President Trump lined the West Wing walls with photos of his inauguration day crowds to make a (disputed) point about his superlative crowd size and seemed to get disoriented while giving his wife Melania a tour of Air Force One, according to a new memoir by former White House stenographer Beck Dorey-Stein.
“After takeoff, Trump gets lost while giving Melania a tour of the plane,” Dorey-Stein, 32, writes in From the Corner of the Oval, out Tuesday, about a trip to the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. “I don’t know how he gets lost, but he does. Air Force One is a beautiful bird, but it’s no different from any other commercial 747 in that there’s one narrow hallway that takes you from the front to the back.”
According to the book, which primarily catalogues Dorey-Stein’s work in President Obama’s White House, Trump ended up in front of her seat and they greeted each other. Dorey-Stein took a step back in deference, as she’d done previously for Obama. “But when I take a step back, Trump takes a step forward, into my personal space,” the author writes. The lost president said “hello” again “with a smile he must consider charming pasted on his face,” she writes. He remained in her “face” until one of his staffers directed him back toward the aisle. His wife, Melania, stood behind him “star[ing] at the ground,” according to the book. (Trump famously hovered over his opponent Hillary Clinton during a presidential debate, and throughout his campaign, he faced multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault.)
Dorey-Stein is a former school teacher who was hired into the stenographer’s job in 2012. White House stenographers, traditionally non-political outside contractors, are given extraordinary access to almost every presidential meeting and speech in order to produce transcripts that become part of presidential records. While Dorey-Stein writes that serving under Obama was a life-changing experience, after two months of working for the Trump administration she quit her job to work as a full-time writer.
During her short time under Trump, Dorey-Stein took note of what she saw as telling differences between the two administrations and the two presidents.
“The West Exec parking lot is no longer filled with Priuses and Chevys but with Porsches and Maseratis. The black frames that line the West Wing no longer display photographs of POTUS shaking hands with worlds leaders, little kids, and wounded warriors,” she writes, “instead, it’s a pathetic display of inauguration day crowds with the aerial shots cropped tight in the attempt to establish yet another ‘alternative fact.’”
After Trump’s inauguration, the president stirred up controversy by claiming that his crowd size was bigger than his predecessor’s, despite the reports. Trump personally contacted National Park Service director Michael T. Reynolds and asked him to produce additional photo proof that could back up the president’s claims of having the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration,” according to The Washington Post.
These aren’t the only differences that caught the author’s notice.
“I watch the Napoleonic clowns swagger through the West Wing in bad suits. I watch the female contortionists, who believe bending over in a miniskirt and stilettos is a good idea but a woman’s right to choose isn’t,” she writes. “I watch Stephen Miller smirk like a demonic Pee-wee Herman as he cracks jokes about gender equality in a van full of women who are active-duty members of the military. I watch all of it. I force myself to look up so I can write it all down.”
A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
She also wrote down one nurse’s strategy for dealing with the new administration.
“Back in Afghanistan,” the nurse from the White House medical unit told Dorey-Stein, according to the book, “I had to administer medicine to Taliban prisoners—so I’m basically approaching these people the same way.”
While Dorey-Stein only worked in the Trump administration for two months, her time in the White House left quite an impression.
“I notice that the table behind the Resolute Desk, once crowded with Obama family photographs, is now empty except for one framed picture of Trump’s father,” the author writes. “There isn’t a single photo of [Trump’s 11-year-old son] Barron, or Melania, or even [daughter] Ivanka. If only Fred had told his son he loved him, that he was proud of him — maybe none of this would have happened.”
From the Corner of the Oval is on sale now.
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