The former white house aide and apprentice star Omarosa Manigault Newman secretly recorded dozens of conversations within the White House and is now writing a tell-all book. The question is, does the Trump Campaign’s NDA hold up in court?
In a rapidly escalating legal and public relations showdown, President Donald Trump’s campaign organization is now filing for arbitration against the former Apprentice co-star and White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman over secret White House recordings and a tell-all book.
At the center of the struggle are the recordings taped by Manigault Newman during her time as a White House staffer, and an NDA signed by her in 2016 while she was employed by the Trump Campaign.
“Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. has filed arbitration against Omarosa Manigault-Newman, with the American Arbitration Association in New York City, for breach of her 2016 confidentiality agreement with the Trump Campaign,” said an official for the organization.
“President Trump is well known for giving people opportunities to advance in their careers and lives over the decades,” he continued. “But wrong is wrong, and a direct violation of an agreement must be addressed and the violator must be held accountable.”
Twist: There Is More Than One NDA
The arbitration has come as a shock to some in the media, who assumed that the NDA in question was one signed by Manigault Newman during her time as a White House staffer.
This doesn’t seem to be the case. Manigault Newman told “PBS NewsHour” that she did in fact sign an NDA for the Trump Organization and for the 2016 campaign, but never signed one in the White House.
The confusion is unsurprising. President Trump is notorious for requiring his employees to sign exhaustive and elaborate NDAs. It’s almost certain that Manigault Newman has signed at least two, and likely many more, in the time she’s known Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump continued his reliance of NDAs when he was campaigning for the office of president. He even had certain White House staffers sign NDAs—an unprecedented move for a sitting president. And as public employees, it was unclear whether an NDA would even hold up in court.
Mark Zaid, a longtime national security lawyer in Washington, told the Washington Post that non-classified information has always been fair game to release.
“Never even heard about it being whispered in the hallways,” Zaid said. “As far as a public employee goes, it would be unconstitutional to prevent a federal employee from discussing unclassified information post-employment.”
It was only on Tuesday that news broke on the exact NDA which she allegedly breached. It was the one she signed during her work with the Trump Campaign. And as a paid employee of that entity, there is absolutely a precedent for arbitration against her.
Manigault-Newman May Be On the Hook for More than a Breach of NDA
The secret tapes include conversations by key White House officials, including the Chief of Staff John Kelly, and even the President himself. Some of these conversations were taped in closed off areas of the White House, where staffers are required to hand over their phones before gaining entrance.
Recordings from the Situation Room, for example, may be grounds for federal prosecution, especially if the information was sensitive.
Manigault-Newman had walked the halls of the White House for months with her recording device. It’s possible that some of what she recorded was in fact confidential. If so, the NDA could be the last of her worries.
“I’ve never heard of a more serious breach of protocol,” said Ned Price, who served as spokesman of the National Security Council in the Obama administration, told the Associated Press. “Not only is it not typical, something like this is unprecedented … The Situation Room is the inner-most sanctum of a secure campus.”
The Situation Room is where Chief of Staff John Kelly fired Manigault Newman. As part of her book’s PR campaign, she shared that recording of the Chief of Staff firing her, leaving many to wonder what else she recorded, and how much of it was sensitive information.
What we do know is that no sensitive information has appeared in her book, Unhinged, which was released on August 14th. This does not, however, mean that classified information wasn’t accidentally recorded.
It’s Still Unclear Who Will Win in Arbitration
With arbitration a long time off, Manigault Newman and Mr. Trump are facing off in the arena of public relations, with Trump taking to Twitter, and Manigault Newman hitting the major news networks and television shows.
It’s an arena that they’re both very familiar with.
Manigault Newman has hit President Trump hard, claiming racism, sexism, and corruption. “There’s a lot of very corrupt things happening in the White House and I am going to blow the whistle on a lot of them,” she said.
She later told “Meet the Press” that the recordings were protection against others in “a White House where everybody lies.”
“The president lies to the American people,” she said. “You have to have your own back because otherwise, you’ll look back and you’ll see 17 knives in your back.”
But Manigault Newman isn’t in full control in the battle for good public relations. Many stories coming out about her time in the White House do not paint her in the best of lights.
At one point in the Situation Room with John Kelly during the firing, Manigault Newman asked whether she was being “taped,” according to two people with knowledge of the encounter, who requested anonymity to describe the confidential meeting.
“I don’t consent to being taped,” she said, even as she clandestinely taped the meeting herself, the people said.
And the book itself is receiving negative attention.
As to how she even got the recording device into the situation room, that may be one mystery we’ll never solve. When asked by the Today show about how she got the recording device in the White House:
“I’ll just leave that to your imagination,” she said.