Former White House official (and “Apprentice” star) Omarosa Manigault Newman has claimed she secretly recorded President Trump and chief of staff John Kelly during White House meetings. Shocking political observers, she said that recorded her firing by Kelly in the White House Situation room, which is a SCIF (a sensitive compartmentalized information facility), a secure place that is designed to prevent surveillance.
The Situation Room “is the inner sanctum within an already-secure facility where the most sensitive of the most sensitive information is discussed,” said former National Security spokesman Ned Price. “It’s where negotiations with Iran were hashed out. It’s where contingency plans for nuclear launches have been developed. The fact that she was recording a conversation in there really raises alarm bells in the minds of people who have worked in that room. It’s a system based on honor and integrity, and there’s a sign outside that says, ‘Place your phones here.'”
Some speculated that making the tapes might be a national-security violation and could put her in legal jeopardy.
“Who in their right mind thinks it’s appropriate to secretly record the White House chief of staff in the Situation Room?” tweeted Republican National Committee chairperson Ronna Romney McDaniel on Sunday. “Secretly recording conversations in the Situation Room isn’t just wildly inappropriate, it’s a threat to our national security. If she broke federal law, she should be prosecuted.”
Did Omarosa commit a crime?
As the dust began to settle, several experts said that Omarosa did not break the law by making the recordings.
“In and of itself, there is no criminal provision implicated,” said national security lawyer Bradley Moss. “If there isn’t national defense information or classified involved, merely recording…in a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) is merely a security violation.”
Tweeted former National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor: “I can’t get that worked up about Omarosa taping General Kelly in the Situation Room. Yes, it’s against the rules. Yes, it’s a SCIF. But ultimately the sitroom is just a bunch of conference rooms. He didn’t read the PDB (President’s Daily Brief) aloud and then fire her. It was an unclassified discussion.”
But former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance said Omarosa should lawyer up regardless. “There is likely a technical crime or two that’s been committed here,” she said on MSNBC Sunday. “Obviously, prosecutors don’t choose to prosecute every technical crime that’s been committed, but she probably should get herself a lawyer and be in consultation.”