Omarosa Recording of John Kelly Raises Questions About Security in the White House
White House says former Trump aide showed 'blatant disregard' for national security.
The White House blasted Omarosa Manigault Newman Sunday night, accusing her of showing a “blatant disregard” for national security by recording her own firing in the Situation Room in December and releasing it as she promotes her new tell-all.
The former “Apprentice” contestant and aide to President Trump also faced bipartisan backlash for her gambit, which raised questions about the security of the high-tech conference room where commanders-in-chief conduct highly sensitive business.
Manigault Newman, who was recently derided by Trump as a “lowlife” for criticizing him in her new book, released an audio recording on Sunday on which she says White House chief of staff John Kelly can be heard allegedly threatening her as he dismissed her.
In a brief clip of the encounter that aired on NBC News’ Meet the Press, a voice purported to be that of Kelly can be heard urging Manigault Newman to agree to a “friendly departure” from the White House.
If she agrees to that, he says, she can “go on without any type of difficulty in the future relative to your reputation.” Manigault Newman said Kelly’s comments were a clear “threat” and that she made the recording to protect herself from any “false stories” about her exit.
Recalling allegations that she caused a commotion upon learning of her firing, Newman said, “If I didn’t have this recording, people would still think that I was trying to set off alarms. So, yes, I had to protect myself.”
Hours after the snippet aired, the White House finally reacted.
“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," Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
“And then to brag about it on national television further proves the lack of character and integrity of this disgruntled former White House employee.”
The statement did not address how Manigault Newman was able to get a phone into the room and record Kelly, a scenario that alarmed experts.
National security lawyer, Bradley Moss tweeted: "How does @Omarosa get an unsecured cell phone into the Situation Room? What is wrong with these folks in the White House?"
He later told The Daily Beast that "protocol absolutely dictates you place that phone into the lockers right outside the Situation Room. I’ve put my cell phones in similar lockers at government facilities. It’s non-negotiable. Now, the difference between Omarosa and me is that I am an outsider entering the facility, so I get screened upon entry. Existing government employees work on an honor code; they aren’t checked upon entry. Omarosa clearly violated that honor code, and it is clear she deliberately meant to do so."
Moss also expressed surprise that a personnel meeting like this one would have taken place in the Situation Room.
A former national security official from the Obama era also raised an eyebrow.
"I worked in the White House for four years," this individual told The Daily Beast on background. "I went to countless Situation Room meetings. I don't remember one that had a cell phone in it. There are specific places to drop electronics, for a reason. Bringing electronics into a secure space means it is no longer secure. General Kelly, as chief of staff, had the authority and responsibility to make sure his staff was following secure practices. Another failure, on his part, to do so."
But Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tweeted: "Who in their right mind thinks it’s appropriate to secretly record the White House chief of staff in the Situation Room?"
The Daily Beast exclusively reported last week that Manigault Newman had made some clandestine recordings prior to shopping her book Unhinged, which is set to be released on Tuesday. The book, a whirlwind of salacious allegations, many of which have been questioned by those mentioned in it, includes Manigault Newman claiming that various people confirmed to her that a long-rumored tape of Trump using the N-word during his time on The Apprentice, actually exists.
Sam Stein contributed to this report.