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Trump campaign must pay Omarosa Manigault Newman $1.3 million in legal fees

White House adviser Omarosa Manigault Newman with then-President Donald Trump at the White House during a 2017 Halloween event. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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An arbitrator this week ordered former president Donald Trump’s presidential campaign to pay Omarosa Manigault Newman $1.3 million in legal fees over the Trump campaign’s unsuccessful lawsuit against her after she wrote a book about her time as a White House adviser.

Trump accused Manigault Newman, who rose to fame on “The Apprentice,” a show starring Trump, and eventually became one of his most vocal critics, of violating a nondisclosure agreement for writing her 2018 book, “Unhinged: An Insider Account of the Trump White House,” a scathing tell-all of her experience with the Trump administration. Even after arbitrator T. Andrew Brown decided the language in the NDA was too vague to enforce, the two sides continued in their years-long battle to determine who should pay for the legal fees.

The arbitrator with the American Arbitration Association in New York denied the arguments from Trump’s lawyers on Tuesday that the former adviser was acting in bad faith during and after the lawsuit.

“Respondent was defending herself in a claim which was extensively litigated for more than three years, against an opponent who undoubtedly commanded far greater resources than did Respondent,” Brown wrote in the ruling. “This award is in full settlement of all remaining claims not already disposed of in this Arbitration.”

John Phillips, Manigault Newman’s attorney, claimed in a statement to The Washington Post that the order is “the largest known attorney fee award against a Political Campaign or President we can find.” Phillips said he hoped the order would “send a message that weaponized litigation will not be tolerated and empower other lawyers to stand up and fight for the whistleblower and vocal critic against the oppressive machine.”

“We look forward to receiving a check and will donate a portion of the proceeds to groups who stand up to the suppression of speech,” he said.

A Trump spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The order comes the same week as former secretary of state Hillary Clinton asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Trump alleging that Clinton, the Democratic National Committee and others “maliciously conspired to weave a false narrative” that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential race. In their motion to dismiss the case, Clinton’s attorneys wrote Wednesday that Trump’s lawsuit “has no merit as a lawsuit, and should be dismissed with prejudice.”

Clinton asks judge to dismiss Trump’s lawsuit over 2016 election

Trump made more headlines Wednesday when he walked out on an interview with Piers Morgan after the British broadcaster challenged him on his false claims about widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. Morgan told Trump, who has perpetuated widely debunked claims that voter fraud cost him reelection, that he had not produced “hard evidence” of voter fraud, prompting the former president to lash out, according to the New York Post.

Trump walks out of interview after challenge on false voter-fraud claims

Manigault Newman signed a nondisclosure agreement when she joined Trump’s campaign in 2016. She joined the White House as a senior staffer but was fired in December 2017 by then-White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly.

The next year, Manigault Newman released “Unhinged,” which depicted Trump as unqualified, narcissistic and racist. Several anecdotes made national news, including one instance in which Manigault Newman says she walked in on Trump eating a piece of paper in the Oval Office. She also alleged that there are tapes showing Trump using racial slurs, but Manigault Newman has not provided evidence.

Trump’s campaign soon filed an arbitration action, arguing that Manigault Newman violated an agreement not to disclose “confidential information.” But last year, Brown rejected Trump’s argument because “confidential” was too broad of a term — one defined to mean “all information … that Mr. Trump insists remain private.”

On Tuesday, Brown instructed the Trump campaign to pay Manigault Newman more than $1.3 million in legal fees and other expenses. Manigault Newman had initially asked to be awarded more than $3.4 million, but Brown’s order of $1.3 million was based on her attorney’s billable hours, according to the filing.

“However, the $1.3 million pales in comparison to the $3 to $4 million the Trump Campaign paid its own lawyers in order to suppress speech,” Phillips said in a statement. “That’s a lot of donations which went to lawyers in the name of politics. It’s truly shameful.”

The attorney tweeted a photo of him and Manigault Newman holding copies of the arbitrator’s order.

Manigault Newman has yet to publicly comment on the case but took to Twitter on Wednesday to describe the legal battle between her, a first-year law student at Southern University Law Center, and Trump’s legal team as “David vs. Goliath.”

“Now pardon me as I get back to studying for my Contract Law final exam,” she tweeted.

Donna Cassata and Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.

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