Omarosa Interview: 'Charlottesville Was My Breaking Point' With Donald Trump

The president has tweeted that she is a "dog," "wacky" and a "lowlife." White House aides are said to be terrified of the 200 audio tapes of conversations she claims to have secretly recorded. The Trump campaign is suing her for busting a nondisclosure agreement. But Omarosa Manigault Newman, formerly the highest-ranking African-American in Donald Trump's White House, isn't backing down.

In her book, Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House, she says, among other things, that she believes there is a tape of Trump making racist comments—including uttering the "n-word" on a hot mic during a taping of The Apprentice; that Trump is mentally and physically unfit for office; and that he is so attached to his daily tanning-bed sessions that he fired a White House staffer (and one of the few black people around him) for failing to set it up properly.

Omarosa, who met Trump when she was a contestant on the first season of The Apprentice, talked to Newsweek about the Trump White House, race and the reaction to her book.

Why did you join the White House?

It was important for me to join the White House because as I looked around Trump's inner circle and campaign, there were not a lot of African-Americans, particularly African-American women, uniquely positioned to serve as a member of the senior staff, to serve as an assistant to the president. If I didn't go in, I felt there was a risk that there would be no representatives at all. Sadly, as of today, there are no African-Americans in the West Wing and no [black] assistants to the president, no senior advisers, in the White House.

What was your breaking point?

Absolutely, Charlottesville was my breaking point. After it happened and he made the first statement, and it was a relatively decent statement. I went on TV and remarked on it. The next day he went out and equivocated about both sides. So I looked like an idiot going out there, it made people think I was in lockstep with that foolishness. I was so upset. I was so disappointed. But you can't just quit in protest. I started looking for my replacement. But unfortunately, there was no one to fill [my role].

African-American women have been credited with playing significant roles in the resistance to Trump. What has been their reaction to you? Should they welcome you back?

First of all, I need to point out that African-Americans are not a monolith, and do not operate in groupthink. I will tell you only about the feedback and reception I have gotten. Across the board, women have applauded my strength and have been inspired. There have been African-American women who have shared their stories about being the only African-American woman in the room. One told me she listened to the John Kelly recording [Omarosa recorded Chief of Staff John Kelly as he fired her] and got shivers, because that's how her boss talked down to her.

There is another group of women who think I should have never entered the administration and believe that they can only advocate from the outside. I don't agree with them. You need people on the inside. And then there is a group of people who are very concerned that there are no African-Americans inside the White House because decisions are being made about us, without us.

Did you feel as if you accomplished anything at the White House?

I feel like I accomplished quite a few things. A big reason I didn't leave immediately after Charlottesville was because I had been putting on a significant conference on historically black colleges and universities. We had to scale it down after that. And in addition to that, I had been fighting to get money for the HBCUs. And I was trying to fulfill our commitment to Haiti. When I went to the inauguration of the president of Haiti, they told me how important it was to have someone that looked like them as part of the American delegation. And when Puerto Rico was happening I don't think people understand how much I worked behind the scenes to get resources and move them faster.

I just thought that if Donald Trump knew better he would do better. So I brought a lot of black leaders to the White House. I took him to two different African-American museums. In addition to that, I went to the U.N. General Assembly to be active in sessions on famine that affected countries in Africa. A lot of people don't know the U.S. gave money to four African countries after that. People wouldn't even know that I was so vocal about famine and making sure we got the funding.

People may think of them as small victories, but to me they were big. In the Obama administration, there were 10 to 14 people working on outreach. In this administration how many people do you think there were? Just one. Me.

Does the White House staff still use personal emails?

Yes. [Laughs] A simple yes. But let me just add this. The reason they have to use personal emails is that you can't print from your work phone, you have to travel back to the White House to print or edit, and the only solution is to send messages to your personal email in order to edit or work on any project. I'm not condoning it, I'm just explaining the technical limitations.

What do you feel you have accomplished with the book?

I saw this as an opportunity to tell my life story and my personal journey. First of all, it was important to me to write about the most unlikely political pairing in history. I met Donald Trump in 2003 on a reality show. Could you ever imagine then that we would end up in the White House together? But before The Apprentice, there was my rise from extreme poverty to work in the Clinton White House, then The Apprentice. And then return to the white house for the Trump administration. My trials and tribulations. My joys and pains. And I believe that is where the story is most important.

Are you surprised at the reaction and at the campaign lawsuit against you and Trump's personal tweets?

Well, I am very surprised. Because during Michael Wolff's book [Fire and Fury, a scathing White House exposé published in January] we were advising the president, "don't respond." But the reaction now is almost identical. You would think he would have learned. I am surprised by the name calling, calling me "dog," "low life" and "wacky." But otherwise, he is the living embodiment of why I titled the book Unhinged. Every single day shows why that title is so accurate.

Do you believe The Apprentice tapes will ever be released? And why?

There was a time when I thought they were going to be released in short order. But since my book has come out, I happen to know the powers that be have contacted people in production and casting, anyone they think would be responsible for recording, and they have threatened them with legal action.

I think there have been some very effective tactics to suppress and prevent that person from speaking. I thought it was very interesting that Mark Burnett [Apprentice executive producer] claims to have no control over the tapes because MGM owns the show, and that the president tweeted that Burnett has said there are no tapes. That means he thinks it is contained. The tweet should send a message to anyone who reads between the lines. First, if you have the tapes, be warned. But also, why would he have to talk to Burnett to reassure him? Why would you need another person to vouch for you—if you never said that?

Do you believe Trump will run again in 2020?

We will have to wait and see. If we didn't have the Mueller investigation, I would respond yes, but the investigation is the X factor.

Of Melania and Ivanka, who actually has Trump's ear?

No one can understand how close a marriage actually is. You just don't know with a husband and wife, they have a special connection. But that said, Ivanka has a special type of influence over her father. It's striking to see up close and personal. I also think she was disappointed to see her pre–White House influence diminish. Before the White House, she would say this or that, and her father would do it. Once she got into the White House, she would tell him to stop doing this, or not tweet that, but she found that he wouldn't listen in the way he did before.

Did you ever see Melania offer an opinion on policy or politics and if so, when?

She gave her counsel to him in private. But I can assure that she does care. I was incredibly proud to see her speak up when it's right, particularly related to the LeBron James incident. I admire her. All that he has put her through. I met her before they were married. And she has always been a kind, sweet person.