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White House Blasts Omarosa Manigault Newman For Tape's Release


Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman was forced to resign back in December. Now she's giving interviews to promote a new book. And in those interviews, she revealed that she secretly recorded her own firing. Now, that recording was played yesterday when she appeared on NBC's "Meet The Press." NPR's White House correspondent Tamara Keith is with us now. Good morning, Tam.


KING: President Trump tweeted this morning that Manigault Newman would, quote, “constantly miss meetings and work,” and, quote, “and was vicious but not smart.” The administration put out a statement – and the administration put out a statement last night criticizing her for quote, "sneaking a recording device into the White House Situation Room." Was what she did illegal?

KEITH: It's not clear that it would be. She was in there with John Kelly, the chief of staff, to be fired. Or, she would dispute that she was fired. She says she resigned under pressure. But they weren't talking about classified information. They were talking about HR information. You know, the Situation Room is a series of conference rooms in the White House that are secure. You're supposed to leave your devices outside of the Situation Room. There are little cubbies to put electronics in. So this is pretty stunning that she recorded this and then that she is releasing this recording. The White House, in their statement from Sarah Sanders, says that it showed a blatant disregard for our national security, and then to brag about it on national television further proves the lack of character and integrity of this disgruntled former White House employee. That is from Sarah Sanders. She's not talking about the law there. And I would also just note that Manigault Newman was one of the highest-paid people on the White House staff. She was a top-level White House aide.

KING: Manigault Newman is on this book tour, and she talked to our co-host Rachel Martin last week, and she said, look, I took elaborate notes and I made recordings because I worked in a toxic White House atmosphere. Now, here's some of that interview.


OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN: It is so incredibly important that you protect yourself. This is a president who lies without even thinking - people backstabbing one another, undermining one another. And so I have to tell you I took great care to document every single exchange that I had.

KING: I mean, Tam, this is really interesting because it is not an uncommon thing to hear about this administration, you have to watch your back 'cause nobody else is.

KEITH: Yeah. I mean, this is a White House that is full of warring factions. Some of that has quieted down. But, you know, Omarosa Manigault Newman, in her book, writes about at one point being asked to put together a list of people who she thought were leakers and should be fired. I mean, this is - just, it's an incredible environment. And the other thing to think about here is, you know, the White House is saying that she is sort of an unreliable narrator. This is a White House full of unreliable narrators with people leaking information to sort of stab in the back someone else who is in a different faction. It's a remarkable thing to have watched.

KING: And certainly sounds toxic, and it makes you wonder, I mean, how else has this manifested itself?

KEITH: Well, there's a new recent Reuters analysis of staff payroll that found that 40 percent of the people who were on the payroll a year ago are no longer working at this White House. And political scientists who study this say that that kind of turnover really hurts the effectiveness of a White House.

KING: NPR's Tamara Keith. Thanks so much, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.