Obama aides deny they left behind nasty notes when they departed White House — in 2017

Christopher WilsonSenior Writer

Alumni of the Obama administration reacted with disbelief and outrage to a claim from White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham that incoming Trump administration officials found insulting notes left behind for them in their offices.

“We came into the White House, I’ll tell you something,” said Grisham during a local radio interview Tuesday morning, as reported by CNN’s Abby Phillip. “Every office was filled with Obama books, and we had notes left behind that said, ‘You will fail,’ ‘You aren’t going to make it.’” 

She didn’t elaborate on what she meant by “Obama books.”

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In the nearly three years since the presidential transition, no Trump administration officials have mentioned the notes or produced any photos that would support Grisham’s charge. 

“This is another bald faced lie,” wrote Susan Rice, who served as national security adviser. 

In a statement to NBC News responding to Rice’s tweet, Grisham clarified her statement, stating that she didn’t mean to suggest that the notes were left in every White House office, only in a press area.

“I’m not sure where her office was, and I certainly wasn’t implying every office had that issue,” Grisham wrote, referring to Rice’s office. “In fact, I had a lovely note left for me in the East Wing, and I tracked the woman down and thanked her. I was talking specifically about our experience in the lower press office — nowhere else. I don’t know why everyone is so sensitive!”

Additional officials who worked across the Obama administration strongly disputed Grisham’s claim on Twitter.

“100% false,” wrote Liz Allen, who worked as a deputy communications director. “I left a note wishing them good luck serving the American people and offering to be a resource.”

“This is a lie,” wrote Ben Rhodes, a foreign policy adviser for Obama. “If this happened I also don’t think the entire Trump staff would wait 3 years to tell us. Sad to see the WH press secretary fall this far.” 

“I was there,” wrote Daniel Jacobson, who worked in the White House counsel’s office. “This is a complete and utter lie. Quite the opposite — we left them briefing books to try to help with the transition as much as possible.”

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)

Since taking office, President Trump has frequently complained about the “mess” he inherited from his predecessor, but generally in reference to domestic and international policy, not the conditions of the offices in the White House.

report from the General Accounting Office in 2002 concluded that outgoing Clinton administration officials had caused damage amounting to $13,000 to $14,000 to White House offices before George W. Bush’s inauguration, including by removing the “W” keys from keyboards.

Grisham was named press secretary this summer, moving over from the office of the first lady after a history of misstatements. Grisham provided false information in 2018 about a controversial jacket worn by first lady Melania Trump and misstated the day of Trump’s 2016 visit to Scotland, which he claimed took place before the vote on the Brexit resolution but was actually the day after. Grisham’s predecessor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was found in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report to have lied about the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Sanders’s predecessor, Sean Spicer, provided conflicting information on Comey’s May 2017 termination.

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