Omarosa Manigault Newman, the fired White House aide seeking publicity for her new memoir about her time in the Trump administration, said in an interview Sunday that the way Chief of Staff John F. Kelly dismissed her involved a “threat” and shared an audio recording of Kelly she said she made in the Situation Room.
The recording was played on NBC News’s “Meet the Press,” where Manigault Newman was interviewed by Chuck Todd.
In the purported recording, which would constitute a serious breach of White House security, Kelly is heard complaining about her “significant integrity issues” and saying he wants to make her departure “friendly” and without “any difficulty in the future relative to your reputation.”
In a statement Sunday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that “the very idea a staff member would sneak a recording device into the White House Situation Room, shows a blatant disregard for our national security — and then to brag about it on national television further proves the lack of character and integrity of this disgruntled former White House employee.”
The Washington Post reported Friday that after being fired, Manigault Newman declined a $15,000-a-month job offer with President Trump’s campaign, which came with a “companion agreement” including nondisclosure and nondisparagement provisions. Copies of both documents were obtained by The Post.
The “consulting agreement” describes Manigault Newman’s proposed services as “speaking appearances,” “fundraising appearances” and “diversity outreach.”
The “companion agreement” states that she could not make disparaging comments about “the campaign, Mr. Trump, [Vice President] Mr. Pence, any Trump or Pence Company, any Trump or Pence Family Member, or any Trump or Pence Family Member Company or any asset any of the forgoing own.” Another provision states that the agreement would survive even if Manigault Newman’s contract expired, was canceled or she was fired.
In her interview with Todd, Manigault Newman said she considered the offer an attempt to buy her silence. “They were not offering a real job,” she said. “They told me I could work from home, if I wanted to work. They didn’t care if I showed up.”
On Sunday, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to Trump, said the job offer was not “hush money.”
“Everybody signs an NDA,” Conway said on ABC’s “This Week,” referring to the nondisclosure agreement. “It sounds like she didn’t want to sign it and didn’t want to go back to the campaign because she had a book on her mind.”
Manigault Newman, who starred on Trump’s show “The Apprentice,” was fired from her administration position in December amid allegations of misconduct, including trying to stage her wedding photos on White House grounds.
Her purported recordings inside the White House — especially the Situation Room, which is supposed to be one of the most secure locations on Earth — represent a serious breach of security, said Ned Price, who was a National Security Council spokesman for the Obama administration.
The Situation Room “is the inner sanctum within an already-secure facility where the most sensitive of the most sensitive information is discussed,” Price said. “It’s where negotiations with Iran were hashed out. It’s where contingency plans for nuclear launches have been developed. The fact that she was recording a conversation in there really raises alarm bells in the minds of people who have worked in that room.”
Price said cellphones and recording devices are not allowed in the room, although his experience was that aides are not screened before entering.
“It’s a system based on honor and integrity, and there’s a sign outside that says, ‘Place your phones here,’ ” he said.
On Sunday, Manigault Newman did not address those issues.
She repeated what she asserts in the book: that Trump is a “racist, misogynist and bigot,” a realization that she said dawned on her only as her rocky White House tenure came to an end.
Todd asked why she did not come to this conclusion sooner, noting that Trump had said many things over the years that people considered racist, including calling Mexicans “rapists” or saying “both sides” were to blame for bloodshed during the white nationalist march in Charlottesville last year. Trump launched his political career advancing the birther conspiracy about President Barack Obama.
“Yes, I was complicit.” said Manigault Newman, who was the highest-ranking black employee in the White House. “. . . I had a blind spot when it came to Donald Trump. I wanted to see the best in him. Obviously, I failed miserably.”
White House aides are exploring what punishment she could face for the purported recordings in the Situation Room and in the building, according to a senior administration official.
Privately, many are wondering how many tapes she might have — and whether they are heard speaking on them.
Manigault has tapes of Trump speaking, a person familiar with the tapes said.