Allies of President Donald Trump and national security officials are chastising former presidential adviser Omarosa Manigault Newman after she revealed Sunday she secretly recorded conversations she had in the White House, including her firing by chief of staff John Kelly.
Parts of her conversation with Kelly were played on the air when she appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to promote her new book, “Unhinged,” which will be released this week.
The Associated Press independently listened to the recording of the conversation between Manigault Newman and Kelly, which she said was one of many she’d surreptitiously recorded for her own protection.
In her book, Manigault Newman, a Youngstown native and graduate of The Rayen School, paints a damning picture of President Trump, including claiming without evidence that tapes exist of him using the N-word as he filmed his “The Apprentice” reality series, on which she co-starred.
Manigault Newman said in the book that she had not personally heard the recording. But she told host Chuck Todd on Sunday that, after the book had closed, she was able to hear a recording of Trump during a trip to Los Angeles.
“I heard his voice as clear as you and I are sitting here,” she said.
But the other recording she discussed Sunday could prove equally explosive.
“Who in their right mind thinks it’s appropriate to secretly record the White House chief of staff in the Situation Room?” tweeted Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee.
In the recording, which Manigault Newman quotes extensively in the book, Kelly can be heard saying that he wants to talk with Manigault Newman about leaving the White House.
“It’s come to my attention over the last few months that there’s been some pretty, in my opinion, significant integrity issues related to you,” Kelly is heard saying, citing her use of government vehicles and “money issues and other things” that he compares to offenses that could lead to a court martial in the military.
“If we make this a friendly departure ... you can look at your time here in the White House as a year of service to the nation and then you can go on without any type of difficulty in the future relative to your reputation,” he tells Manigault Newman, adding that: “There are some serious legal issues that have been violated and you’re open to some legal action that we hope, we think we can control.”
Manigault Newman said she viewed the conversation as a “threat” and defended her decision to covertly record it and other White House conversations.
“If I didn’t have these recordings, no one in America would believe me,” she said.
The response from the White House was stinging. “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,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
The Situation Room is a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, where the nation’s most consequential foreign policy decisions are made, and staff are not permitted to bring in cell phones or other recording devices.
“I’ve never heard of a more serious breach of protocol,” said Ned Price, who served as spokesman of the National Security Council in the Obama administration. “Not only is it not typical, something like this is unprecedented.”
Price said there is no one checking staffers for devices at the door, but there is a sign outside the room making clear that electronic devices are prohibited.
“The Situation Room is the inner-most sanctum of a secure campus,” he said, describing the breach as part of a culture of disregarding security protocols in the Trump White House. He also questioning why Kelly would ever choose to have such a meeting there.
The White House had previously tried to discredit the book, with Sanders calling it “riddled with lies and false accusations.” Trump on Saturday labeled Manigault Newman a “lowlife.”