Disgruntled former White House adviser and ex-reality TV star Omarosa Manigault-Newman is striking back at the Trump administration, but did herself few favors by releasing a controversial, secretly-taped discussion with Chief of Staff John Kelly. It appears that Omarosa sneaked a recording device into the White House Situation Room, a communications node where officials can talk of sensitive topics and top officials can communicate during tense situations without fear of being eavesdropped.
Omarosa claims that she was threatened during her meeting with Kelly. Having listened to the recording, “threatened” seems to be a bit of a stretch. Kelly remains perfectly calm during his chat with Omarosa, and cites “integrity” issues, including the unauthorized use of government-issued vehicles. Several lawyers were on hand to walk her through any legal issues. Kelly argued that the integrity issues were “very serious.”
Regarding the firing, Omarosa argued: “But what’s interesting is, they take me into the Situation Room, the doors are locked. They tell me I can’t leave. And they start to threaten me, put fear in me, to put me under duress.”
Firing someone in the Situation Room does come off as rather odd. The Situation Room has been set up so leaders can discuss issues of immense national importance. No offense to Omarosa, but her career at the White House, and more pointedly, the end of that career, don’t quite reach the level of “national importance.”
How about those threats? In the recording, the closest Kelly got to making a threat was: “I’d like to see this be a friendly departure. There are pretty significant legal issues but we hope don’t develop into something that will make it ugly for you.”
Kelly imparted that Omarosa left herself open to “legal actions.” Earlier in the conversation, Kelly also said that if she were a Marine, he would have pursued a court-martial.
While I could understand why Omarosa would not take the remarks kindly, calling them a “threat” is quite the stretch. Insult would seem to be more accurate. Kelly was gruff, to the point, and not looking to be dragged into a long discussion. He most certainly wasn’t a shoulder to cry upon, having repeatedly but vaguely accused her of gross integrity violations.
However, he wasn’t belligerent or even threatening, in my opinion. As for the rest of the content of the recording, I believe it’s important for the American people to learn about the gross integrity violations allegedly committed by Omarosa. The recording, if anything, seems to demonstrate Omarosa’s own alleged shortcomings given that she was fired with cause. Of course, there are two sides to this story.
The ongoing feud highlights another, perhaps deeper issue with the Trump White House. Trump came in looking to run his administration much like his businesses. When he governed his empire from Trump Tower, he faced little pushback and rarely had to massage things through. He could, in short, run his business like a de facto dictator. Such is the pleasure of owning your own business and deciding who gets a paycheck and who gets shown the door.
However, running the American government requires much more nuance. Multiple interests are competing at any given time; bureaucrats may bend to the will of the President but they aren’t always obliged to kowtow. Meanwhile, hiring people with no experience in the government, like Omarosa, comes with many risks.
Many administrations bring in political/bureaucratic novices, but the Trump administration has been more heavily reliant on them than most. If these outsiders were looking to drain the swamp, that might be a good thing. However, many White House characters, allegedly including Omarosa, seem far more interested in the glamor, power, and all the rest that comes with working at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.