The revelations surrounding Omarosa Manigault Newman’s new memoir, and the ensuing fallout, are underscoring a level of dysfunction many now see as just part of life under President Donald Trump.
On Monday, the former senior aide revealed a recording she’d made of the President phoning her on the day after she was fired. Earlier, Manigault Newman released a tape of a chief of staff John Kelly doing the firing in the White House Situation Room.
Neither contained outwardly embarrassing language. But the tapes’ mere existence confirmed a longstanding reality: in Trump’s White House, there are few norms or expectations of decorum that cannot be shattered.
Now, aides are wondering who else might be using a recording device to capture audio from private conversations. And they are girding for Manigault Newman to release more of her tapes, which she has teased at in a string of television interviews.
“I don’t know. I’m going to watch to see,” Manigault Newsman said Monday when asked on MSNBC whether she would make more of her recordings public. “I’m expecting that they’re going to retaliate and so I’m just going to stand back and wait.”
What is contained in the remainder of Manigault Newman’s tapes is a mystery, at least for now. The recordings she has released so far are shocking only because they were created by a White House employee; the content is enlightening but not scandalous.
Nevertheless, the tapes have only deepened a pre-existing sense of paranoia among Trump staffers, according to senior administration officials, fueling an underlying suspicion that everyone inside the West Wing is out for themselves. The White House has no way of knowing how many tapes Manigault Newman might have, the official said, even as they explore legal avenues for preventing their release and punishing her for making them. The official declined to specify what specific legal steps were being considered. Several senior aides said Monday that they doubted Manigault Newman was the only person taping her conversations at work. Trump himself used the tactic in his life as a private businessman and the question of whether he’s taping his conversations in the Oval Office arose last year when he suggested there might be recordings of an encounter with former FBI Director James Comey (none ever materialized).
One administration official said Monday that there isn’t a belief in the White House that Manigault Newman poses a larger national security risk after taping her conversation with Kelly in the Situation Room since she wasn’t part of any classified or secret discussions of a national security nature during her time in the West Wing.:
Aides are not supposed to bring personal electronic devices into the Situation Room, which in reality is a highly secure complex of conference rooms, and there are small lockers outside of the door where staffers place their phones. However, the practice operates on the honor system and advisers are not searched before entering.
Like taped conversations and Omarosa herself, nondisclosure agreements were a vestige of Trump’s former life that he brought to the West Wing and his campaign. Manigault Newman alleges in her book that Trump’s campaign offered her a $15,000 per month payment in exchange for signing a binding document saying she wouldn’t disclose information the President or his agents deemed confidential.
Other former West Wing staffers have landed in similarly paying gigs: Keith Schiller, Trump’s longtime bodyguard and one-time director of Oval Office operations, makes $15,000 per month advising the Republican National Committee on security arrangements for the 2020 GOP convention. It’s not known whether he signed a nondisclosure agreement as part of his hiring.
On Monday, Trump alleged Manigault Newman was already bound by an agreement not to speak about her time at the White House.