Politics

A Year After Charlottesville, Trump Faces New Questions About Racism

Racism charges resurface in light of feud with ex-aide Omarosa Manigault Newman

President Donald Trump has attacked his former aide Omarosa Maginault Newman as a “lowlife” and a “dog.” (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A year has passed since President Donald Trump was accused of racism after he failed to quickly and unequivocally condemn racially motivated violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. But recent claims made by and against his former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman have given new life to those accusations

On Saturday, the one-year anniversary of the Charlottesville violence, Trump tweeted that the riots “resulted in senseless death and division” and called for the nation to come together.

“I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence,” he said in his tweet. “Peace to ALL Americans!”

In an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday, Manigault Newman — a former senior White House adviser who was fired in December and is now on a media blitz to promote her new book, “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House” —  said Trump undermined that message.

“He sent such a small tweet, but he spent all day tweeting about me,” she said.  “He could have condemned in a much stronger term and a clearer term that he is not a racist, but he squandered that opportunity.”

Trump actually did not tweet about Manigault Newman on Saturday. He did, however, call her a “lowlife” in brief comments to the White House traveling press pool who was with him at his resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, for an unrelated event that day.

It was Monday before the president started attacking Manigault Newman on Twitter, nicknaming her “Wacky Omarosa” and questioning her intelligence, among other criticisms.  

Watch: Sanders Defends Trump's Omarosa Tweets

After an extended working vacation in Bedminster, Trump returned to the White House on Monday night. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday held her first press briefing in weeks, and reporters had plenty of questions about Trump’s developing feud with the former aide.

Many of the questions were reminiscent of ones asked of the White House a year ago about Trump’s views on race. This time they were raised in relation to resurfaced allegations of a recording of Trump using the N-word during his time on “The Apprentice” — Manigault Newman claims to have heard the tape — and his Tuesday morning tweet calling Manigault Newman, who is black, a dog

Sanders said Trump’s characterization of his former aide had “nothing to do with race and everything to do with the president calling out someone’s lack of integrity.”

Manigault Newman had a different reaction to the dog comment during her MSNBC interview.

“It just shows you that if he would say that publicly, what else would he say about me privately?” she said. “He has absolutely no respect, for African-Americans, as evidenced by him instructing the chief of staff to lock me for two hours in the Situation Room to harass me, to threaten me and say that things could get very ugly for me and that there would be damage to my reputation. He is unfit to be in this office and to serve as president of the United States.”

Manigault Newman’s characterization of Trump directing his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, to harass and threaten her in the Situation Room conflicts with her previous claim that Kelly fired her without the president’s knowledge.

She even released a recording of a phone call between her and Trump the day after her firing in which Trump said he was unaware that Kelly had asked her to leave the White House. 

“I don’t,” Sanders said when asked Tuesday if she had any doubt about the validity of the recording of that phone call. 

Trump had asked Kelly to try to work things out with Manigault Newman but gave him full authority to fire her if it did not, Sanders said. 

Pushing back

The press secretary did, however, cast doubt on the existence of a recording of Trump using the N-word. 

“I can’t guarantee anything, but I can tell you that the president addressed this question directly,” Sanders said, referring to a Trump tweet denying he ever used the derogatory term, when asked if she can guarantee the American people will never hear a recording of him using the N-word. “I can tell you that I’ve never heard it.” 

Sanders said it wasn’t until Trump decided to run for president that “these salacious and ridiculous claims” about him being a racist were raised. She said if he were to have behaved in the ways he’s been accused of he would not have the support from his staff, friends and voters that he does. 

In her efforts to defend Trump against criticism that his descriptions of certain individuals — like calling Manigault Newman a dog — are racist, Sanders reiterated her go-to line about Trump being the type of person who fights fire with fire. 

“He has made a number of comments about plenty of people and to try to single that out to one group is frankly silly,” she said. “I think if you did a comparison, he’s probably got a lot more nasty things out there about some other people.” 

Sanders did not elaborate as to who those “other people” are.

The White House and others have attacked Manigault Newman’s credibility, which she’s sought to defend by releasing various audio recordings backing up claims made in her book. She said she has more supporting evidence for her accounts. 

“Every single thing in this book I have verified and documented,” Manigault Newman said. “And it’ll be an interesting look for people.”

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