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Omarosa Manigault Thinks Donald Trump Will ‘Win Over So Many People Who Were Not on Our Side’

Variety logo Variety 1/17/2017 Ted Johnson

Omarosa Manigault is headed back to the White House, and she insists that the incoming administration will adhere to something not always associated with Donald Trump: tradition.

“It has been made very, very clear that this president is not only going to respect traditions, but also respect the protocol,” Manigault, who gained fame as a contestant on the first season of “The Apprentice,” tells Variety.

As assistant to the president and director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison, she will likely be the public face of the Trump team when it comes to interacting with the media, as well as African-American and women’s groups.

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JAKE CHESSUM for Variety

It’s not all that surprising that she is taking a role in the administration: She was one of Trump’s high-profile supporters when she worked on his campaign. And Manigault, a former Democrat who publicly supported President Obama in his re-election campaign and Hillary Clinton in 2014, has previous White House experience, including serving as deputy associate director of presidential personnel in the Bill Clinton administration. The 42-year-old is getting married this spring to John Allen Newman, a pastor in Jacksonville, Fla. — who she notes is a Democrat.

In her new role, she’ll focus on outreach. She insists that the Trump presidency will surprise his opponents.

What will you be doing?

The president-elect really wanted me to have the freedom to work on many different things, and so, although I’m in the Office of Public Liaison, because I was named assistant to the president, it gives me a lot of ability to help on issues related to diverse communities throughout the administration.

What will be the key to winning over those who are still expressing opposition to Trump?

Well, that’s the one thing you learn about politics: There are winners, and there are losers, you know? You have to really meet people where they are. Once he starts turning around what’s happening in this country in terms of providing Americans with jobs and safety and security, taking care of the homeland, and shoring up the border, I think that he’ll win over so many people who were not on our side.

What do you say to people who have hard feelings about comments Trump has made about Muslims and immigrants?

Well, the wounds and divide from this campaign are deep. As with any situation, where you have that kind of division or that type of wound, it takes time to heal. But you have to first acknowledge that there’s some healing to be done. I acknowledge that this campaign was really, really tough. I’m going to, in my way, try to heal the divide that came out of this campaign and try to set an environment that is conducive to that healing.

How do you think the president-elect will interact with the entertainment community?

I think that because of President Trump’s unique relationship with the entertainment world, he’ll have an opportunity to combine two things that are important to him: addressing the pressing needs to this country and being accessible to everyday Americans. If you want to send a message to voice your support or voice your objections to issues — I mean on Twitter — sometimes you can’t even tag a person in their tweets. You can still literally tag Donald Trump in his tweets. I have blocked that feature, but he still has it.

Trump recently sent a tweet about the poor ratings for “The Apprentice” with new host Arnold Schwarzenegger. What did you think of that?

I’m going to refrain from commenting in any way. I haven’t been a part of this franchise for a very long time. And I think it’s important. There is an African saying, “When two elephants fight, it is the grass that needs to get out of the way.” And so I am just going to get out of the way.

You appeared in a pre-election PBS documentary called “The Choice,” saying, “Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him.” Do you still think that?

Obviously, I wasn’t being literal, asking people to physically bow down. I would probably say today that those same critics who literally mocked him and made fun of him, they said he would never be president. They said he would never win the Republican nomination. They mocked him on everything from “Good Morning America” to “Saturday Night Live.” At some point, those folks who had such arrogance about them, they will have to stop and acknowledge that what he did was unprecedented, that this victory is historical. … It was my way of saying that people have to give him his props — that he did what so many people said he would not be able to do. And people have to acknowledge that. But they don’t have to bow down. That is the most ridiculous thing, and people report it like it was literal.

The documentary features a clip from the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Assn. dinner in which President Obama mocked Trump, who was in the audience. Do you think the new president will show up for this year’s event?

I can’t speak for him, but I know I will. Because remember, I was at the last one and declared right there on air, live on CNN, that next year Donald Trump will be delivering the punch lines. I can’t wait to go back and face the people who, again, were just so negative and doubtful. I did so much press on that red carpet, and they were all, “Hahaha, yeah, right. Right, Omarosa.” … You better believe it that [Trump] will be incredible to deliver the punch lines and go there. I feel confident he will follow tradition.

Will celebrities show up for the inauguration?

We won with the people. I would love them to honor the very brave Americans who helped elect this president. … I would say 90% of Hollywood was against us. Of course they are going to shun the moment that he is getting sworn in and is celebrating. I’m not surprised by that.

Where will you be sitting?

Well, hello? I will be, thank God, in the friends-and-family section, thanks to the Trumps and their invitation to sit in that very special section with them.

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