Omarosa Manigault Newman must pay $61,585 for her “flagrant” violation of federal ethics law, a judge ruled on Tuesday. He found the ex-Donald Trump aide blew past her deadline to file a termination report by more than a year.
“The government argues that Manigault Newman should be held liable for $61,585-the inflation-adjusted statutory maximum at the time of the government’s motion-‘because of the egregiousness of her conduct and her significant financial resources.’ I agree,” Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote in a 15-page ruling.
Omarosa fired back at the ruling on Twitter, asking if there are “two systems of justice in this country.”
“One that allows those who violate the Hatch Act and Emoluments Clause a slap on wrist and the other that orders an unprecedented fine (highest in history) for an alleged unintentional failing to file a form?” she asked.
A former Apprentice contestant, Omarosa became director of communications in the White House Office of Public Liaison under Trump, and her acrimonious departure from that administration sparked a Department of Justice lawsuit accusing her of violating the Ethics in Government Act (EIGA).
Passed after the Watergate scandal, the law created a set of mandatory public disclosures aimed to curb government corruption. One of those disclosures required Omarosa to submit a financial disclosure report 30 days after she was fired on Dec. 19, 2017. A White House ethics counsel informed Omarosa that the statute made her deadline Jan. 18, 2018, and she received at least two reminders before that date lapsed, according to the ruling.
The judge said another “flurry” of ignored communications informing Omarosa that she missed the deadline followed, but she did not respond until March 2018—and continued to drag her feet for months after that.
“Despite the repeated admonitions from the Government and a confirmation of her termination date, Manigault Newman did not file her Termination Report until September 11, 2019-well over a year after the report was due,” Leon wrote, adding that she received “more than 100 notifications” in the interim.
The Justice Department sued Omarosa in federal court on June 25, 2019, in what the ex-Apprentice contestant characterized as litigation motivated by one word: “Revenge.”
“It’s this former President’s hallmark and this Court should end it,” her attorney John M. Phillips wrote a little more than a year ago. “This lawsuit was filed prematurely, inappropriately, unconstitutionally and in violation of the law.”
But Judge Leon wrote that Omarosa could not claim whistleblower protection.
“First, Manigault Newman has not identified any provision of the [Whistleblower Protection Act] that creates an affirmative defense to civil litigation,” he noted.
Even if it did, Leon added, it would not apply to Omarosa.
“Manigault Newman was not an “employee or applicant for employment” when she made the alleged disclosure or when the Government initiated this lawsuit,” the ruling states. “Accordingly, the Government did not violate the only substantive provision cited by Manigault Newman.”
Judge Leon added that there was “no question” that Manigault Newman knowingly failed to report.
Though Omarosa claimed that the notifications went out to her unmonitored email address, Leon wrote that it was undisputed that she was aware of the emails when she called the White House counsel in March 2018.
“Thus, Manigault Newman indisputably knew about her ongoing failure to file the Termination Report for at least a year and a half before eventually filing it in September 2019,” the ruling states.
Omarosa’s “years-long failure to comply” with federal ethics law despite “many written and verbal reminders,” the judge added, was “flagrant.”
“Moreover, Manigault Newman earned a substantial salary–$179,700–in her former White House role, and her late-filed EIGA report shows that she is a “1/3 beneficiary” of a trust worth more than $1 million,” the ruling states. Given these significant financial resources, I find that imposition of the maximum penalty is necessary to effectuate the deterrent aims of the EIGA.”
Omarosa’s attorney Phillips told Law&Crime that he is “frankly stunned” by the ruling.
“They kept her boxes hostage, which contained the records she needed; while weaponizing litigation against her on multiple fronts,” Phillips wrote in an email. “They played games with the system, which is laid out in our motions and responses. And a record setting fine as a penalty for public service is beyond inappropriate. Merrick Garland is supposed to be returning stability and reason back to government. This is the opposite of that. They wouldn’t even respond to my requests. Justice failed today.”
Phillips said that he advised his client to appeal.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s request for comment.
Read the ruling, below:
(Photo via Drew Angerer and Getty Images)
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