Clash of the con artists

When presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and then President Trump invited Youngstown native Omarosa Manigault Newman into his inner circle, it wasn’t because he thought she was particularly intelligent, or was impressed with her academic credentials, business acumen or political experience. Trump simply wanted a token black female on his arm (in a manner of speaking) to counter the charge that his bid for the presidency was monochromatic – white.

And when Manigault Newman fawned over the billionaire real-estate developer from New York City during the campaign and after he moved into the Oval Office, it wasn’t because she believed Trump saw America as a tapestry of many colors. Manigault Newman was simply punching her meal ticket that had no expiration date.

Theirs was a marriage of convenience – devoid of moral underpinnings and genuine feelings. They needed each other to achieve their personal agendas. But like all good con artists, they had to come across as believable. So they said all the right things about each other.

According to an article by Timothy O’Brien, executive editor of Bloomberg Opinion, published last week, candidate Trump was “fascinated” by Manigault Newman.

“He was fascinated by her self-absorption and nastiness, fascinated by her fleeting star power and fascinated by the fact she was publicly recognizable by her first name alone, sort of like Prince or Madonna.”

Manigault Newman, who was born and raised in Youngstown, was one of the more famous contestants from the reality show “The Apprentice” hosted by Trump. She was on the show’s inaugural season that began in January 2004, and appeared on numerous other reality shows, including “Celebrity Apprentice” twice.

In 2016, she served as Republican candidate Trump’s surrogate on the campaign trail, which she described as “a journey” in an interview with The Vindicator.

“I’ve been around Donald going on 13 years,” she said. “He is exceptional at everything he does. He’s an incredible mentor and friend to me.”

Omarosa was syrupy in her description of the then contender for the GOP presidential nomination, saying he’s “an impressive showman.”

“He knows how to be the main headliner, not only around the country, but around the world,” she told Vindicator politics writer David Skolnick. “This guy is a branding genius. He’s had billions of dollars of free media. There’s an art form to that.”

She predicted that Trump would be elected president – even though he had not secured the GOP presidential nomination at the time of the interview.

“We’re going all the way to Pennsylvania Avenue,” Manigault Newman said. “My political GPS is set for 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. It’s the only focus for Donald.”

But it wasn’t just Trump who seemed taken by the Youngstown native, who has a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, and a master’s degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C.

“She’s a very dynamic, intelligent and hardworking person,” said Youngstown businessman Bruce Zoldan. “She’s very proud of her Youngstown heritage. [Trump] respects her a lot, and she has his ear, which will help the area.”

Zoldan, chief executive officer of Phantom Fireworks, joined football legends, including Jim Brown, at a meeting Dec. 13, 2016, with Trump and Manigault Newman in Trump Tower in Manhattan. The purpose of the session was to discuss Brown’s Amer-I-Can inner-city outreach program.

Manigault Newman’s unabashed worship of Trump was assailed by many black leaders around the country and greeted with bemusement by the president’s white supporters.

Nonetheless, the relationship generated numerous national news stories and triggered much public discussion.

It is, therefore, easy to see why the ongoing vicious battle of words between Trump and his former disciple has grabbed the nation’s attention.

Last December, White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly fired Manigault Newman for ethics violations. Administration watchers knew she wasn’t going to fade into the sunset.

A tell-all book – “Unhinged: An Insider Account of the Trump White House” – is Omarosa Manigault Newman’s ultimate revenge. The book contains numerous unflattering claims about the president and members of his administration.

Manigault Newman has claimed in interviews with reporters that Trump used the N-word during his stint with “The Apprentice,” is a racist, is suffering from dementia and has hit on her, just as he has other women.

She also revealed she has many audio recordings of conversations she had with the president and others, and has played some of them on her press tour.

Trump is hitting back – big time.

In one widely publicized tweet, the president wrote:

“When you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break, and give her a job at the White House, I guess it just didn’t work out. Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog.”

Trump’s re-election campaign has filed a demand for arbitration against Manigault Newman, contending she violated a non-disclosure agreement that says she would not reveal confidential information about the then candidate for president.

But the former aide insists she will not be intimidated and last week released another audio recording that shows Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump offered Manigault Newman a job earning $15,000 a month to do nothing specific other than to speak positively on Trump’s behalf as part of his re-election campaign.

Lara Trump, married to Eric Trump, can be heard on the tape referring to a New York Times story that suggested the former White House aide has information that could be damaging to Trump.

Manigault Newman insists she won’t be silenced and intends to continue her public criticism of the president and his administration.

This new-found religion does not ring true with many in the black community who recall her unwavering support of Trump during the campaign and after he became president.

As a native of Youngstown, Manigault Newman is no doubt familiar with this saying:

“Every man and woman has a price. The challenge is to find out what it is, and to be able to pay it.”

The battle between the two prominent con artists may well come down to who has the best trick up their sleeves.

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