President Donald Trump said he dismissed his personal assistant, Madeleine Westerhout, after she divulged personal information about the Trump family during an off-the-record dinner with reporters.
“I think it was automatic,” Trump told reporters Friday of Westerhout’s departure. “I don’t say ‘fire’ or ‘not fire.’ I really think she had a bad night. I think it was unfortunate. She said she was drinking.”
Trump said he spoke by phone Friday to Westerhout, who was “very upset” and explained that she said “things about my children” to reporters off the record.
“I think the press is very dishonest because it was supposed to be off the record,” he said. “But, still, you don’t say things like she said which were just a little bit hurtful to some people.”
Westerhout, one of the few aides remaining from the earliest days of Trump’s administration, abruptly departed from her White House post this week.
Westerhout kept a low public profile even though she was one of the more influential members of Trump’s team of aides, with a desk just outside the Oval Office. Her phone regularly buzzed with calls from lawmakers and other top officials seeking to get through to the president.
The White House did not initially respond to requests for comment about Westerhout’s ouster, leaving her abrupt departure shrouded in mystery for hours. Trump, who praised Westerhout as “a good person,” did not specify what information Westerhout divulged about his family.
The New York Times reported Thursday that Westerhout had been forced out after Trump learned of her comments in the off-the-record dinner with reporters, which took place earlier this month in New Jersey. Politico reported Friday that Westerhout had made comments bragging about having a better relationship with Trump than the president’s own daughters, Ivanka and Tiffany. Politico also reported that Westerhout said Trump did not want to be seen in pictures with Tiffany because of her weight.
Trump called the allegations “absolutely false.”
“I love Tiffany,” Trump told reporters Friday.
Westerhout’s official position was “director of Oval Office operations.” An aide for Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Manchin usually called Westerhout to get through to Trump.
In February, after Axios published leaked copies of Trump’s private schedule with copious amounts of free time, Westerhout criticized the leak and defended the president.
“What a disgraceful breach of trust to leak schedules,” she wrote on Twitter. “What these don’t show are the hundreds of calls and meetings @realDonaldTrump takes everyday.”
Westerhout was one of six White House officials reprimanded last year for violating the Hatch Act, according to the Office of Special Counsel. That law bars federal employees from engaging in politics during work.
A former aide for the Republican National Committee, Westerhout also worked on presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. She quickly became a fixture in Trump’s inner circle, serving as personal assistant and gatekeeper for the president.
Trump told The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward last year that Westerhout was the person to contact in order to directly reach him at the White House.
“Madeleine is the key,” Trump said. “She’s the secret.”
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Toluse Olorunnipa