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Trump’s Personal Assistant Resigns Over ‘Off-The-Record’ Conversation With Reporters

By  Paul Bois
Madeleine Westerhout watches 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.
Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

*This article has been changed since its original publication.

President Donald Trump’s personal assistant Madeleine Westerhout resigned from her job after the White House learned that she had revealed personal information about Trump and his family to reporters in an “off-the-record” conversation. How the White House learned about the conversation has sparked speculation, with one Republican insider alleging that a Washington Post journalist “burned” Westerhout.

According to NBC News, Westerhout resigned from her position late Thursday when the White House learned she had shared personal information about the president and his family during an off-the-record conversation with reporters earlier this month while they were covering his vacation at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Though the details she allegedly shared remain unknown, a source close to the situation told The New York Times Westerhout’s resignation was swift and abrupt.

Westerhout had been serving under President Trump since the 2016 transition.

Since her resignation, GOP political strategist Arthur Schwartz has alleged that two reporters and White House insiders have fingered Philip Rucker of the Washington Post as the journalist who “burned” Westerhout for the off-the-record conversation in what would be a violation of journalistic standards.

“I’ve heard from two reporters that [Philip Rucker] is the one that burned Madeleine Westerhout. A couple of people in the WH told me the same,” Schwartz tweeted on Friday.

“Where the hell is the @whca on the Amazon Washington Post / @PhilipRucker scandal? They’re busy defending a Playboy columnist’s right to behave like a buffoon at the WH instead of addressing an unprecedented credibility crisis facing their entire profession. Shameful,” Schwartz continued.

In a later post, Schwartz shared Washington Post’s policies and standards regarding reporters, which clearly states that “off-the-record” subjects should not be “for publication or in further reporting” and that the journalist must ensure that the person being interviewed has a full understanding of the term “off-the-record.”

This is the trickiest of all, because so many people misuse the term. By the traditional definition, off-the-record information cannot be used for publication or in further reporting. But many sources, including some sophisticated officials, use the term when they really mean “not for attribution to me.” We must be very careful when dealing with sources who say they want to be “off the record.” If they mean “not for attribution to me,” we need to explain the difference, and discuss what the attribution will actually be. If they really mean off the record as the term is traditionally defined, then in most circumstances, we should avoid listening to such information at all. We do not want to be hamstrung by a source who tells us something that becomes unusable because it is provided on an off-the-record basis.

Madeleine Westerhout previously served as a Republican National Committee aide prior to working for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. The New York Times reports that she “cried on election night because she was upset over Mr. Trump’s victory” and that “the president at first viewed her warily, as a late convert to his cause who could not be trusted.”

“Some of Mr. Trump’s top officials — like John F. Kelly, who has since left as chief of staff — tried to turn Ms. Westerhout into an ally who could help them manage Oval Office traffic,” reports the Times. “They hoped that she could block individuals from reaching the president on the phone or in person, and that she would report back on the calls and meetings that made it through.”

UPDATE: Shortly after the publication of this article, Politico reported that Madeleine Westerhout allegedly told the journalists present that “she had a better relationship with Trump than his own daughters, Ivanka and Tiffany Trump, and that the president did not like being in pictures with Tiffany because he perceived her as overweight.”

“Westerhout also jokingly told the journalists that Trump couldn’t pick Tiffany out of a crowd, said one of the people,” reported Politico. “‘She had a couple drinks and in an uncharacteristically unguarded moment, she opened up to the reporters,’ the person said.”

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