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Madeleine Westerhout, President Donald Trump’s personal assistant, looks on during an event in the Rose Garden, at the White House in Washington, July 11, 2019.DOUG MILLS/The New York Times News Service

Madeleine Westerhout, not long out of college, was working at the Republican National Committee in 2016. She was ardently conservative but loathed Donald Trump, especially after viewing his vile remarks about women on the infamous Access Hollywood tape.

She was so bitter when he won the election that she almost quit her RNC job. But she stuck around and worked on the Trump transition team as a greeter, escorting job-seekers for interviews with him at his Trump Tower.

Seeing her on TV clips, Mr. Trump was impressed. “The president-elect,” she writes in her book, Off the Record, “thought I had a good presence and a good walk.”

The president-elect was so impressed that the 26-year-old was given the post of his top personal assistant and gatekeeper with a desk right at the entrance to the Oval Office. It gave her more access to him than anyone except family members.

Ms. Westerhout liked to occasionally imbibe. Pouring back more than a few had gotten her kicked out of a sorority at college. It would cause her to get kicked out of her White House post as well. At a wine-filled, off-the-record dinner last summer with reporters, she was markedly indiscreet, saying Mr. Trump did not like to be seen with his daughter Tiffany because he believed she was overweight.

Word got out. Her dismissal hurt her badly (she’s still looking for work) because she had come to have a complete change of mind about Donald Trump. “I couldn’t love and respect him,” she writes, “any more than I do.”

Contrary to media impressions that he’s a dictator, she found a man who was constantly seeking out the opinion of others, no matter their station. He asked her whether he should dump Vice-President Mike Pence and replace him with Nikki Haley. Don’t do it, she told him.

He did have his favourites. One time he was on the phone with his daughter Ivanka when Fox News proprietor Rupert Murdoch called. Ms. Westerhout asked whether she should put him on hold. Mr. Trump erupted like Mount St. Helens. “Never put Rupert Murdoch on hold!” he hollered. “Never!”

He was cantankerous at times but mostly, she writes, gracious. He would come out of the office, sit by her desk, ruminate on the day. He was transfixed by the look of things, often suggesting ways to improve the White House. “This is what I do,” the former developer would say. “This is what I am good at.”

There were rumours that his interest in her extended beyond the professional but there was never a hint of it, she writes.

Her book defends his tweeting and doesn’t even mention his steady stream of lies and fabrications. “For the first time we have a president,” she says, “who tells us, hour by hour, what he thinks.”

Most of the time, “the President does not set out out to write harmful tweets. Even when he is attacking someone he is often cracking himself and his aides up over a new nickname he’d thought of.” It’s as if, Ms. Westerhout somehow rationalizes, he didn’t realize how mean-spirited he was being.

She does say he’s been too candid and accessible for his own good. Mr. Pence and others were always hanging around her desk waiting for an opportune moment to stick their head in his door.

Everybody was out for themselves. “I watched everyone else become obsessed with their titles and ranks and salaries.” To the point, Ms. Westerhout concedes, that she got that way as well.

Other impressions: The Russia collusion inquiry took a huge toll on Mr. Trump’s time and his moods. He has a fantastic memory. He and his wife Melania share “tremendous affection and respect.” He was always at the ready with a Barack Obama cheap shot. “Obama just sat here and watched basketball all day,” he told her.

For the frequent Canada basher, trade adviser Peter Navarro, Ms. Westerhout has nothing good to say. She describes him as out of control and disrespectful.

After she was fired, she was afraid to show her face but was relieved when she got in touch with Mr. Trump. He said he forgave her and still likes her.

After reading her flattering book, he will like Madeleine Westerhout more. Her story is decidedly unlike that of many others who have departed this White House and written scathing accounts. Here the scathing is replaced by sugar-coating. But it deserves a hearing.

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