On Aug. 9, the Trump administration took yet another blow when The Daily Beast reported that former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault allegedly recorded conversations in the White House. So far, Manigault has shared two of the alleged tapes with the public, much to the administration's chagrin. So, are Omarosa Manigault's alleged recordings illegal? It doesn't appear so, based on what we know so far.
While Manigault's alleged tapes have caused serious backlash among GOP members, a majority of political figures and national security leaders agree that while Manigault's alleged recordings are violations of White House security norms and customs, they're not illegal. In the beginning, the administration claimed Manigault's alleged tapes may be illegal because some were reportedly recorded in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) — namely, the White House Situation Room — but national security experts have generally concluded that since Manigault held no security clearance, and no defense nor classified information was reportedly discussed, it's not illegal that she allegedly recorded the conversations. Elite Daily reached out to Manigault for comment, but did not immediately hear back.
According to national security lawyer Bradley Moss, Manigault's alleged recordings are a security violation, but not criminal. In a tweet shared by NPR reporter Tim Mak, which Moss himself later retweeted, he said,
In and of itself, there is no criminal provision implicated. If there isn't national defense information or classified involved, merely recording... in a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) is merely a security violation.
Tommy Vietor, who served as Barack Obama's national security counsel spokesperson, also came to Manigault's defense on Aug. 12 via Twitter by saying her conversation with General Kelly was "unclassified." He wrote,
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.
While Moss and Vietor may believe Manigault is innocent of criminal activity, others beg to differ.
Another reason why Manigault may be innocent of any crime is because of the "one party consent" law in Washington D.C. While recording conversations, some states require that both parties being taped consent to the recording. Since that's not the case in D.C., Manigault recording discussions without informing the other party is not illegal. However, this law varies on a state-by-state basis, so if she recorded conversations in a state that requires two-party consent, she could be in trouble.
Once Manigault released a tape on Aug. 12 that she claimed to be audio of General Kelly firing her in SCIF, many Republicans claimed that her actions were illegal mainly because of the sensitive information that's discussed in the security rooms. However, seeing as the former White House staffer has no security clearance, Lawfare Executive Editor Susan Hennessy raised the question on Aug. 12 via Twitter as to why exactly General Kelly and Manigault reportedly had their conversation there in the first place. She wrote,
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.
On Aug. 9, a source told The Daily Beast that Manigault plans to use the alleged recordings as leverage for her upcoming tell-all book, Unhinged. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment about the alleged tapes at the time, but did not hear back.
So far, Manigault has only teased us with two alleged recordings, but judging by how things are progressing we might be seeing more of these supposed tapes very soon. The drama continues.