By Leigh Vogel/WireImage/Getty Images.
Omarosa Manigault-Newman pulled no punches on Sunday’s Meet the Press. “[I] heard for two years that it existed,” she said of an alleged tape in which Donald Trump uses the n-word while taping The Apprentice. “And once I heard it for myself, it was confirmed, what I feared the most: that Donald Trump is a con and has been masquerading as someone who is actually open to engaging with diverse communities.” She added, “But when he talks that way, the way he did on this tape, it confirmed that he is truly a racist.”
Since leaving the White House, Newman has strategically dropped a series of ominous hints about her time there. But on Sunday, in conversation with NBC’s Chuck Todd preceding the publication of her tell-all book, Unhinged: An Insider Account of the Trump White House, Newman opened the floodgates, declaring all-out war on the administration that ousted her. “It is hindsight. But I will say this to you, I was complicit with this White House deceiving this nation,” she told Todd. “They continue to deceive this nation by how mentally declined he is, how difficult it is for him to process complex information. How he is not engaged in some of the most important decisions that impacts our country. I was complicit, and for that I regret.”
Remarkably, she also played a tape for Todd of her own firing, recorded in the White House’s top-security situation room. How Newman managed to get a recording device into the room is anyone’s guess—“How does @Omarosa get an unsecured cell phone into the Situation Room?” tweeted National Security lawyer Bradley Moss, “What is wrong with these folks in the White House?”—but in the recording, chief of staff John Kelly can be heard saying, “I think it’s important to understand that if we make this a friendly departure we can all be, you know, you can look at your time here in the White House as a year of service to the nation,” and, “And then you can go on without any type of difficulty in the future relative to your reputation.”
Characterizing the conversation as a “threat,” Newman condemned the administration: “The chief of staff of the United States, under the direction of the president of the United States, threatening me on damage to my reputation and things getting ugly for me, that’s downright criminal,” she said. It’s unclear whether Kelly’s statements can actually be construed as a threat, but according to The New York Times, among the brazen claims Newman makes in her book is the claim that Trump’s daughter-in-law attempted to buy her silence with a $15,000-a-month retainer. (The existence of the document was confirmed by The Washington Post.)
She also makes a number of other headline-grabbing claims: that Trump has a tanning bed hidden somewhere in the White House, that he once called Secretary of education Betsy DeVos “ditsy,” that he routinely comments on women’s looks, and that she once walked in on him chewing up a piece of paper to keep it from going into the presidential records. The White House has pushed back; in a statement, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the book “riddled with lies and false accusations,” and added, “It’s sad that a disgruntled former White House employee is trying to profit off these false attacks, and even worse that the media would now give her a platform, after not taking her seriously when she had only positive things to say about the President during her time in the administration.” During a Saturday event with a group of bikers at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf course, meanwhile, Trump referred to his former aide as a “low life.”
But in this particular slug-fest, Newman has a distinct advantage. For one thing, current and former staffers have no idea what she did and did not record, so making any claims as to the veracity of her accusations is dangerous. Call her a liar, and she might be able to back up her statements with indisputable evidence. For another, the former Apprentice villain is skilled in the art of P.R. warfare. She knows which details will be irresistible to press, and she knows how to time their rollout (her claims of Trump’s racism came on the anniversary of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia). The president may be well practiced at hijacking the news cycle, but Newman is his devoted apostle, and she learned from the best.
“I protected myself,” she told Todd, of choosing to make the recordings. “And I’m so glad I did.”