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Omarosa releases recording of call with Trump

Omarosa Manigault Newman, former aide to President Donald Trump, provided NBC with what she claims is a recording of a conversation with President Donald Trump that took place after White House chief of staff John Kelly fired her.

Posted: Aug 15, 2018 10:31 AM
Updated: Aug 15, 2018 11:01 AM

Omarosa Manigault Newman isn't easy to root for. Or even believe.

She has a long history of seeking out drama and conflict to benefit herself. She is the archetype of the reality TV world -- someone who always knows where the camera is and always wants it on her. She has a history of not telling the whole truth or shaping that "truth" to fit her purposes. She doesn't burn bridges, she napalms them.

Which brings me to the last 24 hours, in which Omarosa has made a series of TV appearances to promote her new book about her time -- roughly a year -- in the Trump White House. She's made a huge number of claims, including that she was offered money to work on the campaign and stay silent after leaving the White House, and raised the idea that chief of staff John Kelly is actually running the show. She's also played two recordings that she secretly made -- a stunning move, by the way: one in which Kelly is heard firing her and the other in which Trump calls her to express shock and unhappiness that she has been dismissed from the White House.

Trump, of course, has responded to Omarosa's claims. He tweeted Monday morning:

"Wacky Omarosa, who got fired 3 times on the Apprentice, now got fired for the last time. She never made it, never will. She begged me for a job, tears in her eyes, I said Ok. People in the White House hated her. She was vicious, but not smart. I would rarely see her but heard really bad things. Nasty to people & would constantly miss meetings & work. When Gen. Kelly came on board he told me she was a loser & nothing but problems. I told him to try working it out, if possible, because she only said GREAT things about me - until she got fired!"

Added Trump in a third tweet about the situation: "While I know it's 'not presidential' to take on a lowlife like Omarosa, and while I would rather not be doing so, this is a modern day form of communication and I know the Fake News Media will be working overtime to make even Wacky Omarosa look legitimate as possible. Sorry!"

The most important line in that trio of tweets is this one: "I know the Fake News Media will be working overtime to make even Wacky Omarosa look legitimate as possible."

Ignore Trump's ridiculous attempt to besmirch the media -- tell-all books from former presidential advisers get coverage no matter who the president is -- and you get to the heart of the matter: Trump is trying to do what he can to ensure that anything and everything that Omarosa says on TV or writes in her book is dismissed out of hand. She's "vicious, but not smart." He rarely saw her. She was a "loser" and "nothing but problems." Therefore, everything she says is a lie. She's just trying to get attention!

Which, honestly, isn't all false.

BUT. BUT. BUT.

First, remember that Trump hired Omarosa -- or, in the case of "The Apprentice" and "The Celebrity Apprentice", cast her -- on three occasions. Fool me once, maybe. Fool me three times? No way. The fact that Trump was willing to create a position -- director of communications for the White House Public Liaison Office -- even after two past experiences with her (she was TV-fired twice by Trump) speaks to the fact that he found something redeeming about her. As recently as the fall of 2016, Trump was praising Omarosa: "She is such a fine person, and nobody knows it."

What changed between September 2016 and now -- other than the fact that Omarosa has written a book that is deeply critical of Trump? Say what you will about Omarosa, but she's not someone who changes her stripes based on her circumstances. Who she was on reality TV is almost certainly the same person she was in the White House. (You could say that about another reality TV star-turned-politico too.) Trump knew exactly who Omarosa was when he brought her into the White House. That fact runs directly counter to Trump's current position that everything Omarosa says about him and his administration has to be dismissed because she is a "loser." If she was such a loser, why was she hired three times by Donald Trump?

Second, Omarosa allegedly has many more secretly recorded conversations from her time in the White House. This, from The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, hints at that: "Manigault Newman does not offer evidence for some of her most explosive charges but extensively recorded her conversations in the White House. The Post has listened to several of the recordings made by Manigault Newman, which match quotations recounted in the book excerpts."

There's a big difference between unsubstantiated allegations by a disgruntled former employee -- as White House press secretary Sarah Sanders has characterized Omarosa -- and audio of conversations that provide clear evidence of claims. Now, the two audio tapes released by Omarosa so far aren't exactly political bombshells. Kelly told her she was in trouble and needed to leave the White House quietly. Trump called to express surprise, whether real or feigned remains to be seen, that she had been fired. There's nothing particularly explosive there.

The issue is a) how many more conversations Omarosa taped b) what are on the tapes and c) can they be independently verified either by the participants or by some neutral third party? If those three criteria can be met, then Omarosa's credibility -- which isn't much -- doesn't really matter. The people in the tapes either said what they are recorded as saying or they didn't.

Should Omarosa have secretly taped conversations in the Situation Room -- among other places? No. Should Trump have hired someone who he would have at least some reason to suspect might be entirely out for herself and do something like secretly record conversations? Also no. Omarosa isn't anyone's ideal staffer in any organization -- much less the White House. But she was there because of the President's willingness to, at a minimum, tolerate her.

Now all that matters is what's on the tapes -- and what they prove (or don't).

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