He wasn’t the kind of person you’d imagine delivering the news that the president of the United States is a drug addict.
But shortly before we had learned that the coronavirus was upending American life—and making the president act unhinged—Noel Casler, a stand-up comedian at the American Comedy Institute in New York, made the claim, and he wasn’t joking. Casler, 49, whose material ranges from horse pornography and body parts to aging and dating, makes his experience with the Trump family the centerpiece of his routine. And during the lockdown, he has become an outspoken critic of the president on Twitter, weighing in on Trump’s daily briefings with a type of gallows humor that hews more to tragedy than to comedy. Casler’s take on Monday’s edition: “I’ve seen Trump snort Adderall, sh*t himself on a TV set and make his 16 year old daughter give him a lap dance. But that was the craziest shit I have ever seen him do.” (Neither the White House nor the Trump Organization would comment on Casler’s claims.)
Casler used to work in live television and spent six seasons as Ivanka Trump’s handler on the finale tapings of The Celebrity Apprentice. In addition to her role as a mentor and judge on the show, Casler says, “she was there to sort of smooth [things] over or make apologies, or jump up and say, ‘Dad has a cold’ or ‘His allergies are acting up.’” Casler describes Ivanka as having a practiced pleasantry that can never be mistaken for genuine kindness. “But she was never rude to me,” he says.
Donald Trump was another story entirely. Casler’s flashing message is the president’s unfitness for office. An excerpt of his material: “The president is a speed freak…. It makes sense if you think about it. Methamphetamine was invented by the Nazis to keep the fighter pilots up all night on bombing runs. Now Trump uses it to hate-tweet from the toilet at four A.M. in a self-centered rage.”
A Litany of Abuses
Casler says Trump takes these substances “because he suffers from dyslexia, and he got really nervous when he had to read cue cards on set.” He adds, “I used to see him coming out of the dressing room with Adderall coming out of his nose.” (Is this the reason he often sniffs while reading the teleprompter?) In the past few years, two S.N.L. cast members, Taran Killam and Pete Davidson, have said on different occasions that Trump struggled to read at his episode’s table read and didn’t seem to get the jokes. A recent book, A Warning, by a current unnamed senior Trump-administration official, described Trump’s challenges with comprehension and attention span: “But if the aim was to educate this new commander in chief, they couldn’t submit a fifty-page report entitled something like ‘Integrated National Strategy for Indo-Pacific Partnership and Defense,’ expect him to read it, and then discuss it. That would be like speaking Aramaic to Trump through a pillow; even if he tried very hard to pay attention, which he didn’t, he wouldn’t be able to understand what the hell he was hearing.”
Billy Amato, a partner with Bermuda Limousine International who has known and worked with Casler since the 2000s (when they staffed the same events, such as the Super Bowl or the Tony Awards, Amato drove, and Noel, as the talent wrangler, would bring the talent to the car), believes Noel’s claims. “I would not doubt what Noel is saying,” said Amato. “There is no reason for him to be lying. He knows all of this first-hand.”
“I used to see [Trump] coming out of the dressing room with Adderall coming out of his nose.”
Casler is that Apprentice unicorn—one of the only people, out of dozens, possibly even hundreds, who worked on the show, who has publicly violated his 24-page non-disclosure agreement. Casler says NDA now stands for “No, Dumb Ass.” As in, “No, Mr. President, I’m not going to stay silent anymore.” But according to Casler, Mark Burnett, the creator of The Apprentice and a seasoned Trump ally, has made clear to former Apprentice staff that he will sue anyone who talks—a threat that stops any non-celebrity or non-billionaire in his or her tracks. “It’s the working middle class in television who could really bury [President Trump],” says Casler.
Yet they haven’t buried him, even though many of them presumably know where a lot of Trump’s bodies are buried. These camerapersons, makeup artists, hairstylists, and logistics crews, among others, are often on tenuous freelance contracts and their entire professional reputation (and their ability to get hired again) rests on their discretion. “In this business, Noel is a renegade,” says Amato. “Producers look down on you if you talk publicly about the talent.”
“It’s the working middle class in television who could really bury [President Trump].”
And most people don’t have the chutzpah, or the deep pockets, to litigate with Trump and his associates. Tony Schwartz, Trump’s former ghostwriter (who is now wealthy after receiving a share of the millions of dollars of royalties from The Art of the Deal) who did not have a non-disclosure agreement, is a rare exception who has spoken out publicly. Most, however, do it anonymously—like the person who sent the Access Hollywood tape to The Washington Post. This extends beyond the president. In four years of reporting on the First Daughter, I’ve managed to get only one person in her social circle on the record. The source, Christina Lewis Halpern, a former real-estate reporter for The Wall Street Journal who went on to found a nonprofit called All Star Code, is an heiress herself.
Casler isn’t getting rich off of this. He performs at clubs where the entrance fee is $12. But the jokes are true, he asserts. “I’m not making this up,” he says, with startling conviction. “I’m just telling you what I saw and it’s the truth, but it’s a hard thing to do in Trump’s world because he pays people off. He threatens people. The guy has gotten away with everything his whole life.”
Like the notoriety surrounding Harvey Weinstein, Trump’s womanizing and history of sexual assault were an open secret in the Apprentice world. “Directors would talk about it all the time,” Casler told me. But no one wanted to say anything publicly or to the authorities, Casler explained, because “these people are making a decent wage, and why would they want to get sued by Donald Trump?” James Zirin describes this litigious dynamic in his recent book, Plaintiff in Chief: A Portrait of Trump in 3,500 Lawsuits, as the crucial element to keeping so many people quiet over the years. Zirin explains, “He [Trump] would lawyer you to death with discovery, motion practice, and delaying tactics. He would run up a legal bill that you couldn’t afford.… Better to pack your bag and move on.… Few had the financial resources or the will to face him down.”
On Facebook, Apprentice crew members have posted and messaged about what they witnessed on set. Casler shared one of these Facebook posts from a female assistant director on the show on his Twitter in July of 2019: “First time I met him [Donald Trump] he came into the truck, looked at the monitors that were on various contestants and asked if we could ‘get a close-up of her tits.’”
His main target may appear to be the president, but Casler’s job was to attend to Ivanka. “Ivanka’s trailer on The Apprentice was so big we used to joke on set that she was running a sweatshop in there,” said Casler. He describes the job of handler as “kind of like herding cats, if cats had publicists and massive egos. I’d have to get there four hours early to meet her [Ivanka’s] glam squad and let them into the trailer. I was resentful because no one else had to come in that early.”
One glimmer of hope for those seeking to make Donald Trump accountable—actual proof of saying sexist and racist things or partaking in sordid acts—has always been the elusive Apprentice tapes. The tapes—that is, the outtakes and other never-aired content from the cutting-room floor or off-screen footage that is suspected to exist—are owned by MGM, and Apprentice creator Mark Burnett is the chairman of the company. Burnett is not only a friend of Trump’s; he is one of the 47 people the president follows on Twitter. The tapes have not seen the light of day yet, but they have been mythologized due to speculation that some of their content could potentially bring down the Trump presidency. On April 9, a judge ordered that specific footage from the Apprentice tapes be released as part of a long-standing class-action suit against the Trump family over a marketing deal with a telecommunications company called ACN. According to the lawsuit, Trump and three of his children shilled for the brand on the show without disclosing their agreement.
The Joke’s on Us
Casler has blond, shaggy surfer hair, wears mala meditation bracelets, and was, until recently, a regular attendee at downtown kirtans, a type of devotional Hindu chanting. “Noel was born in the wrong era,” said Amato. “He is really a hippie and a real activist.”
He says in his stand-up routine that “giving Donald Trump the Miss Universe pageant is like giving Jeffrey Dahmer a cooking show.” The basis for that joke is what he witnessed during the 1990s when Casler was working on the pageant. “He [Donald Trump] would line up the girls on the side of the stage and he would inspect them, literally. He would stick his little doll fingers in their mouths and look at their teeth. He would line them up like they were pieces of meat. And he was like: ‘You, you, you, and you, if you want to win, I’m in the penthouse suite. Come and see me,” Casler recounted.
He would stick his little doll fingers in their mouths and look at their teeth.
In 2018, a part of Casler’s routine went viral after the comedian Kathy Griffin re-tweeted it. She insisted that Casler, whom she says she has known for years, is “super professional and discreet.” The actor and mega Trump critic Tom Arnold also vouched for Casler, saying that “he’s legit & brave” and “has impeccable credentials.” Arnold has been on a mission to have Burnett release unaired material from The Apprentice—he even hosted a short-lived show on Viceland called The Hunt for the Trump Tapes. (Tensions escalated between Arnold and Burnett at a charity event in Los Angeles in September 2018, when, Arnold claimed, Burnett tried to choke him. Arnold subsequently filed a battery report with the Los Angeles Police Department. Prosecutors ultimately did not charge Mr. Burnett.)
This isn’t the first time Casler has spoken up. Before the 2016 election, Casler, who thought, like so many, that Trump would never be president, nonetheless felt a moral responsibility to tell the public about what he knew about Trump’s alleged addiction and overall mental stability and fitness. So he gave his story anonymously to People magazine. Somewhat mysteriously, the story never ran.
To date, no one from the Trump world or from Burnett’s side has contacted Casler or even tweeted back at him, even though he tweets constantly at the Trump family. Last year, he pointed out the hypocrisy of Ivanka calling her father “a voice for the voiceless.” Casler wrote on Twitter: “‘a voice for the voiceless’ who silences all his employees with NDA’s. Thereby keeping them from speaking about Trump’s history of sexual assault and human trafficking i.e. Trump Model Management. Ivanka reaped the rewards of daddy’s exploitation of women. @realDonaldTrump.” Casler may save his best zingers for Don junior. This fall he asked his Twitter followers, who now number 120,000: “If you had a choice to come back in the next life as a urinal cake in Port Authority or look exactly like Donald Trump Jr. what color urinal cake would you be?”
Among other motives, it is Casler’s own history with addiction that prompted him to begin speaking out. “Untreated addiction becomes a huge danger because all you can think about is yourself. That’s what addiction is, a disease of self-centeredness,” said Casler, who has been sober for 14 years. “It was knowing that he [Donald Trump] was now in charge of the Free World and that he was an active addict full of resentment and rage.... I worked with Michael Jackson. I worked with Madonna. I worked with all these people. I have a lot more stories than this. I’m just telling this one because the guy happens to be president.”
I asked Casler if Ivanka knows that her father has a substance-abuse problem. He said that Ivanka “absolutely knows that he takes drugs like Adderall and Sudafed. That was no secret. He snorts and eats that stuff [Sudafed] like candy.” The Trump-drug-addiction story has been circulating for a while. On Twitter in March 2018, the reporter Kurt Eichenwald shared on his Twitter a previously unpublished portion of a feature on the matter that had been commissioned by Newsweek. Eichenwald said it “set off a war” at the magazine. He claimed that Matt McAllester, who was the editor in chief at the time, was “frightened to publish [it].” The excerpt from the unpublished story quoted two sources of Eichenwald’s—a former Trump executive and a friend. Both claimed that Trump “boasted” about taking the drug diethylpropion, a stimulant that is also used as an appetite suppressant. The executive told Eichenwald that he was the one who regularly picked up the prescription at the Duane Reade on 57th Street, not far from Trump Tower. Part of Eichenwald’s reporting relied on “studies in medical journals” that said the stimulant can result in “impulse control problems,” along with “delusions and paranoia.”
If what Casler says is true, what does Ivanka, a public servant and the only one of his children serving in the administration, owe the American people, given what she may understand, better than anyone, about her father’s mental health? “A normal person with moral character,” Casler replied, “would say, ‘My dad is a sick man.’ Anybody who worked on The Apprentice could tell you that.” (Last May, Casler tweeted out a photo the president had taken that appeared to have multiple boxes of Sudafed in a desk drawer in the background.)
While these revelations may make no waves—if past crimes and misdeeds couldn’t sway his base, what would at this point?—the conduct and the mental health of our commander-in-chief still matters to many. At least we hope it does.
Hannah Seligson is a writer based in New York and the author of, most recently, Mission: Adulthood