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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Omarosa: The Trump White House Lacks Black Senior Advisers; Trump Excludes McCain in Speech About "McCain" Defense Bill. Aired 4- 4:30p ET

Aired August 13, 2018 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: -- of this kind of behavior whatsoever during her three seasons on "The Apprentice."

THE LEAD starts right now.


TAPPER (voice-over): President Trump going off after secret tapes are released. Again. This time by the reality show villain no one wanted in the White House, it seems, except for President Trump.

President Trump signs a $716 billion defense bill without a mention of the ailing Senator John McCain. Why does that matter? Well, because McCain is chairman of the relevant committee that wrote the bill. And also, the bill is named after him.

Plus, the architect of President Trump's no mercy immigration policy slammed by his own family today. Why Stephen Miller's uncle saying, hey, boychik, take a look at where you come from.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin this afternoon with our politics lead and new stunning and salacious allegations by fired presidential adviser Omarosa Manigault- Newman rocking the White House.

The ex-"Apprentice" star releasing a series of secretly recorded conversations, including one with Chief of Staff John Kelly in the situation room and another with President Trump himself, both about her dismissal. And she is warning there are more tapes.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Do you have more recordings?


VELSHI: Are you planning on releasing them?

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: I don't know. I'm going to watch to see. They've been threatening legal action. They are trying to figure out, oh, how to stop me. I'm expecting that they're going to retaliate, and so I'm just going to stand back and wait.


TAPPER: Allies of President Trump today including Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel have assailed Manigault-Newman, questioning Omarosa's credibility, describing her actions as unethical.

Mr. Trump even retweeting his former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, this afternoon. Cohen expressing shock that anyone would take seriously an Omarosa claim that the President chewed up and swallowed a note that Cohen had given and, she assumed, was, quote, very, very sensitive.

Of course, it wasn't even a full month ago that President Trump was attacking Cohen and accusing him of making up stories. But let's put that aside for a moment because the President's character assassination of a former senior White House official begs the question, if she is so horrific, what was Omarosa doing in the White House in the first place?

Well, we can tell you. Because a senior White House official tells us that President Trump considered Omarosa, quote, vicious, quote, not smart. He had heard, quote, really bad things about her being, quote, nasty to people.

The President had been told by Chief of Staff Kelly that Omarosa was a, quote, loser and nothing but problems.

But shockingly, the President told Kelly to try to work it out with Omarosa. Why? Well, that's because Omarosa, quote, only said great things about the President.

That's right. Her flattery was apparently so important to the President he wanted her to stay despite at the White House everything else.

And maybe you're skeptical of our source and it's only a single source, that's true. So let me tell you who our source is, who the senior White House official is who shared with us the shocking story.

It was President Trump. He said it in a series of tweets today, including, in specific reference, the Chief of Staff John Kelly. Quote, I told him to try working it out if possible because she only said great things about me.

Hmm. If only there had been some warning that Omarosa was not trustworthy and that, ultimately, she would be fired in a disturbing spectacle. If only some clue of this coming.

CNN's White House correspondent Abby Phillip now picks up the story.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two former reality television stars locked in a made-for-T.V. drama. Former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault-Newman making explosive claims about former boss and colleagues.

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: Being used by President Trump for so long, I was like the frog in the hot water. I was complicit. And for that, I regret.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Complete with tapes.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via telephone): Omarosa, what's going on? I just saw on the news that you're thinking about leaving. What happened?

PHILLIP (voice-over): Manigault-Newman releasing an audio of a call with the President taped a day after she was fired by Chief of Staff John Kelly in December.

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: General Kelly -- General Kelly came to me and said that you guys wanted me to leave.

TRUMP (via telephone): No, I -- nobody even told me about it. Nobody.


TRUMP (via telephone): You know they run a big operation, but I didn't know it. I didn't know that.


TRUMP (via telephone): Goddamnit. I don't love you leaving at all.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Manigault-Newman defending her decision to record her conversations.

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: The first thing they do when someone leaves the White House, Savannah, is say they don't have credibility. They're just a coffee person. They didn't have access. They never talked to the President.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Alleging Trump records others, too.

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: The President talked often about how important it was to tape your enemies and to make sure that you have information on your enemies.

PHILLIP (voice-over): And accusing White House staff, including the communications team, of telling Trump to twist the truth.

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: They prep him to lie every day.

PHILLIP (voice-over): The comments provoking new attacks from Trump who called her a wacky lowlife who was not smart.

TRUMP: Lowlife. She is a lowlife.

PHILLIP (voice-over): But during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump often praised her. TRUMP: She is a wonderful woman. She has done so much for me with

the African-American community, with communities, generally.

[16:05:04] PHILLIP (voice-over): And hired her for a $180,000 job, the top salary at the White House, where she worked on African- American outreach.

TRUMP: I like Omarosa. Omarosa is a good person.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Today, though, she hinted that she has more recordings, leaving White House aides scrambling to contain the fallout.

HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: The very idea that a staff member, a former staff member, would go into the situation room and attempt to record someone else shows a complete disregard for national security.

PHILLIP (voice-over): And official telling CNN that the White House is not concerned that Manigault-Newman poses a larger national security risk but notes the White House does not know how many tapes she may have.

And as the President took to Twitter criticizing her and confirming she had signed a nondisclosure agreement, it is unclear if he was referring to her time on the campaign or at the White House.

Either way, she says --

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: I think it's sad that with all the things that's going on in the country, that he would take time out to insult me and to insult my intelligence.


PHILLIP: And this could be just the beginning of the problems for this White House. The very existence of these tapes raise some questions about whether or not anything is secure in this West Wing.

And Omarosa has also produced evidence that she was offered a nondisclosure agreement and a $180,000 job with the Trump campaign in exchange for her not saying anything negative about President Trump.

But what's clear about all of this is that the President is now at war with the woman that he made one of the most famous reality T.V. villains of all time.

TAPPER: All right, Abby Phillip. Let's expand this conversation with our panel.

David, out of fairness, I want to give you an opportunity to respond to all of this.

It is accurate and fair to say that very few people in Washington and in the media thought that Omarosa had a whole lot of credibility before the book, and so we shouldn't necessarily think that she has any more credibility now with the book out there.

On the other hand, these are tapes that she has.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't even know -- I don't know what to say, where to go, or where to start, obviously. Look, some of the interesting things, like how this got done, how this occurred, right? And so I'm hearing --

TAPPER: The taping?

URBAN: Yes, the taping, right. So it's still, you know, the most -- you know going into a SCIF --

TAPPER: Secure --

URBAN: -- you know, you're required --

TAPPER: That's secure --

URBAN: Yes, secure. So basically, the White House situation room, for those who don't know, it's like the bank vault of the White House, right, sort of? Instead of keeping money there, the secrets are kept there, right?

So you walk into the bank vault, but before you go to the bank vault, you have to leave everything outside the bank vault. Whether you have a smartphone or a smartwatch, you're supposed to leave them outside.

And so what I'm hearing is she had a pen, a recording device. If you listen to the audio, it's pretty good audio. And so it makes sense. It could have been left on the desk and, you know, recorded.

TAPPER: Have you been in the situation room?

URBAN: I have not.

TAPPER: You haven't.

URBAN: I've been in the White House and that happens to be SCIF.

TAPPER: You have, Phil?


TAPPER: So you have been in the situation room?

MUDD: Yes.

TAPPER: Do they frisk you? Do they take your phones away aggressively, or is it just an honor system?

MUDD: It's been a while for me, but when we used to walk in -- and I served down at the National Security Council in the White House so we did staff meetings in the situation room -- there was a bank of sort of phone --

URBAN: Cubbyholes.

MUDD: -- cubicles there, if you will.

TAPPER: Yes, cubbyholes.

MUDD: Cubbyholes. You put your phone in there. I can't imagine having a lack of trust -- enough of a, excuse me, lack of trust in a person where you say, Jake -- you remember the National Security Council -- you've got to go through a metal detector to go to a meeting.

TAPPER: Right.

MUDD: I mean, that's sort of where we're headed, but I can't imagine that happening. It's an honor system.

TAPPER: Jamal, I want you to take a listen to Omarosa claiming that President Trump and West Wing officials intentionally lie on a daily basis.


MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: They prep him to lie every day. We would go into our prep for Sarah Huckabee Sander's briefings, and there would be a cadre of attorneys coming in to help her formulate a response that was within the realms of legal bearings.

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: But did you ever ask the question, why are we lying?


RUHLE: And the answer was?

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: This is how they do it. This is the Trump administration at its best.


TAPPER: So they're liars. The President according to Omarosa is a racist. Why stick around until she got fired? I mean, that's the big question for her if these people are so horrible.

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Who knows? Have her on and ask her.


SIMMONS: I mean, I've known Omarosa for a long time, probably almost 20 years. And everything that I have ever known about her is that she -- I mean, the President said that she is not smart. That's one thing that's not true.

TAPPER: That's clearly not true.

MUDD: Well, very smart. SIMMONS: She is somebody very smart, although she is a Black woman.

So in the President's point of view, any Black women who don't like him --

TAPPER: We'll get to that in the next panel.

SIMMONS: -- are not smart.

TAPPER: We'll get to that in the next panel.

SIMMONS: But if you look at the progression of people that have been along this administration, what you see is, from Anthony Scaramucci to Omarosa, to Rob Porter who was accused of abuse allegations, I mean, there's a litany of people who have come through here -- Michael Cohen.

Why are people taping each other? Why are people leaking all the time? This -- I've seen this in every political organization I've ever been a part of in my career.

It starts from the top. The standard is set at the top, and what happens at the top filters its way down. This is how Donald Trump wants his life to be.

TAPPER: And now there's this weird question. You pointed this out in the piece about this nondisclosure agreement. President Trump in a tweet said she signed one.

[16:10:04] We know that she did not sign the one -- or she says she did not the one for this new job she did not accept, the $180,000 a year, whatever, to -- in agreement she wouldn't disparage or talk about the President and also do some Black outreach.

Take a listen to White House adviser Kellyanne Conway suggesting that it's perfectly normal for people to sign nondisclosure agreements in a White House.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It is typical, and you know it, to sign an NDA and --


CONWAY: Excuse me, to sign an NDA in any place of work which was --

KARL: You sign them in the West Wing?


KARL: You've signed a nondisclosure?

CONWAY: We have confidentiality agreements in the West Wing. Absolutely, we do. And why wouldn't we?

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: I know it's -- you know, you can't share state secrets.

MUDD: Yes.


TAPPER: But for nondisparagement? I don't think that's typical at all.

PHILLIP: Right. That's absolutely the key here. These are not just nondisclosure agreements. There are also requirements that you don't say anything negative about the President, about the Vice President, about their families.

It's a pretty broad -- if you read the document which has been posted online by "The Washington Post," it's a pretty broad document. And not only that but just a few months ago, Kellyanne Conway's colleague, Hogan Gidley, who we just saw earlier, denied that there were any such documents that White House staffers were required to sign.

So there's something that doesn't quite add up here. But what does make sense is that President Trump has repeatedly, over the course of his life in business, asked people to sign documents that are like this.

And it could be because they're afraid of exactly the scenario that played out with Omarosa, which is that she went and wrote a book that disparages the President on a number of different fronts. And you would only be worried about that if it's something that --


PHILLIP: If there was something there to be worried about.

TAPPER: Well, it's not paranoia if they're actually out to get you, I suppose.


TAPPER: But, David, when you worked in the Trump campaign, did you --


TAPPER: You ran Pennsylvania.


TAPPER: Did you sign an NDA?

URBAN: Sure, yes. And I've signed NDA on lots of different -- you know, in my day-to-day business goings, I sign NDAs all the time with different clients. So I don't think that's particularly, you know, interesting or troubling.

I think what is interesting is if you do it in the context of the White House. I think that's, you know, a horse of a different color. PHILLIP: And questions about whether that's even legal.

URBAN: Right.

PHILLIP: Whether that is something that is allowed for a federal employee.

URBAN: If it violates code or policy, right, sure.


TAPPER: And the big questions, I think, also, are, you know, you hear Hogan Gidley attacking her. You see other people, the President, RNC Chair, et cetera, attacking Omarosa Manigault-Newman. I understand why they are.

But my understanding is the person who wanted her in the White House was President Trump. I mean, all these -- she didn't change her personality in the last six months. This is Omarosa, right? You have known her for 20 years.

SIMMONS: Yes. I mean, this is who she is, but this is also who he is.

URBAN: But --

SIMMONS: And remember, he owns a casino in Atlantic City, right? The guy --

TAPPER: A couple I think, right.

SIMMONS: The guy has been at this for a long time and including -- now we got, you know, porn stars, Playboy bunnies. This is a big mess that he's created.

URBAN: I was going to say Omarosa's downfall is a little bit credited to Omarosa, right? I mean, if you look at what, you know, her conduct in the office, let's say, if we speak of -- in the White House, she definitely ran with scissors, didn't play well with others.

And I think the straw that broke the camel's back was her kind of storming the gates of the White House with her bridal party taking photos. I think that was kind of like the bridge too far for General Kelly, and I think that's probably what prompted it. Nothing, you know, too outrageous.


TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around. We got a lot more to talk about.

She was vicious but not smart is how President Trump fired back at Omarosa. Why is his go-to attack on African-Americans so often to insult their intelligence?

Plus, allegations of more swampy behavior lurking in the Trump administration. The serious questions now raised about yet another Trump cabinet member, next. Stay with us.



[16:17:43] OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: Right now, there is no African-American senior staffer in the White House and there are issues that face this community that can't be ignored. They're making decisions about us without us. And I knew that if I left, that this community would suffer.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: That was fired Trump adviser Omarosa Manigault Newman, selling her book and lambasting the Trump administration's approach to the African-American community, and attempting to explain why she stayed on the job as long as she did. Though it's worth pointing out, of course, before being fired, she repeatedly praised President Trump and extolled his efforts to improve the lives of African-American. She's out with her new tell-all which the White House says is full of lies.

Let's discuss it all.

Jamal, Omarosa said today that President Trump has a pattern of insulting African-Americans, including attacks on Twitter. Here are some of them, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, an extraordinary low IQ person, LeBron James, which was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon, he made LeBron look smart, which isn't easy to do. Wacky Omarosa was vicious but not smart.

That's four very accomplished African-Americans that he's calling unintelligent. According to "The Washington Post", 11 of the 15 tweets that President Trump has sent post-inauguration in which he attacks individual's intelligence, 11 of the 15 are about black men and women.

Now, if you look at his lifetime, it's much more diverse.


TAPPER: But focused since becoming president, it's more disproportionately black. What do you make of this?

SIMMONS: Yet, he won't call out Alex Jones by name. He won't call out the leaders of that 25-person rally yesterday by name. It's amazing to me that -- well, it's not amazing. Actually, we know exactly what it is. The president of the United States has a bad view of black people and is probably a racist. And if he's a racist, he is in league with racists because he doesn't stop using phrases like this.

I think Kellyanne Conway when she was on television yesterday or Sunday and she was asked who was the African-American staff member and she stuttered and she sort of stopped and then finally said, we have Ja'Ron, which I understand he's a very nice guy. I would have loved for her to be asked a follow-up. What's his last name? If you know him so well, what's his last name?

TAPPER: I want to show the clip in a second, but I'd like to give David the opportunity because I know he doesn't think President Trump is racist.

DAVID URBAN, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: So, look, I agree that the president is completely racially insensitive at times. I think that, you know, counting the tweets, taking a, you know, numerical count, I think probably the same ratio of people who have punched the president in the nose and he's punching back.

[16:20:02] Look, an attack on LeBron, I mean, I don't know where that came from. Kind of senseless. I'd say, pick your battles more wisely.

I think, you know, Ja'Ron Smith, you're talking about, is a pretty senior guy in the West Wing. Not the West Wing. Pretty senior guy in the administration, office of the OUB (ph), West Wing obviously very small.

To Omarosa's point about who's there now representing the African- American community, arguably she wasn't even there when she was there representing the African-American community because her outreach and her credibility amongst lots of folks in the African community I understand is quite low.


SIMMONS: They can do better.

TAPPER: Let me play that you were just talking about. Here's Kellyanne Conway when she's asked what African-Americans in senior positions at the White House.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is the most prominent high level adviser to the president on the West Wing staff right now?



CONWAY: I would say that -- well, first of all you're totally not covering the fact that our secretary of housing and urban development and world renowned --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm asking you about the White House staff, the people the president's with every day.

CONWAY: That is important and we have Ja'Ron, who's done a fabulous job and very involved with -- he's been very involved with Jared Kushner and President Trump on prison reform in the beginning.


TAPPER: We have Ja'Ron.

SIMMONS: We have Ja'Ron.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And she's certainly seemed to not be able to pull out the last name from her brain in that moment which is really saying a lot. And it's not just African-American staffers. I have to say there's an overall lack of diversity in the White House and the West Wing, in the administration as a whole.

It doesn't matter how big you make the circle. There are not that many people of color around this president. That's a fact. I've written about it, others have written about it.

And there hasn't been that much that's been done about it. Now, a lot of people, there are some folks on the outside of the administration who've actually blamed Omarosa for this. But she's been gone since December.

TAPPER: Right.

PHILLIP: And they haven't replaced her. They haven't replaced her with anyone. Ja'Ron Smith has been doing his job. I feel a lot of us reporters, we know him because anytime there's something remotely touching on black issues, he's the point guy --

TAPPER: Does a lot of criminal justice reform.

PHILLIP: He does criminal justice reform.


PHILLIP: He deals with HBCUs, so we know him in that role. But that being said, the question is, who close to the president, who talks to him every day, who advises him on issues of just black people are there, and the answer's no one.

TAPPER: All right. Everyone, stick around. We got more to talk about.

President Trump signs the John S. McCain defense spending bill. Let me see if you can guess who he forgot to thank or even mention the name of during that ceremony.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to thank our wonderful Vice President Mike Pence. I want to thank General Dunford, General Millie (ph), General Kneller (ph), Admiral Richardson, General Goldfein (ph), General Ingel (ph) and Vice Admiral Wray (ph). A very special thank you to the commanding general of the 10th Mountain Division. Congresswoman Martha McSally. Congresswoman, thank you, Martha.


TAPPER: That was President Trump just a few minutes ago thanking a laundry list of people before officially signing the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act. One person who wasn't on that list of people that he thanked? Outspoken Trump critic and the namesake of the bill, Senator John McCain. You know, the decorated war hero, who was a prisoner of war, continues to serve as a United States senator, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The bill the president signed is called the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act. No mention of him by the president today.

Today, McCain took a high road and issued a statement saying, I'm humbled that my colleagues in Congress chose to designate this bill in my name. Serving as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and working on behalf of America's brave service members has been one of the greatest honors of my life.

One person who was clearly thinking of him during the ceremony, his wife Cindy McCain who tweeted, I'm so proud of Senator John McCain and his work on NDAA. Incredibly humbled at the naming of this after my husband.

And since President Trump would not do it, let us here on THE LEAD congratulate Senator John McCain and his family and thank him for his service to the country.

Also on politics today, with me earlier on "STATE OF THE UNION", presidential attorney Rudy Giuliani appeared to change his story. He's denying that President Trump ever raised the issue of the Michael Flynn investigation with then FBI Director James Comey, seemingly contradicting Giuliani's own prior statements about it.

As the president and his team fires more attacks on the FBI today, we've also learned that the FBI fired Peter Strzok, the agent who was booted by Robert Mueller from the Russia investigation for all those texts that he sent disparaging Mr. Trump.

CNN's Manu Raju joins me now.

And, Manu, the president citing Strzok today. He called for an entirely new probe of Hillary Clinton even though the inspector general at the Justice Department concluded that he could find no evidence of bias leading up to the decision to not file charges against Hillary Clinton.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the president demanding an end to the Russia investigation and reopening the Clinton investigation. Now, the firing came by the deputy director of the FBI who overruled a recommendation by the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility that suggested that Strzok should get demoted and suspended. This all causing Strzok's attorney to say that this was broke from precedent in dealing with personnel matters and that the attorney of Strzok said it was deeply troubling to all Americans.


RAJU (voice-over): The most infamous FBI agent in the country, thanks to President Trump's numerous tweets now out of a job.

Peter Strzok, a controversial figure in the Russia probe, terminated Friday by the FBI --