Getting Fired Ain’t the Story

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 2: White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Madeleine Westerhout watch as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with North Korean defectors in the Oval Office at the White House in... WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 2: White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Madeleine Westerhout watch as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with North Korean defectors in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC on Friday, Feb. 02, 2018. President Donald Trump talked to reporters and members of the media about the release of a secret memo on the F.B.I.'s role in the Russia inquiry. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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Today we have yet another in the endless story of Trump White House dysfunction. President Trump’s personal assistant was abruptly fired, translated into a “separated employee” after Trump learned that she’d blabbed to the press about Trump’s family. For good corporate measure, she was also barred from even entering the White House today. Again, yet more Trump nonsense.

But let me come at this from a different direction. We don’t know just what these family details were. But a personal assistant to the President has access to the President, his family and many of their collective intimacies and legitimately private life. If she really shared truly personal details with the press that is a massive breach and I suspect it would lead to termination under any White House — maybe not quite so jaggedly, with the equivalent of being escorted out of the building. But fired? I’m pretty sure yes.

But there’s another nugget that to me is the real story.

Here’s a paragraph from the Times piece yesterday breaking this story.

Ms. Westerhout, a former Republican National Committee aide who also worked for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, reportedly cried on election night because she was upset over Mr. Trump’s victory. As such, the president at first viewed her warily, as a late convert to his cause who could not be trusted.

In the Trump world and with the kind of access journalism it spawns, I never know quite what to believe, quite what to take at face value. But if this is more or less accurate it’s just astounding.

In November, Westerhout not only wasn’t a Trump loyalist she was apparently driven to tears when she learned he’d be President. She’d worked for the RNC and the Romney campaign. So she’s a professional Republican. But she holds Trump in such contempt that she still was driven to tears when he, the Republican nominee, won the presidency over Hillary Clinton?

Trump “viewed her warily”?

Well, I’d say Trump had pretty good reason. I’d view her pretty warily if I were Trump too. It’s flabbergasting that she ever got such a position.

It’s important to remember that a personal assistant position isn’t like Defense Secretary, a job in which you are there to work for the American people even though you report to the President. A personal assistant is really supposed to work for the President, be loyal and maintain his legitimate confidences. Even beyond that, she’s really supposed to work for Donald Trump the person, not just the office of the President. As I said, a personal assistant in this context really does get access to a lot of legitimately private information that should remain confidential. She may also have gotten access to a lot of things that might be criminal that we should know about. But set that aside. She owes the President total discretion.

It is astonishing to me that someone who apparently had that kind of contempt for Trump that late in the game got such a position. How is that possible? I really don’t know. But I think as a general matter it suggests something we probably already know: that the White House is filled with people who know Trump has no business being President. But he is President. So they don’t care. But since the relationship is purely transactional these kinds of betrayals are commonplace.

It’s why the place leaks like a sieve. But something Westerhout shared or said clearly went beyond the pale or got back to the President directly in a way these things ordinarily do not.

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