In a new brief filed in the federal court in Washington just before midnight Thursday, the Justice Department vigorously defended its position on the case, and even embroiled itself with Manigault Newman over the controversial circumstances surrounding her dismissal by then-White House chief of staff, John Kelly.
“She … did not attempt to file a dismissal report before September 2019, more than a year and a half after the due date and the start of this litigation,” wrote DOJ lawyers. “After this filing – in which only half of the required fields were filled in – the defendant made no effort to correct its filing for over a year, although it was immediately informed of its deficiencies … It remains non-compliant [the Ethics in Government Act] to this day. “
The lawsuit asked U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon to sentence Manigault Newman to $ 61,585 civil for deliberately refusing to file the financial disclosure. Such suits are rare. Disputes over financial information are usually resolved by an agent who updates the forms and, in some cases, applies a minor fine.
Manigault Newman’s main defense on this case was that after her sharp exit from the White House, Trump aides refused to return her personal effects, including the financial records she needed to fill out the required exit report. She also claims that she is a whistleblower for government wrongdoing and that the lawsuit constitutes illegal retaliation for it.
After her release, Manigault Newman released audio recordings she had secretly made of a tense conversation with Kelly in the highly secure Situation Room of the White House – as well as a recording of another conversation in which Trump implausibly claimed he did not know Kelly was about to fire her.
In the audio, Kelly Manigault encourages Newman to walk quietly so that she can “move on without any difficulty with her reputation.” It was later revealed that Kelly said Manigault Newman had abused the White House auto service. She claims that was an excuse to fire her.
While the new Justice Department report argues that Kelly’s testimony posed no threat and claims that she was fired for “misusing government resources,” government attorneys also contend that these disputes are irrelevant to the ongoing lawsuit.
“Notwithstanding the defendants ‘unsubstantiated references to” threats “at the time they were fired, the reasons for the White House defendants’ termination are not up for debate in this case,” the lawyers wrote.
The mandate was filed under the name of Acting Head of the Civil Department of Justice, Brian Boynton, who assumed that role immediately after President Joe Biden’s inauguration last month. Biden has not yet named a candidate who will permanently accept this post.
Just last week the Justice Department dropped a lawsuit against another Trump White House aide, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who worked as a volunteer assistant to former first lady Melania Trump. The lawsuit alleged that her book “Melania and Me” about her time in the White House violated a nondisclosure agreement signed by Winston Wolkoff.
The department’s lawyers did not give the court an official explanation for the abrupt postponement in this case. A Justice Department official made only a vague statement, saying, “The department evaluated the case and concluded that an unscathed release based on the facts and the law was in the best interests of the United States.”