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There are many reasons people who work in the White House are reluctant to take notes, and traditionally they center around protecting the president. But lots of people in President Trump's White House took notes for the opposite reason, report Peter Baker and Annie Karni at The New York Times: To protect themselves against "a mercurial, truth-bending chief executive who often asked them to do things that crossed ethical or even legal lines, then denied it later."
Some notes by Trump staffers have ended up as tell-all books, but Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report also drew from contemporaneous notes, shining new light on Trump's actions — and his strong aversion to note-taking, especially since he can no longer rely on nondisclosure agreements.
Mueller's team obtained notes or contemporaneous memos from former White House Counsel Don McGahn, his deputy Annie Donaldson, former White House Chiefs of Staff Reince Priebus and John Kelly, former Trump campaign chiefs Paul Manafort and Corey Lewandowski, adviser Stephen Miller, and other advisers, lawyers, and government officials. Some of them kept notes of alarming conversations with Trump in safes, according to Mueller's report.
We know Trump hated note-taking from McGahn's notes and Trump himself, who alleged in a Friday tweet that some "so-called 'notes' ... never existed until needed" and contained "total bullsh-t." Trump also publicly berated former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster for taking copious amounts of notes, the Times reports.
W. Neil Eggleston, who served as a lawyer for President Bill Clinton and as president Barack Obama's White House counsel, told the Times he "didn't take notes when I worked with either president," but to protect the presidents, not make sure he wasn't "part of a criminal conspiracy," like Trump's aides. "To create records of information that was quite harmful to the president, that is really remarkable," he added. "And to do it and then stay on and continue to write them, is really something to me." Read more at The New York Times.