Political News

Former ‘Apprentice’ Star to Quit White House Post

Posted December 13, 2017 11:14 p.m. EST

FILE -- Omarosa Manigault Newman and Reince Priebus, then the White House Chief of Staff , confer as President Donald Trump arrives in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Feb. 16, 2017. Manigault Newman, who achieved a measure of fame playing a villain on “The Apprentice” and cemented a relationship with Trump that led to a White House appointment, will be leaving her position in January 2018, the White House said. (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

WASHINGTON — Omarosa Manigault Newman, who achieved a measure of fame playing a villain on “The Apprentice” and cemented a relationship with President Donald Trump that led to a White House appointment, will be leaving her position in January, the administration said Wednesday.

Newman “resigned yesterday to pursue other opportunities,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement. “Her departure will not be effective until Jan. 20, 2018. We wish her the best in future endeavors and are grateful for her service.”

One of the president’s prominent African-American supporters, Newman served as director of communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison. But the division, which was absent a clear leader for most of the year, atrophied with her in a key position.

Two people close to the administration said that Newman neglected to find enough attendees for a Black History Month event early in the administration, for instance. And the office — which is key for building coalitions — became seen as what one person close to the White House described as the “island of misfit toys,” where people who couldn’t be slotted into other roles were sent.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Newman referred a reporter to Sanders’ statement about her departure.

Three administration officials described reports of Newman being hauled off the White House grounds as overstated.

Still, all three said that there was a precipitating event that finally got Trump on board with an effort by John F. Kelly, the current chief of staff, to remove her. Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, was apprised throughout, one of the officials said. The event was kept at a close hold, and most advisers were uncertain about what happened, the officials said.

Newman was escorted off the premises on Tuesday night, one of the officials said. The Secret Service, in an unusual Twitter message, denied being a part of that. But the tweet added, “Our only involvement in this matter was to deactivate the individual’s pass which grants access to the complex.”

While she will be paid through Jan. 20, Newman is not expected to return to work, the officials said.

She was not well liked by some White House advisers, including Reince Priebus, the former chief of staff; Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser; and Kelly, according to multiple White House officials. Early in his tenure, Kelly identified the public liaison office as a major problem that he had to contend with, but it took months to move Newman to it, these people said.

It is not unusual for presidential appointees to leave after the first year of an administration. Other members of Trump’s administration have already left or were asked to resign amid controversy.

Armstrong Williams, a conservative media personality and business owner, said he spoke to Newman on Wednesday morning and that she sounded both “torn” and “relieved.” Newman told Armstrong she had not been fired — she wanted to leave.

Armstrong said that Trump was so fond of Newman that she once could walk into the president’s office whenever she wished. That practice ended for her and other White House aides when Kelly became chief of staff in late July. However, Priebus had barred Newman from several White House meetings. And several people familiar with Newman’s departure said she had been sending articles to Trump without Kelly’s approval.

Newman appeared in the first season of “The Apprentice,” in 2004, and worked on Trump’s presidential campaign. On Wednesday night, the president tweeted her a note of encouragement: “Thank you Omarosa for your service! I wish you continued success.”

At the White House, she mostly maintained a lower public profile. When she was preparing for her wedding, Newman told other White House advisers that she planned to ask Trump if she could have a reception in the building in her honor. When reporters learned of the plan, she abandoned the idea. But she did show up at the White House after her wedding with members of the wedding party, according to a person familiar with the events.

“She has enemies and they want to put her in the worst kind of light because they felt she was a polarizing figure, and now they get a chance,” Williams said of Newman. He added that no matter what people thought of Newman, Trump had rewarded her.

“The president is very fond of Omarosa,” Williams said. “He saw her best qualities. He knew her shortcomings. He gave her a chance. He rewarded her for loyalty. He paid her well and gave her a lot of leeway.”