August 17, 2018 | Reading Time: 5 minutes

Omarosa’s Kompromat

It's time to take the former reality TV star seriously.

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I get why most people are not taking Omarosa Manigault Newman seriously, not even Democratic partisans who might otherwise delight in her daily trolling of a president they despise. Manigault Newman is a former reality TV star who had no business in the White House, not even a White House occupied by a former reality TV star.

But the time has come to take her seriously. That she is clearly hyping the release of her new book, Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House, is beside the point. As long as the former advisor is telling the truth, her profiting from the truth should be secondary to the public interest. We now have good reason to believe this shape-shifting Donald Trump protégée is, for now, being truthful.

On Thursday, she shared a recording in which Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law and wife of Eric Trump, appears to offer Manigault Newman a phony job in exchange for silence after White House Chief of Staff John Kelly terminated her.

This was the fourth such recording. (There may be more; the Times reported this morning that there may be as many as 200.) Each has substantiated four claims Manigault Newman made in her book: about how she was fired; about the president not knowing she was fired; about the existence of a separate recording in which Trump says the n-word on the set of “The Apprentice”; and about hush money.

So it doesn’t matter if Manigault Newman is out to get Trump. It doesn’t matter if she has a reputation for cunning, venality, and deceit. It doesn’t matter if she’s trying to make a buck. And it sure-as-hell doesn’t matter that she’s a black woman (another subliminal reason she has not been taken seriously). What matters is that these four claims are not based on recollections, as they usually are in such tell-all books. They are based on hard verifiable evidence. As she told MSNBC’s Craig Melvin Thursday, “Every time the Trump people challenge me, I bring the receipts.”

This is not to say Manigault Newman is trustworthy. I don’t think you need to call her “honorable in her own way” to say she’s part of the Trump era. This is to say there’s more reason to trust her than there is to trust Michael Cohen, who said he was in the room when Trump signed off on the meeting between his son and Russian operatives possessing dirt on Hillary Clinton. Cohen doesn’t have a recording. Yet that was considered more consequential than Manigault Newman’s receipts.

To be fair, Cohen’s claim, if ever proven true, would tie everything together in the growing awareness of alleged criminal conspiracy between Trump and the Russians. Until yesterday, Manigault Newman released recordings that proved what we already knew, or suspected, to be true: that Trump is a racist incompetent know-nothing.

But yesterday’s recording was different. Seriously different. It showed an administration willing to silence a former confidante using campaign money. (In the recording, Lara Trump is explicit about where the money would come from.)

This is not getting the scrutiny it deserves.

Remember that Bill Clinton found Monica Lewinsky a new job to conceal his sexual relationship with her. Remember that Richard Nixon used campaign money to buy off the burglars who broke into the Watergate Hotel to bug the Democratic National Committee. Both incidents helped form the basis for impeachment proceedings.

Importantly, Clinton and Nixon intended to cover their tracks. Lewinsky and the Plumbers, as they were called, knew something each president wanted kept out of sight. So the question not being asked, in the case of Manigault Newman, is:

What does she know that Trump wants to keep quiet?

It may be she knows nothing. It may be she knows everything. It’s hard to say with a president who surrounds himself with grifters, frauds and nincompoops. This is why he forces everyone working for him, even as president, to sign nondisclosure agreements in the hope that NDAs cover everything. (They can’t, because they are not legally enforceable; Manigault Newman’s book demonstrates that fact.)

My point, however, is that Trump may not know what Manigault Newman knows, or doesn’t know, and the fact he’s not sure makes the president of the United States vulnerable to blackmail. As the New Yorker’s Adam Davidson said about Russian kompromat: Trump “fears there is kompromat out there—maybe a lot of it—but he doesn’t know precisely what it is, who has it, or what might set them off.”

This, more than anything else, means Manigault Newman is on par with Russian Kleptocrat Vladimir Putin in terms of potential influence on Trump. This, more than anything else, is why the Times reported this morning that Manigault Newman’s recordings are rocking the White House as much as Robert Mueller’s probe. This, more than anything else, is why we should be taking Omarosa seriously.

Even if we’d prefer not to.

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Odds & Ends

  • Victoria Brownworth, a veteran reporter I follow on Twitter, made a good point yesterday with respect to Thursday’s “What We’re Not Talking About When We Talk About Nancy Pelosi.” She said power-hunger can’t be disentangled from sexism and ageism. One ends up serving the other. I agree, but failed to note that nuance yesterday. She also didn’t care for my use of “pish” and “bosh.” Thoughts?

    Victoria Brownworth@VABVOX

    Interesting. I’m not sure how you think the ambition and power-grabbing you speak of is separate from misogyny when she’s the sole female speaker in 242yrs, though.
    (Also, minor quibble–pish and bosh are unnecessary. I’d delete those.)

    August 17, 2018
  • I’m happy to report Tuesday’s newsletter, “Dems Must Build a Democratic Culture, Too,” went viral on Twitter. Response overall was positive, mostly in the vein of “Let’s get everyone to vote!” Reaction to my argument for mandatory voting, however, was mixed. Some said that would be worse than what we have now, because ignorant people would end up making ignorant choices.

    I’ll talk about this more later, but for now: no one, not even political scientists and party partisans, knows everything about all candidates and all of their policy positions. It’s just not possible. There are too many candidates and too many elections to keep track. How do we decide then? Like we always do.

    We take shortcuts, the most common of which is party-line voting. You might not know anything about John Q. Public in his bid for city comptroller other than that he’s a loyal Republican. That’s fine. Go ahead and vote. Ignorance is a myth.

  • I wrote about “Weaponizing Third Parties” Wednesday and that a Green Party candidate in Montana was really a Republican in disguise. He was hoping to help the Republican senatorial candidate by drawing votes away from US Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat fighting for reelection. This was not an isolated incident.

    Followers on Twitter told me about Republicans pretending to be Greens in Arizona back in 2011. In my piece, I suggested the Republicans were taking a cue from the Russians in weaponizing third parties—elevating Jill Stein, for instance, while attacking Hillary Clinton. But maybe the reverse is more accurate. Maybe the Russians who sabotaged Clinton were taking a cue from the Republicans.

Subscribe today!

Hey, can’t you see I’m working here?! Seriously, I need your help. I’m asking that you chip in $5 a month to keep this thing running. I’m not asking for much, but I am asking that you commit. There are no ads. There are no sponsors. This is for you.

Please subscribe today! —John Stoehr

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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