Updated August 13, 2018 08:48:46
Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman says she has personally heard a tape of US President Donald Trump using racial slurs.
In an interview with NBC television, Ms Manigault Newman claims that the tape includes audio of Mr Trump using the N-word during filming of his reality series, The Apprentice, on which she co-starred.
Ms Manigault Newman also says she secretly recorded conversations she had in the White House, including her firing by chief of staff John Kelly in the high-security Situation Room.
It was a highly unusual admission, which immediately drew fire from allies of Mr Trump and national security experts.
A former communications assistant, Ms Manigault Newman was fired by the Trump administration last December.
She has also accused Mr Trump of not being mentally equipped for his job.
Parts of her conversation with Mr Kelly were played on the air when she appeared on NBC's Meet the Press to promote her new book, Unhinged, which will be released next week.
The Associated Press independently listened to the recording of the conversation between Ms Manigault Newman and Mr Kelly, in which Mr Kelly is heard referring to potential "difficulty" in Ms Manigault Newman's future "relative to your reputation".
She said she interpreted his comments as a threat.
In her book, Ms Manigault Newman paints a damning picture of Mr Trump, including claiming without evidence that tapes exist of him using the N-word as he filmed The Apprentice.
Ms Manigault Newman said in the book that she had not personally heard the recording, but that pollster Frank Luntz had heard the President use the racial slur.
Mr Luntz has denied the claim, saying he had never discussed the matter with Ms Manigault Newman.
However, Ms Manigault Newman told NBC's Chuck Todd that, after the book had closed, she was able to hear a recording of Mr Trump using the slur during a trip to Los Angeles.
"I heard his voice as clear as you and I are sitting here," she said on the show.
But the other recording she discussed on Sunday could prove equally explosive.
"Who in their right mind thinks it's appropriate to secretly record the White House chief of staff in the Situation Room?" tweeted Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee.
In the recording, which Ms Manigault Newman quotes extensively in the book, Mr Kelly can be heard saying she can look at her time at the White House as a year of "service to the nation".
Ms Manigault Newman defended her decision to covertly record it and other White House conversations, describing it as a form of protection.
"If I didn't have these recordings, no one in America would believe me," she said.
The Situation Room is a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, where the nation's most consequential foreign policy decisions are made, and staff are not permitted to bring in mobile phones or other recording devices.
"I've never heard of a more serious breach of protocol," said Ned Price, who served as spokesman of the National Security Council in the Obama administration.
"Not only is it not typical, something like this is unprecedented."
Mr Price says there is no one checking staffers for devices at the door, but there is a sign outside the room making clear that electronic devices are prohibited.
"The Situation Room is the inner-most sanctum of a secure campus," he said, describing the breach as part of a culture of disregarding security protocols in the Trump White House.
He also questioned why Mr Kelly would ever choose to have such a meeting there.
The White House did not immediately respond to questions about the tape, but has tried to discredit the book.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called the book "riddled with lies and false accusations" and Mr Trump on Saturday labelled Ms Manigault Newman a "low-life".
White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway also questioned Ms Manigault Newman's credibility in an interview on Sunday on American ABC's This Week.
"The first time I ever heard Omarosa suggest those awful things about this President are in this book," she said, noting Ms Manigault Newman "is somebody who gave a glowing appraisal of Donald Trump the businessman, the star of the The Apprentice, the candidate and, indeed, the President of the United States."
Ms Conway said that, in her more than two years working with Mr Trump, she has never heard him use a racial slur about anyone.
Ms Manigault Newman had indeed been a staunch defender of the President for years, including pushing back, as the highest-profile African-American in the White House, on accusations that he was racist.
But Ms Manigault Newman now says she was "used" by Mr Trump for years, calling him a "con" who "has been masquerading as someone who is actually open to engaging with diverse communities" and is "truly a racist".
"I was complicit with this White House deceiving this nation," she said.
"I had a blind spot where it came to Donald Trump."
First posted August 13, 2018 07:09:55