The Slatest

Dual Reports Say Clinton Was Hunting for Damaging Apprentice Tapes Near Eve of Election

The president-elect with a former colleague and his wife.

Brad Barket/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton’s campaign was searching for rumored tapes of Donald Trump’s Apprentice outtakes that might contain potentially damaging footage up until just before Election Day, according to two recent reports.

Writing for Vanity Fair’s February issue in a story published online on Tuesday, Nick Bilton reported that “one entertainment executive with ties to Clinton contacted someone in the industry who had said he had a copy of a tape depicting Trump that could create problems for the then candidate” on the Sunday before the election. This was according to one person close to the Clinton campaign, Bilton reported.

The report seems to line up with an interview given on Friday with a Seattle radio station by actor Tom Arnold, who claimed that he had tapes of Trump making racist statements—including use of the N-word—and that he was approached by a person connected to the Clinton campaign right before the election.

“I have the outtakes to ‘The Apprentice’ where he says every bad thing ever, every offensive, racist thing ever,” Arnold told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson on Friday. “I have that.”

My Northwest has a further excerpt from that interview, in which Arnold offers this rationale for why he did not release the tape prior to the election and still hasn’t:

I’ll tell you why. Because when the people sent it to me, it was funny. Hundreds of people have seen these. It was sort of a Christmas video they put together. He wasn’t going to be President of the United States. It was him sitting in that chair saying the N-word, saying the C-word, calling his son a retard, just being so mean to his own children. Oh, this is so funny, this is this guy. The Sunday before the election, I get a call from Arnold’s CAA agent, sitting next to Hillary Clinton. They said, ‘I need you to release him saying the N-word.’ I said, ‘Well, now these people—two editors and an associate producer—are scared to death. They’re scared of his people, they’re scared of they’ll never work again, there’s a $5 million confidentiality agreement.’

As I reported before Election Day, many current and former Apprentice staffers had been reluctant to speak on the record to reporters regarding Trump’s on-set behavior because they didn’t think it would change the outcome of the election and because they feared industry reprisals for not being able to maintain production secrets.

The Vanity Fair report found similar responses from sources in Hollywood. It also got an inside look into the Clinton campaign’s hunt for the tapes, which sounded like they started later than they might otherwise have had the campaign been more confident that such a tape even existed.

Bilton reported on a campaign meeting in Brooklyn in late December 2015:

Trump’s oppo book [made] 16 references to his 11-year tenure on The Apprentice, his reality-television program. It noted, in particular, footage of Trump telling one female contestant that “it must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees.” As staffers reviewed the file, one person familiar with the meeting told me, someone made an unusual suggestion: while this clip could be damaging, there might be far more impactful raw footage of Trump saying outlandish things that had ended up on the cutting-room floor. The person suggested that the campaign scour those outtakes for any such material, if it existed.

Another staffer present at the meeting argued that such a hunt would be a waste of resources and time. Money was better devoted elsewhere, such as looking at the possibility that Trump-branded clothing was made in China. The two started to debate if it was worth devoting resources to look for some tapes that no one was certain even existed. Then someone else in the room, who had ties to Hollywood, interjected that she had heard, anyway, that Trump “always stuck to his cue cards during the taping.” On that note, the suggested hunt for any potential outtakes was tabled—at least for the time being.

According to Bilton, the Clinton campaign’s Apprentice research only began in earnest after Trump officially accepted the Republican nomination in July, less than four months before the election. A little more than 100,000 total votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin would end up making up the deficit by which she lost. There were nearly 140 million votes cast nationally and nearly 15 million cast in those three critical states.