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Omarosa Manigault said Thursday that she was not fired and escorted off the White House grounds, blaming “one individual who has a personal vendetta against me” for the dramatic narrative of her departure as one of Trump's top aides.
In her first comments since the White House confirmed that she was leaving, Manigault said during an interview on ABC's “Good Morning America” that her decision to leave came after she sat down for a candid conversation with Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and shared her concerns about the job and the administration. Her resignation from her job as director of communications for the office of the public liaison is effective Jan. 20.
Manigault told host Michael Strahan that as “the only African American woman in this White House senior staff, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me and affected me deeply and emotionally and affected my people and my community.” She said that when she is able to share her thoughts and experiences of working in the Trump administration, it will be “a profound story that everyone will want to hear.”
Manigault, who earned the top-level staff annual salary of $179,700, was, along with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, one of two black officials among Trump’s more than three dozen Cabinet members and senior staffers.
At the end of a Thursday photo-op event at the White House related to deregulation, Trump was asked by a reporter to respond to the news of Manigault’s departure. “I like Omarosa,” he replied. “Omarosa’s a good person.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to offer more details on the aide’s departure at her daily briefing, including a question about why she would continue to be paid by taxpayers despite having resigned Tuesday. Huckabee Sanders said Manigault was expected to be at the White House on Thursday afternoon, even though the Secret Service said in a tweet on Wednesday it had deactivated her security badge. Manigault said during her "Good Morning America" interview that her access had been restricted, but not totally cut off.
She has had a close friendship with Trump for more than a decade, dating back to when she became the breakout star in the first season of “The Apprentice.” She was a tough competitor with sharp elbows, but in the end was "fired" in the first season. But she became a favorite of Trump, who invited her to participate in subsequent iterations of the show. When Trump launched his presidential campaign, she was one of few African Americans to campaign for him. She fiercely defended him against charges of racism and sexism, saying she owed her careers in entertainment and business to him.
“Thank you Omarosa for your service! I wish you continued success,” Trump tweeted late Wednesday.
A White House official told The Washington Post that Kelly had grown frustrated with Manigault’s abrasive and attention-seeking style, which included a personal wedding photo shoot in the West Wing in the spring. Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, has sought to impose more discipline among White House staffers and limit their communications with the president.
Manigault said in Thursday’s interview that she had “more access than most people” to the president, which rankled some of her colleagues. “People had problems with our 14-year relationship,” she said.
She pushed back against reports that she and Kelly had a blow up at a holiday event, saying they were "100 percent false.” Furthermore, she said, if there had been such a fight “where are the pictures or videos?” She did not offer, nor was she asked, the name of the person who she said was spreading the story about her being physically removed from the White House.
“The assertion that I would do that in front of 600 guests at a Christmas party . . . I have to tell you are completely false,” she said. Instead she said, she and Kelly sat down in the situation room and had “a very straightforward discussion about concerns that I've had and issues that I've raised and as a result I resigned.”
Manigault's supporters suggested she had grown increasingly frustrated with the administration's handling of issues concerning race. Trump has sparked outrage with his responses to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and NFL players’ national anthem protests. Acting in an ill-defined capacity, Manigault struggled to make a connection with African American constituencies to support Trump’s agenda and chafed at criticism that she had sold out her integrity for a White House job.
Armstrong Williams, a businessman and a longtime friend, said Manigault had told him that she was troubled by Trump's endorsement of Roy Moore, the Republican candidate in the U.S. Senate race in Alabama, who had a history of racially insensitive remarks and because of allegations against him of sexual improprieties with teenage girls.
When Strahan asked her about such concerns, Manigault demurred, explaining that because she doesn't leave her job until Jan. 20 she had to be "careful" about what she can say publicly.
David Nakamura and Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.