‘Apprentice’ Star Omarosa Manigault Joins Trump Transition Team

December 16, 2016
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by Anjali Tsui Abrams Journalism Fellow, FRONTLINE/Columbia Journalism School Fellowships

Omarosa Manigault and Donald Trump appear on NBC News' "Today" show. Omarosa, a former contestant on "The Apprentice," has been named to the president-elect's transition team. (Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Omarosa Manigault, the reality TV star and one of Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters, was formally appointed on Thursday to the president-elect’s transition team.

Manigault, who rose to fame as a contestant on the first season of the “The Apprentice,” is among nine new members of the transition team’s executive committee. She will work alongside legislators, financiers, political advisors and Trump’s children on the committee to advise on strategy, logistics and staffing decisions for the incoming administration.

Commonly referred to by her first name, Omarosa served as a surrogate for Trump during his campaign for president. As the director of his African-American outreach efforts, she attempted to rally support for Trump among black voters even as he drew ire from minority communities for his polarizing rhetoric. Omarosa appeared alongside Trump at a church in Detroit in September when he delivered a rare address to a predominantly African-American audience.

In a recent interview with The Washington Post, she declined to discuss whether she would serve in the White House. But in meetings with veterans and presidents of historically black colleges in the five weeks since Election Day, Omarosa has “signaled her growing role in Trump’s transition as a senior advisor,” according to the Post.

Omarosa first met Trump in 2003 while filming the first season of “The Apprentice.” She has maintained a close relationship with him, telling FRONTLINE in an interview for The Choice 2016 that Trump would often talk about politics in between shoots and press conferences. She first learned of his political ambitions in the lead up to the 2004 elections and saw them resurface in 2008 and then again in 2012.

“I believe the first reason that Donald Trump is running for president is because he truly believes that he can help turn the nation around,” she told FRONTLINE in June. “The second reason I believe is that this is the greatest position in the world, to be at the center of political power, of the universe. But more importantly, every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, whoever disagreed, whoever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.”

In the interview, Omarosa was asked about Trump’s reaction to President Obama’s roasting of him at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Omarosa sat a few tables away from Trump during the dinner, and observed his stoic expression as the audience laughed at Obama’s jokes. As she explained in the below scene from The Choice, “The people at my table were looking at me while I’m looking at Donald. And I thought, oh, Barack Obama is starting something that I don’t know if he’ll be able to finish.”

Any role with the administration once Trump takes office would mark a return to government for Omarosa. After studying and then briefly teaching at Howard University, she held a series of jobs in the White House during the Clinton administration in the 1990s. She worked as an assistant in Vice President Al Gore’s office and served briefly in the Commerce Department.

“My only interest is in serving at the pleasure of the president,” she told the Post, “so any role that he sees necessary for me, I’ll answer that call.”

 

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