Omarosa Manigault Newman, the former contestant on "The Apprentice" who became a White House aide, released a new secret recording on Monday in which President Donald Trump can be heard discussing Hillary Clinton and the Russia investigation.
Manigault Newman said the audio recording, which was first released on ABC's "The View" and later aired on MSNBC, was made in October 2017 during a meeting between senior communications staffers about tax reform that Trump crashed to talk about a dossier alleging collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia compiled by British intelligence operative Christopher Steele.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and former White House communications director Hope Hicks can be heard on the recording talking to Trump:
Trump: I think Hillary is getting killed with Russia. The real Russia story is Hillary and collusion. Somebody told me, Hope, you told me it was $9 million they spent on the phony report.
Sanders: Closer to six.
Hope Hicks: Yeah, someone just said, "She's far worse for the country than we thought if she didn't know her own campaign was spending $9 million."
Trump: Did you see? Nobody knows who spent it. No, I heard it was nine. I heard it was 5.7 but now they say it was nine. It was spent through a law firm that way they can't trace it. But they traced it. One thing in this business is they trace it. And, yeah, close to $9 million. I can't even believe it. The reason a law firm is because this way you don't have to give any papers. But they found out, it's definitely illegal and it's illegal from a campaign standpoint, from a campaign financing standpoint. So the whole Russia thing, I think seems to have turned around. What do you think, Sarah?
She said on MSNBC that the entire exchange lasted roughly 15 minutes, and that afterward, Trump made the staffers gather around the Oval Office to listen to him "rant" further on various topics.
During her appearance on "The View," Manigault Newman said that Trump frequently crashed meetings at the White House, "rambling from topic to topic," because he got bored "very often."
She also called Trump's claims in the recording "blatant lies," but said that the communications staff had to repeat those claims to the American people.
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Meanwhile, an administration official confirmed to NBC News on Monday that in the wake of Manigault Newman secretly taping chief of staff John Kelly in the Situation Room the White House has changed its phone policy, which was first reported by CNN.
Staffers now have to leave their phones, including their government-issued phones, in their offices or in lockers near the West Wing entrance before they can enter the Situation Room. The official said the move wasn't made out of broad paranoia but instead out of a direct response to Manigault Newman secretly taping conversations.
In an October 2017 press briefing, Sanders defended Trump campaign officials' contacts with Russians claiming to have "dirt" on Clinton by saying "the big difference here is you have a meeting that took place versus millions of dollars being sent to create fake information to actually influence the election."
"What the Clinton campaign did, what the DNC did, was actually exchange money," Sanders said, referring to the Steele dossier.
The research that ultimately developed into the dossier, compiled by firm Fusion GPS, was initially funded by a conservative outlet seeking potentially damaging information on Trump when he was a candidate. After Trump became the Republican nominee, a law firm acting on behalf of Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee hired Fusion GPS to continue its research. Steele was hired in June 2016, after the Clinton campaign and the DNC began picking up the tab.
Manigault Newman later released another previously unaired tape on MSNBC on Monday, in which Trump can be heard discussing the deadly Niger ambush that claimed the lives of four U.S. servicemen in early October 2017.
She said the recording is from a meeting of the White House communications team that Trump walked into on Oct. 27, 2017:
Trump: We had 3.2 last quarter before this, so it’s really, it’s really going good. And we have a lot of things happening on the economic front. I think the military’s doing good. And now, on Niger. So, what happens is we’re decimated — You know, it’s a rough business. They’re rough too, they wanna kill us.
We’ve let the military do what they have to do. And whether you call it rules of engagement or any way you want to say it, but we’ve let them do. And in the Middle East, there’s very few left. We really — we’ve done a very good job. We’ve done more in 7 months, because really it's 7 months that we’ve started — we’ve done more in 7 months than they’ve done in 8 years, okay? And so we're — But what happens, is now they flee, and they flee to Africa, and they flee to Niger, and countries around there. And that's how these [inaudible] people get attacked, and they got attacked by 50 real fighters.
These were people in many cases, that were in the Middle East, that now go to Africa to try and, you know, cause problems there. And ultimately they wanna come back here, because this is where they really wanna be. So it's a rough uh, business. I wouldn’t, I don’t think I’d want to be a terrorist right now. [laughter] It’s not a good life, but it’s uh, the only thing that — What else is there? But um, but that is — You know, people don’t say that. The reason they’re there, is because we forced them out, and it’s not nearly as many, it’s not nearly as intense, but it's pretty intense, you see that happening. So that’s that.
Manigault Newman characterized the remarks as "mocking" the deaths of soldiers," particularly the laughter from Trump and staffers heard on the tape. She also claimed that none of the attendees had security clearance to discuss the topic of Niger.
"They were laughing because he's like making light of the situation, he's saying, "Well I wouldn't want to be a terrorist," she said, "but it's not a laughing matter we lost four American soldiers and four of our allies, the Nigerien troops that we were fighting alongside."
Trump caused a firestorm after he allegedly told the widow of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who died in the ambush, during a phone call that the serviceman "must've known what he signed up for." The president denied the allegation at the time.
Johnson, a 25-year-old father of two from Miami Gardens, Florida, was killed alongside Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia.
"You have to question how seriously he takes the people who put their lives on the line for this country," Manigault Newman said Monday. "When people say come forward and give us proof he's unfit, give us proof he's unhinged, here is it, Donald Trump raw, showing you just how unhinged, how inappropriate he is."
Last month, Manigault Newman released her tell-all book "Unhinged," in which she chronicles a White House in crisis and her relationship with Trump going back to her time on the NBC reality TV show, "The Apprentice," that the president hosted. She has also claimed the president is a "racist" who has used the N-word in the past. The White House has denied the allegations.
Since the publication of her book, she has released a number of other recordings from her time in the White House, including her firing in December 2017 and a conversation with Trump after her firing in which he expressed shock that she was let go.
She also claimed during the interview on Monday that she had been threatened by Trump's legal team because of the claims in her book as well as other allegations she has made in media interviews.
"They want to shut me down," she said. "He wants to make sure I stay silent."
She added, "I'm gonna keep on fighting, he's not going to intimidate me."
The Trump campaign has filed an arbitration claim against her that alleges she violated the terms of her 2016 confidentiality agreement.