Trump calls Omarosa Manigault Newman a dog for her tell-all; feud focuses attention on secrecy pacts
President Trump’s feud with former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman escalated Tuesday with the president calling her a “dog,” while his reelection campaign took action to enforce a nondisclosure agreement she signed during the 2016 race.
That action, seeking arbitration in New York, comes as Manigault Newman continued a publicity tour for her book released Tuesday on her 15-year association with Trump on reality television and his campaign and in the White House — “Unhinged,” a title that reflects how she now describes him.
As part of that promotion, she released another recording of her interactions with Trump and colleagues, the latest allegedly of a discussion she and two other African American women on the 2016 campaign had about reports that Trump was on tape using a racial slur. After that release, the campaign took action alleging she’d violated her earlier confidentiality agreement.
Manigault Newman, on MSNBC, denied that. The president, she said, “is trying to silence me. So what is he afraid of?”
Trump, she added, “should be afraid of being exposed as the misogynist and bigot and racist that he is.”
The president in response ratcheted up his attacks — and drew widespread condemnation — when he referred to her in a tweet early Tuesday as a “dog.”
“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,” he tweeted.
Manigault Newman’s claims, and the aggressive pushback from the president and his campaign, have drawn new attention to the nondisclosure agreements that Trump has demanded of campaign and White House aides. While he routinely used them in his businesses to prevent damaging disclosures, so-called NDAs are virtually unknown for political aides and public officials — contrary to the contention of White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday that they’re common.
Manigault Newman, who had been the highest-ranking African American and one of the few minorities in the Trump White House, said in recent days that she was offered $15,000 a month in hush money by Trump’s campaign after being fired in December as a senior advisor if she agreed not to disclose any information about the president, Vice President Mike Pence and their families.
In several television interviews, she asserted that she rejected that arrangement, and decided to write her book instead, having concluded that Trump is a racist, misogynist and bigot, in her words.
She also has said she avoided signing a confidentiality agreement for her White House job. The president tweeted Tuesday morning that she had signed an NDA, though presumably he was referring to the one for the 2016 campaign.
“Wacky Omarosa already has a fully signed Non-Disclosure Agreement,” he wrote.
Trump’s campaign moved to prevent her from releasing more audio recordings and other information. This week she previously released recordings apparently of White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly firing her and of Trump subsequently calling her to express his surprise and regret.
According to a statement, it “filed an arbitration against Omarosa Manigault Newman, with the American Arbitration Association in New York City, for breach of her 2016 confidentiality agreement with the Trump Campaign.”
The campaign contends that the audio recording Manigault Newman released Tuesday is a violation of the 2016 confidentiality agreement she signed. In it, she alleges, she and two other African American campaign aides, Katrina Pierson and Lynne Patton, can be heard discussing how to respond if a rumored audiotape of Trump using the N-word were to surface.
Although Trump tweeted this week denying that he’d ever used that word, the audio clip, which first aired Tuesday morning on CBS, suggests that the aides believed he had used the slur.
Asked during Tuesday’s White House press briefing whether she could guarantee that Americans would never hear a recording of the president using the slur in any context, Sanders, after referring reporters to the president’s tweet denying such language, demurred, a response that surprised many in the room. “I can’t guarantee anything,” she said.
“I haven’t been in every single room,” she continued. “But the president has addressed this directly.”
Sanders, blaming the news media for giving Manigault Newman a platform only now that she has written a tell-all memoir against the president, also criticized questions about whether his vitriolic Twitter attacks on his former aide have anything to do with her race.
“This has absolutely nothing to do with race and everything to do with calling out someone’s lack of integrity,” said Sanders.
In mounting its response to Manigault Newman, who first became famous on Trump’s NBC show “The Apprentice,” the White House has acknowledged the president’s use of NDAs — something officials previously had refused to confirm — to claim that she is in violation of such an agreement.
Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to the president, said Sunday that the White House “absolutely” has staffers sign confidentiality agreements. “Why wouldn’t we?” she said. “We’ve all signed them in the West Wing.”
Sanders refused to say whether she had signed an agreement, but she said, “It’s very normal in every administration prior to the Trump administration for anyone that had a security clearance.”
That is untrue, as veterans of past administrations of both parties attested.
Jack Quinn, who was White House counsel in the Clinton administration, said that confidentiality agreements to muzzle government officials are “absolutely unprecedented” and would be unenforceable.
“We’ve never had nondisclosure agreements in the White House,” Quinn said, noting that government officials are barred from disclosing classified information with or without an NDA.
“Most White Houses are made up of people who are committed to each other and have loyalty to each other based on trust and a shared commitment to a set of values,” he said. “This all seems so transactional, it’s just alien to the processes of government.”
The Trump White House’s agreements, which have been leaked to the media, threaten that those violating them by disclosing “confidential” information could be penalized by as much as $10 million, according to a person who has seen them but declined to be identified.
The confidential information is defined as “all nonpublic information I learn of or gain access to in the course of my official duties in service of the United States Government on White House staff.”
Most legal experts, however, believe that such agreements are unenforceable.
Almost from its start, Trump’s administration has been beset by leaks, prompting aides to threaten subordinates, ban encrypted messaging apps and, at times, confiscate personal cellphones.
Although Trump apparently can be heard on the recording of a phone call commiserating with Manigault Newman after her firing, he has taken a combative tack since her media blitz attacks began.
Several times, in tweets and remarks to reporters, he has condemned her as “a lowlife.”
On Monday, he tweeted that she “begged” him for a job, called her “vicious, but not smart” and said that he had told his chief of staff, Kelly, to try and keep her on the staff “because she only said GREAT things about me.”
3:45 p.m.: This article was updated with staff reporting.
This article was originally published at 8:35 a.m.
Get our Essential Politics newsletter
The latest news, analysis and insights from our politics teams from Sacramento to D.C.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.