The White House Press secretary Stephanie Grisham claimed madde the claim that aides to former President Barack Obama left behind disparaging messages around the White House on the day President Donald Trump was inaugurated.
During a radio interview Tuesday, Grisham said that White House aides left “Obama books” throughout the White House and taped a big ‘You will fail’ sign on the door of the press office before Trump aides moved in – claims that sparked a chorus of condemnation from former Obama administration officials.
“This is another bald faced lie,” Susan Rice, who was serving as Obama’s national security adviser through the end of his administration, wrote Tuesday on Twitter in response to Grisham’s initial remarks.
“This is absolutely not true,” wrote Chris Lu, who served as White House Cabinet secretary during the Obama administration. “Obama repeatedly and publicly praised Bush cooperation during 2009 transition, and pledged we would provide same cooperation to whoever followed us. And that’s what we did.”
In response to Obama aides pushing back on her allegations, Grisham issued a statement softening her initial claims and calling the controversy “silly.”
“I’m not sure where their offices were, and certainly wasn’t implying every office had that issue,” Grisham said. “I was talking specifically (and honestly) about our experience in the lower press office – nowhere else. I don’t know why everyone is so sensitive!”
In her statement responding to the backlash Tuesday, Grisham said that she viewed the negative notes and Obama books “as kind of a prank, and something that always happened.” She also highlighted the fact that she personally received “a lovely note” from an Obama White House aide when she arrived.
But in the radio interview, she cast the alleged conduct in far more negative terms and used it to make the broader point that Obama aides – and career officials who continued to serve under Trump – had been vindictive and had worked to undermine the new president.
“It was sad, it was pathetic,” she said. “When we leave in six years, I fully intend to leave a note in my [successor’s] drawer, saying ‘Good luck to you.’ I don’t care if it’s a Dem or a Republican – you’re serving your country. It’s the highest honor in the world. So if these people couldn’t recognize and stay above that – that was on them.”
Several former Obama administration officials said they left behind only positive messages for the incoming Trump administration officials. Joanna Rosholm, press secretary for former first lady Michelle Obama, posted a copy of a letter she left in the White House on Twitter.
“Welcome to the small family of White House Staffers, past and present,” she wrote. “The bond we all share transcends politics. I want you to know that I am always available if you have questions, just as Mrs. Bush’s staff was for us. No question is too big or too small.”
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey