Unexamined Premises

The Mystery of Omarosa Manigault

Ex-Dector of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison in the White House, Omarosa Manigault (Dennis Van Tine/Abaca/Sipa USA via AP Images)

Other than by media osmosis, I have no idea who Omarosa Manigault Newman is. I never watched “The Apprentice,” didn’t care a whit about her brief career as a White House aide, didn’t care that she got fired, don’t care about her book, and now wish this transient nonentity would just go away.

But since All News Leads to Trump, or else it’s not news, here she is, happily plopping herself down at the junction of Trump and the Media, and clearly enjoying every second of it. For it seems that the woman managed to sneak a cell phone into the Situation Room in order to surreptitiously — which is to say, dishonestly — record chief of staff John Kelly firing her for cause and then leaked the recording to NBC News. Thus instantly proving Gen. Kelly’s point.

Apprentice star-turned-spurned White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman opened a new front in her war on the West Wing on Sunday, attacking chief of staff John Kelly as a bully who drummed her out of the White House unfairly.

With new prey in her talons, Manigault Newman gave voice to many of the problems that have roiled the West Wing. In a tell-all interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, she spoke in dramatic terms about the White House’s difficulties with race, honesty and loyalty, at the same time that President Donald Trump is reckoning again with criticism of his equivocal response one year ago to violence at a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Note the Politico reporter’s gratuitous insertion of Charlottesville into a completely unrelated story, using a slender anniversary hook in order to sneak it in the dig —

And Manigault Newman put some of the problems she described on stark display Sunday, surfacing a tape she surreptitiously recorded in the White House Situation Room. “You have to have your own back, because otherwise you’ll look back and see 17 knives in your back,” she said of her decision to record conversations in the White House.

Manigault Newman said that she taped conversations with Kelly and others to protect herself, but her accusations may backfire. She argued that she was terminated unfairly, revealing that she had taped the conversation in which Kelly dismissed her, citing “integrity violations,” back in December.

But national security experts say recording a conversation in the Situation Room, though unbeknownst to Kelly at the time, constitutes exactly the sort of integrity violation of which she was accused — and worse, it was a potential security breach in a room that’s meant to be one of the most locked-down in Washington. “That in and of itself, deliberately bringing an unsecured cell phone into a [secure facility], would absolutely be a fireable offense,” said Bradley Moss, a Washington, D.C. attorney specializing in national security law.

Naturally, the media saw no problem whatsoever with playing the tape — all may be no longer fair in love, but it certainly is in the War against Trump. Once again, the press assumes its now-habitual rule as a fence, a receiver of stolen goods that are then purveyed without consequences to its audience, the better to inflame political passions in preparation for this fall’s congressional elections. Under their expansive interpretation of the freedom of the press clause in the First Amendment, no rules apply to them, and nothing they do in pursuit of the news — which is to say, in pursuit of Trump — can be prohibited. The abandonment of trust, common sense, and decency is a small price to pay in order to retail rumor, innuendo, smears, gossip, and outright falsehoods.

On Sunday, she questioned why her December meeting with Kelly was held in the Situation Room, accusing the chief of staff of trying to intimidate her. “Why not have the meeting in the chief of staff’s office? Why put me in the Situation Room and lock the door?” she asked NBC News’ Chuck Todd.

Going into the conversation, Kelly had anticipated a fight, according to two senior administration officials. And rumors had also begun to spread through the White House that Manigault Newman was recording conversations, according to a former senior administration official. Those people said that’s why Kelly took Manigault Newman into the Situation Room, where officials are asked to surrender their electronic devices, which are put under lock and key, before entering.

Staffers are barred from bringing those devices into the Situation Room, where the most sensitive national security discussions are held, because they pose hacking risks. There’s no public evidence that Manigault Newman’s devices have been breached, but the White House believes Kelly’s phone was compromised for months in 2017. The White House decided to ban personal cellphones from the West Wing entirely in January, after Manigault Newman was fired.

The president has nobody to blame but himself for this latest mess. Manigault had no business being in the administration in the first place (one suspects she was merely window dressing), and certainly evinced no sense of the seriousness with which she should have taken her job. But who needs honor when self-aggrandizement pays better? It’s taken Trump nearly two years to even begin to rid himself of his fondness for some of his old media chums, and to understand that in the Borgian shark tank of politics the only thing that matters to most “public servants” is money, power, and career advancement — by, as the Left constantly reminds us, “any means necessary.”

On the tape, Manigault Newman can be heard asking whether Trump knows she is being dismissed. Kelly replied, “The staff and everybody on the staff works for me and not the president.”

“It tells you that Donald Trump has no idea what’s going on in the White House,” Manigault Newman said on NBC, though she acknowledged Trump knew she was being fired. Indeed, according to White House aides, after her firing, the president told Kelly: “You did what you had to do.”

Better late than never, perhaps. But definitely file under: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. And, hopefully, Lesson Learned.