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By Ali Vitali and Kristen Welker

WASHINGTON — Omarosa Manigault Newman, a White House aide and former "Apprentice" contestant, was forced out of her job, even though the White House said she resigned, a senior Trump administration official told NBC News on Wednesday night.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told NBC News earlier Wednesday that Newman had left her job as director of communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison "to pursue other opportunities." A White House official said earlier that she and President Donald Trump had a "nice" conversation on Wednesday, which the official described as "very cordial."

But a source close to the White House said Wednesday night that Trump's chief of staff, John Kelly, made the decision to terminate Newman's employment. She was escorted off the White House grounds on Tuesday night after trying to re-enter the residence to debate the terms of her departure, the source said.

The White House also said earlier that Newman's departure would take effect on Jan. 20, exactly a year from the day Trump was sworn in. It was unclear whether Newman would be allowed to return to the White House to serve out those remaining 38 days in light of Wednesday night's disclosure.

The timing of Newman's departure was unexpected, said a White House official, who said the president was more fond of her than people might realize.

That's likely due to their long history together. Trump tweeted Wednesday: "Thank you Omarosa for your service! I wish you continued success."

Newman came to know Trump during her time as a controversial contestant on several seasons of his reality TV show "The Apprentice." Her brash and manipulative persona on the show both endeared her to Trump and made her a must-watch character.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Newman rallied crowds ahead of Trump appearances, traveling the country with an informal group of other "women for Trump" to make his case. (Trump's daughter-in-law Lara Trump, pro-Trump surrogate Katrina Pierson and YouTube stars Diamond & Silk were also part of the group, who sometimes sported matching pink jackets.)

Newman was one of Trump's highest-profile African-American female supporters and one of the few black women in Trump's West Wing. Her title was assistant to the president and communications director for the Office of Public Liaison.

News of her departure came less than a week after another high profile woman in the administration, Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell, announced she would leave at year's end.

Speculation has abounded in recent weeks about what other principal members of the administration are seeking an exit ramp, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — who, as NBC News and others have reported, has clashed with Trump — coming under close scrutiny.

Earlier this month, a White House source confirmed to NBC News that there was a plan being discussed to replace Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who has grown close to the president over the months.

At the time of the reports, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters that Tillerson "enjoys this job" and continues to do his work, adding that the secretary "serves at the pleasure of the president, as we all do."

A White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity with NBC News, said Tillerson's allies in the administration were scarce after months of clashing with the president. "He's burned all his bridges," the source said.