The furor around Omarosa Manigault NewmanOmarosa Manigault NewmanJudge denies Omarosa Manigault Newman request to depose Trump, John Kelly in lawsuit Tanden seeks to defuse GOP tensions over tweets Juan Williams: The GOP's problem with women of color MORE is rumbling on — and that is bad news for the White House, even as the administration disparages the former reality show star as lacking in credibility.
Manigault Newman, who served in Trump’s White House for almost a year, made her share of enemies during her tenure. But she is adept at the publicity game — a skill she is parlaying into extensive coverage for her book, "Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House."
The book is deeply critical of Trump, suggesting, among other charges, that he is racist and not mentally fit to be president.
Those views, and the coverage Manigault Newman is receiving, are frustrating to people in Trump’s circle as well the president himself.
“She has made it perfectly clear that she is angry, not thinking clearly, and willing to say anything to settle the score for being terminated,” said Barry Bennett, who served as a senior adviser on the 2016 Trump campaign.
Another Trump loyalist described Manigault Newman in even blunter terms, calling her “a woman scorned” because of her firing, which came at the hands of White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE.
It has since emerged that Manigault Newman covertly recorded that conversation, even though it took place in the White House Situation Room.
A former White House official said: “I think anyone with half a brain can see this book is a combination of sour grapes and rank opportunism. Someone who sneaks phones into secure settings to tape their boss isn’t exactly a credible individual.”
The president himself took the fight to his one-time protégée on Twitter on Monday, referring to her three times as “Wacky Omarosa,” insisting she “never made it, never will,” and alleging that she had been “nasty to people & would constantly miss meetings & work.”
The White House had at first hoped to ignore the former aide’s book.
But that strategy fell by the wayside as the president grew angry at some of the allegations made by Manigault Newman. He called her a “lowlife” during a brief interaction with the media on Saturday.
Bennett argued that it was virtually impossible to ignore a controversy when an erstwhile senior aide was making a series of incendiary accusations against the president.
“I don’t think you can ignore it when someone comes out and says outrageous things,” Bennett said — though he added that Manigault Newman had, in his view, “done so much damage to her reputation.”
Trump allies have picked up on a lack of clarity surrounding key accusations.
For example, Manigault Newman’s book merely says that she had heard about a recording of Trump using a racist slur; it was only during a Sunday interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that she said she heard the recording directly. She explained the apparent discrepancy by saying she heard it after her book went to press.
Some people mentioned in the book also contest her version of events.
Pollster and focus-group expert Frank Luntz vigorously pushed back on the suggestion in the book that he heard Trump use racist language. Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen denied a story of Trump eating a note that Cohen had given to him.
The president retweeted each man’s denial on Monday.
White House aides have also sought to undercut Manigault Newman’s credibility. Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayPsaki defends move to oust Trump appointees from military academy boards Defense & National Security: The post-airlift evacuation struggle Conway and Spicer fire back at White House over board resignation requests MORE noted on “Fox News Sunday” that “whether it's 30 pieces of silver, or a seven-figure book advance for you, your publicist, your ghost writers and others, all that's changed is this book deal.”
Conway was alluding to the abrupt change from Manigault Newman’s previously vigorous support of Trump after she was fired. In September 2016, she had told PBS’s “Frontline” that “every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE.”
On Friday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement calling Manigault Newman “a disgruntled former White House employee [who] is trying to profit off of these false attacks.”
But such statements raise the question of why Trump would employ Manigault Newman in the first place if she has all the negative traits now ascribed to her.
“When it comes to some of the people who Trump has surrounded himself with, both during the campaign and during the presidency, there are a lot of questionable characters,” said Tobe Berkovitz, a Boston University professor who specializes in political communication. “It is one thing to surround yourself with these people if you are on a reality TV show. It’s another to do it when you’re president of the United States.”
The former White House official said that one explanation was that Trump did not, in fact, have a very big pool of candidates to choose from.
“The rampant problem of unqualified and questionable individuals serving in the administration is best understood as a byproduct of two things: Chris Christie’s half-assed efforts as the first head of the transition and the sheer number of qualified Republican operatives and policy experts who did not take Trump seriously.
“So when Trump beat the odds and unexpectedly won, he was ill-prepared to staff a White House,” the source said.
There is no sign of Manigault Newman’s publicity blitz abating. She and her allies have adroitly parceled out new revelations to keep the story moving. On Monday evening alone, she was due to appear on “PBS Newshour” and on MSNBC’s “Hardball.”
The Omarosa storm will not be quelled anytime soon. Even if she does no lasting damage, her prolonged time in the spotlight is likely to only enrage Trump further.
The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.