VOA Special English
Former White House Adviser Says She Taped Inside Secret Situation Room


    A former adviser to President Donald Trump has released a recording she says she secretly made inside the White House’s high-security Situation Room.

    The adviser, Omarosa Manigault Newman, began serving in the White House shortly after Trump took office in January 2017. She held the positions of assistant to the president and director of communications for the office of public liaison. She left her job in the White House last December.

    Manigault Newman had also worked for Trump during his presidential campaign. She had known him since they worked together in 2004 on the first season of the American reality TV show “The Apprentice.” Donald Trump presented the show, and Manigault Newman was one of the people competing on it.

    During the campaign and throughout her White House service, Manigault Newman was publicly supportive of the president and his policies. She had also defended Trump against accusations of racism.

    Donald Trump and Omarosa Manigault Newman at a promotional event for 'The Apprentice' in New York City.
    Donald Trump and Omarosa Manigault Newman at a promotional event for 'The Apprentice' in New York City.

    Manigault Newman has now written a book called “Unhinged” – to be released Tuesday - about her White House experiences. While publicizing the book, she released an audio recording of a discussion, she says, she secretly recorded inside the White House.

    She says the discussion, with White House chief of staff John Kelly, took place in the highly-secured Situation Room. Manigault Newman released part of the recording Sunday on the NBC television show “Meet the Press.”

    In the recording, which the Associated Press independently listened to, Kelly is heard saying he wants to talk with Manigault Newman about leaving the White House. Kelly said there were some “integrity issues” related to Manigault Newman. The issues were related to her use of government vehicles and “money issues and other things,” Kelly can be heard saying.

    “If we make this a friendly departure…you can look at your time here in the White House as a year of service to the nation and then you can go on without any type of difficulty in the future relative to your reputation,” Kelly tells her.

    Manigault Newman says she considered the statement a “threat.” She has defended her decision to secretly record it and says she has recorded additional White House conversations that she might be releasing as well.

    But critics condemned Manigault Newman for secretly recording in the White House’s Situation Room.

    Situation Room

    The Situation Room was created by President John F. Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs disaster in 1961, according to a paper published on the Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA, website.

    That crisis showed the need for a fast and secure communications center to handle large amounts of national security information coming in from many places to the president. Since then, the mission of the Situation Room has been to provide up-to-date intelligence and crisis support to the National Security Council and the president.

    The Situation Room is used by the president and his advisers to manage the nation’s most important and secret foreign policy decisions and military actions. In the past, this included former President Barack Obama and his top aides watching in real-time the hunting down of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

    Earlier this year, the White House said President Trump met with top advisers and held meetings in the Situation Room before the launching of airstrikes on Syrian military targets. The airstrikes were ordered to answer a chemical weapons attack in Syria.

    Some national security experts and White House officials say Manigault Newman may have violated ethics and security rules for making the secret White House recordings.

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was quick to criticize her actions. She said “the very idea” that an employee would secretly record inside the Situation Room "shows a blatant disregard for our national security.”

    Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, told a morning television show Monday Manigault Newman may have broken the law. “She’s certainly violating national security regulations, which I think have the force of law,” he said.

    Ned Price served as a spokesman for the National Security Council in the Obama administration. He told the Associated Press he had “never heard of a more serious breach of protocol.”

    Price said while there is no one at the door of the Situation Room checking devices, there is a sign posted outside making clear that electronic devices are not permitted. Price also questioned why Kelly would have chosen to hold such a meeting in the Situation Room.

    I’m Bryan Lynn.

    Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from the Associated Press, Reuters and other sources. Hai Do was the editor.

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    Words in This Story

    integrity n. honesty and the ability to do or know what is morally right

    departure n. the act of leaving a place

    reputation n. the opinion people have about someone or something based on their past behavior or character

    ethics n. rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad

    blatant adj. not hidden, very clear

    disregard n. behavior that shows a person does not care about or have any interest in someone or something

    regulation n. rule or order issued by an executive authority or regulatory agency of a government and having the force of law

    breach n. action that breaks a rule, agreement or law

    protocol n. set of rules for how someone must behave in official situations