Why Omarosa’s attack on Kelly could backfire
“Apprentice” star-turned-spurned White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman opened a new front in her war on the West Wing on Sunday, attacking chief of staff John Kelly as a bully who drummed her out of the White House unfairly.
With new prey in her talons, Manigault Newman gave voice to many of the problems that have roiled the West Wing. In a tell-all interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” she spoke in dramatic terms about the White House’s difficulties with race, honesty and loyalty, at the same time that President Donald Trump is reckoning again with criticism of his equivocal response one year ago to violence at a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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And Manigault Newman put some of the problems she described on stark display Sunday, surfacing a tape she surreptitiously recorded in the White House Situation Room.
“You have to have your own back, because otherwise you’ll look back and see 17 knives in your back,” she said of her decision to record conversations in the White House.Manigault Newman said she taped conversations with Kelly and others to protect herself, but her accusations may backfire. She argued that she was terminated unfairly, revealing that she had taped the conversation in which Kelly dismissed her, citing “integrity violations,” back in December.
But national security experts say recording a conversation in the Situation Room, though unbeknownst to Kelly at the time, constitutes exactly the sort of integrity violation of which she was accused — and worse, it was a potential security breach in a room that’s meant to be one of the most locked-down in Washington.
“That, in and of itself, deliberately bringing an unsecured cellphone into a [secure facility], would absolutely be a fireable offense,” said Bradley Moss, a Washington, D.C., attorney specializing in national security law.
Manigault Newman’s accusations, which come as she is promoting a book due out this week, go beyond her own firing. She said last week that she is aware of a tape on which Trump can be heard uttering the N-word — and she said Sunday she has heard that tape, part of what she described as a long journey to the realization that the president is a racist and “a con.”
Manigault Newman defended the president in the wake of last year’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, praising Trump for “clear and decisive remarks.” Pressed Sunday on her remarks as white supremacists mark the one-year anniversary of the rally by marching across the street from the White House, Manigault Newman replied, “I was complicit, and for that, I regret it.”
The White House has called Manigault Newman “disgruntled” and said her book is “riddled with lies and false accusations.” Trump on Saturday called her a “lowlife,” and White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said Sunday that everyone in the West Wing had signed nondisclosure agreements promising confidentiality about what happens in the administration, intimating that Manigault Newman had breached that agreement.
Manigault Newman, however, appears unfazed by any restrictions. On Sunday, she questioned why her December meeting with Kelly was held in the Situation Room, accusing the chief of staff of trying to intimidate her. “Why not have the meeting in the chief of staff’s office? Why put me in the Situation Room and lock the door?” she asked NBC News’ Chuck Todd.