Aug 12, 2018

What they're saying: The legal debate over Omarosa's secret tape

Omarosa listens to WH daily press briefing

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault-Newman's alleged taping of John Kelly firing her in the Situation Room has prompted questions over the legality of the act, given the supposed location in which it took place.

What they're saying: National security experts largely seem to agree that the surreptitious recording is a worrisome violation of usual White House security norms and procedures, but not a breach of law, given Omarosa's lack of a security clearance and the unclassified nature of the discussion.

  • National security lawyer Bradley Moss: "In and of itself, there is no criminal provision implicated. If there isn't national defense information or classified involved, merely a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) is merely a security violation."
  • Former Obama NSC spokesman 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."
  • Former Obama NSC spokesman Ned Price: The Situation Room "is the inner sanctum within an already-secure facility where the most sensitive of the most sensitive information is discussed. 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.'"
  • Lawfare Executive Editor Susan Hennessy: "I actually didn't realize Omarosa didn't hold any kind of security clearance. That makes it hard to understand why they were in Situation Room but also means it is far less than 'likely' that she violated federal law as opposed to just breaking dozens of rules and regulations."
  • RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel: "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."
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