Return to Transcripts main page
Former Aide to President Trump Omarosa Manigault Newman Reportedly has Numerous Tapes of Conversations among White House Staff. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired August 13, 2018 - 8:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: -- for a long time and questioned what she brought to the table, and she had a reputation as being difficult to work with before that. It was at the president's insistence that she be there. So I understand their frustration, but ultimately this all does go back to the president.
In terms of the content, it's not at all surprising that Donald Trump says one thing to one person and something different to another person. He, as we have written repeatedly, does not like interpersonal conflict, one on one conflict, direct conflict. And you just saw a prime example of it.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: You bring up, Maggie, why she was there in the first place. And in your reporting you note no White House official could offer an explanation for why she had been hired, if there had been such concerns about her. Is this simply as you point out, goes back to the president saying I want her there, and there was no one who was going to stand up to that?
HABERMAN: It goes back to the president having felt that she was loyal to him, which as we know is the metric that he uses, not could somebody be of dubious ethical behavior by taping in a situation room where devices are forbidden. We know that the premium metric for him is how people treat him. He wanted it.
Various people tried throughout 2017 to curtail her ability to be in meetings. She was known for dropping into meetings that she wasn't supposed to be a part of. The president even complained about this to some aides in mid-2017. Reince Priebus, the former chief of staff who got a lot of criticism for how he led during his time there, but he was -- he was settled with a bunch of people who he didn't hire, Omarosa would be one of them, and he had to spend time trying to curb what she was able to do.
Her response would be, fairly, that she defended him in public and she was one of the only African-American supporters that he had who was visible, and that she took a lot of heat for him. And all of those things are true. But yes, it comes back to the fact that this is the president's staff. If he doesn't want someone there, he can say that. And if someone is fired and he wants them back, he can say that too. And as you heard from that call, that clearly didn't happen because he said it to her and nothing changed about her status.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, did not happen, at least not in that call. I think we have a little bit more of the conversation that Omarosa Manigault Newman just had with Savannah Guthrie. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he lying in that tape?
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, FORMER AIDE TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I'm not certain. But what's most concerning, one, why was I locked in the Situation Room for almost two hours? Why was I not allowed to leave? I'll get to the second part. And lastly, when I asked to leave and I asked for counsel and I asked for my husband, why was I was denied at least four times? When I spoke to him and he said he had no idea, that should be alarming to any American that the president of the United States does not know what's happening with an assistant to the president known him for 15 years.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ok, but just -- you brought the tape.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he lying? Because yesterday you told Chuck on "Meet the Press" you think you did know you were hired. This tape shows him saying I didn't know you were fired. Is he lying?
NEWMAN: Yes, there were subsequent calls after that. There is a complete organization between the two of them. He probably instructed General Kelly to do it so he could keep his hands clean when he spoke to me. I'm wondering, is he sincere? The other question is, is General Kelly running this country or is the president running the country, because he said he didn't know and they run a big operation. Who is the they?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's an honesty issue. Do you think the president lies often?
NEWMAN: Wait, wait. Who is the they in the tape? You can ask the question and then ask another question without my answer. You asked do you think he knows?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're not sure.
NEWMAN: I'm not certain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Strangely combative, Omarosa right there. Maggie, you point out the president doesn't like confrontation, maybe he was just trying to smooth things out there. The other thing that Omarosa said there, and this gets directly to your new reporting, Maggie, this morning, which I think is so reporting, Omarosa said there were other conversations subsequent to this, and your reporting Maggie is that the White House believes there could be dozens of tapes that she made.
HABERMAN: They don't know how many there are, but she was believed to have been taping in the White House, again, which is a breach of protocol, a breach of etiquette. She was supposed to be covertly taping in a one party consent area, so that's not a problem legally in that sense. But she certainly was believed to have been putting things on audio, documenting things and made a number of White House officials uncomfortable.
As I said before, there were a number of things she did that upset some of her colleagues, the fact she was believed to be doing this is one of them. But yes, they believe that there could be dozens and dozens, not a little bit. It's over 100 that they are worried about.
[08:05:00] They don't really have any legal recourse. I know there was some reporting that they are looking for a legal way to stop it. My understanding is they know they can't. This is a little like what happened with the Michael Wolff book "Fire and Fury" last year, or earlier this year, it seems it was 800 years ago, where the president wanted to file a lawsuit and it had to be explained to him that he really couldn't.
I think they have been toggling back and forth between not wanting to help her sell books by elevating this no response, and also feeling as if they have to say something. Is there a more tapes of the nature which we just heard of the president, if they come out in a daily drip like this it's going to be very frustrating for them.
HILL: And is there also based on your tweets from this morning, you had separate reporting about possible recordings in the White House, but you said those were not from Omarosa.
HABERMAN: No, they were not, they were not. Katie Rogers, my colleague and I, had a -- it mentioned in a story a couple of months ago that there was somebody who was removed from the staff who had been believed to be secretly taping the president and planting it for people, more for fun than anything else, as opposed to looking to sell it or looking for -- but it doesn't matter. It raises the prospects that there's multiple people running around with their recorders.
John Kelly had tried barring personal phones, many, many months ago as a leak prevention device. That obviously has not worked 100 percent. Many people do put their personal phones in lockers, some don't. And when they get to work, there are lockers to put them. Some do, some don't. But I think there is this pervasive sort of wild west feeling within this White House, and the tapes are a part of this.
BERMAN: I've got to say it sounds like a Grateful Dead show where's there's a taper section inside the West Wing. People are going on to tape what goes on there. Marc Short, who was the legislative affairs director till a short time ago, Maggie, was just on with us last hour, and he says he is troubled, he's disturbed, he's nervous about the fact that these tapes -- not because he feels like he said something wrong necessarily, but just the idea that someone could be taping things going on inside the White House when you don't know it, I have to believe that leaves a lot of White House aides unsettled this morning.
HABERMAN: Yes, look, I think that trusting each other has been a problem in this White House from day one, but it has gotten worse, not better. You have seen meetings have gotten -- regular large morning meetings and on communications and press staff, more canceled many months after word leaked out that a staff member had made a joke about John McCain dying as to why he missed a vote. John Kelly now holds small meetings of some of his more trusted aides in his office a few times a week that all of senior staff don't go to. They have tried dealing with this in various ways because they don't trust each other. They don't trust each other, they don't trust what the president is telling them is the truth. It's an unfathomable working environment.
HILL: It really is, which Omarosa mentioned. She taped the conversations because it's a White House where everybody lies.
HABERMAN: Right, and that's true, and it's understandable that she did that. That doesn't mean that taping in the Situation Room is advisable. I don't think that that should be lost.
HILL: No, you're absolutely right. Maggie, appreciate the reporting as always. Thank you.
HABERMAN: Sure thing.
HILL: Also joining us this morning, because there's a lot happening on this front, Josh Dawsey, CNN political analyst and White House reporter for the "Washington Post" has also new reporting on the White House and how its fighting back against Omarosa. And the plan originally, Josh, was not to be out there, certainly not before the weekend, talking about this book. It was to try to ignore it.
JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The point was to try to starve the book of oxygen and not propel it to even greater heights and more sales. On Friday the president grew frustrated that she made some pretty salacious allegations that came out about him, some that have been totally unverified, and others where she seems to have tapes to back them up.
And now as this continues, as Maggie said, on air, people in the White House are fearful she has dozens if not hundreds of tapes and will release them piecemeal and create news cycle after news cycle after news cycle. And what they are trying to do is come up with a way to combat this. But it's hard. There's no prior restraint. A lot of lawyers say it's unethical, it's really sleezy to record in the White House and record your colleagues, but it may not be illegal, and there's not really a lot they can do.
So she was in the White House for a year. She was making lots of recordings of her conversations, her phone calls, her meetings, and now she has them at her disposal, at least according to White House folks believe, people close to her. And they are in a tough spot.
BERMAN: You said maybe hundreds of tapes, Josh. Let's not let that slide. You say there may be hundreds White House people feel of these Omarosa tapes.
[08:10:00] There may not be anything legal they can do, your reporting is. Politically, what's their plan then? If she's going to start releasing these on a regular basis, what do they do? DAWSEY: You saw Sarah Sanders last night repudiate her for saying
anyone who would tape in the Situation Room, that says a lot about her character, at least in the White House's view. I think they'll push back on some of the allegations she has made in the book. You've already seen some of them be disputed from the president chewing on paper to the n-word accusations that were not proven.
That said, on the tapes, I'm not sure there is a lot they can do. She had a recorder on her phone and she was recording her colleagues. And it's hard to dispute something where it's clear the voices are people in the White House. You can say we think this behavior was untoward or slimy, or whatever adjective you may use. But a tape is a tape, and I think that's what they are grappling with right now.
HILL: Some of your other reporting, you've actually got to look at the NDA that she said she was asked to sign. That's not unusual, right? You leave a job or you are fired from a job, it's not unusual for you to be given an NDA to potentially sign that you're not going to say anything disparaging. Was there anything that really stood out to you in this?
DAWSEY: I don't know I would say that. You leave the White House for unethical behavior and the campaign that's supposed to be reelecting the president, donors are giving to the campaign to get the president elected, is going to pay her $180,000 a year, someone who you're saying is unethical and not behaving well and has serious integrity issues. As John Kelly said in the Situation Room, I'm not sure it is usual to pay someone --
HILL: The payment I would agree with. I mean the nondisclosure itself, which obviously was tied to that payment as you point out, but the nondisclosure itself --
DAWSEY: Right. But I think in past White Houses you did not see aides leave, or at least for the most part, and get large contracts to stay silent. The NDA has been a through line of this president's life in business and on his campaign and now, and I think the document really startled a lot of people, at least people I talked to.
BERMAN: Money to silence, money to silence. You say that's a thread here. Stormy Daniels, money to silence. Karen McDougal, through perhaps the "National Enquirer" money to silence, and now Omarosa, this money to silence. You saw this agreement. Had she signed it what would have happened?
DAWSEY: If she would have signed it she obviously would not be able to write the book and make television appearances and say the deleterious things she has said about the president and his family members. So if someone is behaving very improperly and you're saying there are all of these issues, John Kelly even referenced a court- martial, why do you want to pay that person $15,000 a month to work on your campaign? It's kinds of a puzzling question. It goes back to the first question. If she was so bad and untrustworthy and such a problematic colleague, why was she hired in the first place?
BERMAN: Josh, you did some digging on the legalities of this NDA, and you talked to in your article, there's some conversations with some campaign finance lawyers here. Any line it could have crossed there, or when would it cross that legal line?
DAWSEY: Well, what we were trying to figure out is how enforceable it would have been. And she would have been working for the campaign so she would have been a campaign surrogate, a campaign adviser. It would technically have been gainful employment, so they would have had some control over what she said.
One of the things in the NDA that surprised me at least was that she could never make a negative comment about Donald Trump forever in perpetuity if she signed this NDA. Let's say she signed it and six months later the contract ended and she moved on, she still could never say anything. And it's hard to imagine you could never say anything about someone and that would be enforceable when they were no longer paying you or giving you any compensation.
HILL: You make the point to say this is something Donald Trump has used in his business obviously for some time. How closely, do you know, does this mirror those NDAs in his business?
DAWSEY: It's hard to know, right, because we haven't seen all the NDAs in his business. We do know that Keith Schiller, his body guard and aide when he left, he was given $15,000 a month by the RNC. We know that Donald Trump has said repeatedly that he believes in nondisclosure agreements. And if you read this it's a pretty strict nondisclosure agreement. It says you can never say anything about any Trump family members, any Trump business, any Trump deal, basically anything you ever saw the president do or say or really anything about him, period, without express permission.
BERMAN: Josh Dawsey, thank you so much for being with us this morning. Quite a day when you have Maggie Haberman, Josh Dawsey back to back, "The Times" and "The Post" both pushing this story forward this morning. What Josh reports could be hundreds of tapes from Omarosa Manigault Newman.
DAWSEY: We'll see.
BERMAN: Hundreds of tapes possibly from inside the White House. Josh, appreciate it.
HILL: It's only Monday by the way.
BERMAN: It's only Monday.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: It's 8:15.
BERMAN: Right. A longtime Republican, someone who worked for Ken Starr investigating former President Bill Clinton, now says for the very first time in his life he's going to vote for a Democrat. He tells us why next.
BERMAN: New fallout from the leaked audio of Devin Nunes, the chairman of the powerful House Intelligence Committee. He was caught on tape essentially admitting to protecting President Trump from the Mueller investigation. That statement has led to at least one lifelong Republican who worked for Ken Starr's Clinton investigation to now say he will vote for a Democrat.
Joining us now is Paul Rosenzweig. In addition to being senior counsel to Ken Starr, he was also the former deputy assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security and a contributor to the Lawfare Blog, and I am a fan boy of that.
So thank you very much for being with us this morning, Paul. I want to play you that recording of Devin Nunes just so we can hear it again. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES, R-CALIFORNIA: If Sessions won't un-recuse and Mueller won't clear the president, we're the only ones, which is really the danger. That's why I keep -- thank you for saying it, by the way -- I mean, we have to keep all these seats. We have to keep the majority. If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: "We're the only ones," he said, meaning Republicans in Congress. Paul, what did you find so offensive in that that would lead you to, for the very first time in your life as far as we know, vote for a Democrat?
PAUL ROSENZWEIG, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR POLICY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: First time in a federal election, I voted locally in -- in D.C. for a while and I voted for some Democratic candidates here. But really it's the abdication of responsibility. The Republican Party seems to me to no longer deserve my support, or frankly, the report -- the support of anybody who thinks that the legislative branch should act as a check and a balance against executive authoritarianism.
Essentially, Representative Nunes has said out loud what everybody was assuming, which is that his only goal, and apparently the only goal of the party, is to defend the president no matter what, and that's just not the right way for a legislative branch to function.
BERMAN: Abdicated what exactly? What should he be doing? The right kind of Devin Nunes, the right kind of Republican House Committee Chair, what would you like to see that person doing right now?
ROSENZWEIG: Well, the Intelligence Committee has had a long and historical commitment to bipartisan oversight and inquiry of the activities of the intelligence community. It doesn't mean that they're perfect. They've not always been completely in sync, but by and large since the 1970s the idea of intelligence oversight has been the idea of the executive -- of the legislative branch standing as a bulwark against executive overreach.
The same is true of all the other committees as well, whether it's the House Energy and Commerce Committee or the Senate Judiciary, but the intelligence committees in particular have a special responsibility to both maintain the security of the United States and protect our civil liberties.
And the fact that Congressman Nunes is so willing to forego that responsibility completely in favor of defending the president really drains him, and I'm sad to say the party that I've been a part of for all of my adult life, of their moral authority.
BERMAN: You say you're conservative on national security issues, at least traditionally speaking, perhaps until, you know, this year. A conservative also on tax issues. Why would a Democratic Congress serve your interests more?
ROSENZWEIG: It wouldn't. It wouldn't on the policy issues that are important to me, but it would on the much larger issue of maintaining the nation's integrity, maintaining the rule of law, opposing a president who thinks that the press is all fake news, who has spent the last year attacking the integrity of law enforcement, who has systematically derided the idea that Russia has attempted to and may have succeeded in interfering in our elections, who has welcomed and embraced white nationalism.
That's not the Republican Party that I'm a part of. That's not the conservative view that I continue to adhere to.
BERMAN: Can I get your take a couple developments from over the weekend since we have you here? Rudy Giuliani now arguing that the conversation between President Trump and James Comey where Comey alleges that the president asked him to back off the investigation into Michael Flynn, Rudy Giuliani says that never happened even though he described that conversation one month ago. Your take on that?
ROSENZWEIG: Well, I don't think it really matters what Rudy Giuliani says. What -- what's critical is what James Comey says and what Donald Trump says, because they were the only two people in the room. And Comey has said under oath with contemporaneous notes and without any motive to lie that this -- that that conversation happened and that the president asked him to go easy on General Flynn.
If the president were to deny that, then you'd have a -- an obligation to determine which of those people was telling the truth under oath, and that would be a pretty significant disagreement, I think.
BERMAN: Yes, indeed it would. The President of the United States writing over the weekend, "Our Attorney General (ph) is scared stiff and Missing in Action." He'd like to see the Attorney General take some action on the Mueller investigation, and of particular concern to the president right now appears to be Bruce Ohr, who's a Department of Justice official who's married to someone worked for Fusion GPS. Is that an issue you think worthy of investigation?
ROSENZWEIG: Well as -- as to the Attorney General being missing in action, it seems that the president doesn't understand what recusal means. The idea of recusing yourself is to take yourself out of the chain of command so that you don't have any responsibility for a particular investigation.
So far from being "missing in action," the Attorney General has in this instance done exactly the right thing, which is recused himself from an investigation in which he might very well be a witness or a -- or involved in some way. And so that part of the -- the president's concern has -- makes no sense at all.
With respect to Mr. Ohr and Mr. GPS (ph), this is just the president's repeated whataboutism. There is a world of difference between paying for a service of opposition research, which is what the Democratic Party did to Fusion GPS, who in turn hired Chris Steele, who in turn asked questions of Russian sources, there's world of difference between that, and willingly accepting the assistance of Russian government officials, Russian government affiliated officials for free.
For one thing, I don't know about you but the in the world I live in, paying for something is very different thn getting it for free. And if I - if I could convince all of my service providers of the president's distinction, I'd be happy.
BERMAN: Paul Rosenzweig, thanks so much for being with us. I want you to come back again, particularly when you're so sartorially resplendent. Love the bowtie, thanks Paul-
ROSENZWEIG: Thank you.
HILL: As the Trump administration talks about establishing a space force, just how far away are we from space tourism.
HILL: Space, the final frontier for tourism. All of this of course comes as President Trump we know wants to create a new branch of the military with space force. So a lot going on up there, potentially, just how close are we to making space tourism a reality.
With us now, Nicholas Schmidle, who's a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine who spent four years embedded with Virgin Galactic, one of the companies of course hoping to soon fly passengers in to space.