trump or aides in his White House.

By now, the president and his aides know how to barrel forward by focusing on what Trump supporters care about: a wall, a job — maybe a space force.

On Wednesday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, answered several questions on the topic by criticizing the news media for asking.

“I’m not sure,” Sanders told reporters when asked about the last time Trump had been to a grocery store. “I’m not sure why that matters, either.”

Sanders, when pressed, said that the president had been referring to buying beer and wine. (The president has said he does not partake in either vice.)

“He’s not saying every time he went in, he said when you go to the grocery store,” Sanders said, when she was pressed. “I’m pretty sure that everybody in here who’s been to a grocery store that’s purchased beer or wine has probably had to show their ID. If they didn’t, then that’s probably a problem with the grocery store.”

Catsimatidis, the owner of Gristedes, did not see why critics were seizing on the president’s assertion that an ID was needed to buy groceries.

“You need a photo ID to buy groceries if you’re using a credit card or if you want to use a check,” Catsimatidis said.

Past presidents have also faced charges of out-of-touch, knife-and-fork elitism.

President George Bush was teased for not knowing how to work a grocery store scanner — in his defense he was actually marveling over the newfangled technology — during his failed campaign for re-election in 1992.

President Barack Obama was once heckled by Sean Hannity, Trump’s favorite human megaphone, for ordering Dijon mustard (too fancy!) on a cheeseburger.

Even Rudy Giuliani, the president’s current personal lawyer who once had Oval Office ambitions, made headlines in 2007 when it was clear he had no idea how much a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk might cost a consumer.