Donald Trump told Harvey Levin back in September, as one of the creators of "The Apprentice" ... he had a lifetime deal with the show whether he was on it or not.
We were told, then and now, any involvement he might have in the show ceases when he becomes President, other than the title "executive producer" and his paycheck.
Levin asked Trump, while shooting the TV special "OBJECTified: Donald Trump," if he was rooting for Arnold, and Trump made it clear he wants the show to succeed.
Sources connected to the show tell us, Trump had no involvement in the most recent installment with Arnold Schwarzenegger -- and sources connected with Trump tell us he'll have no involvement as long as he is President.
As one source put it, “This is a non story. Presidents don’t cancel preexisting business deals when they get elected. They simply disengage from the decision-making process. Jimmy Carter didn't sell his peanut farm."
Hatch, who famously won the first "Survivor" crown before working closely with Donald on 'Apprentice' ... says the boss made a habit of getting close to women as soon as they walked in the room. He adds ... Trump never took the hint either when they'd try to shake him.
Richard says he didn't witness the incident recently reported about Gary Busey allegedly groping a female staffer while Trump laughed. But he says he wouldn't be surprised if Donald and producers looked the other way, since they loved having his "crazy" on the show.
He also says Melania claiming others are "egging on" Trump's behavior ... is pure fantasy.
Production staffers from the show claim Trump scribbled notes during board meetings, and according to The Daily Beast ... some included, "Marlee, is she retarded??" The report also said Trump would poke fun at Matlin's voice.
Matlin says, "The term is abhorrent and should never be used. The fact that we are talking about this during a very important moment in American history has upset me deeply."
Sources close to Marlee tell TMZ the actress was unaware of the allegation, but added ... Marlee never felt Trump was against her during her time on the show. She finished in 2nd place.
Marlee, a staunch Clinton supporter, also says, "I have a voice. And I'm using that voice to make myself heard ... and vote."
There is mounting pressure on "Apprentice" creator Mark Burnett to release unaired video and audio of Donald Trump on "The Apprentice" ... but there are iron-clad confidentiality agreements that would make such release impossible ... plus Burnett doesn't own the video.
Bill Pruitt, a producer on Seasons 1 and 2, tweeted, "I assure you: when it comes to the #trumptapes there are far worse. #justthebeginning."
There are reports Burnett owns the rights to the footage, but he does not. It's owned by MGM, and there are written agreements that would almost guarantee a lawsuit if the footage is released ... especially because it captures many people other than Trump.
As for the "Access Hollywood" audio, we're told that was not released by the show ... it was leaked by someone who had access to the tapes.
Trump's replacement on "The Apprentice," Arnold Schwarzenegger, just announced he won't vote for Trump.
Others in Hollywood have been pushing to get at "The Apprentice" footage. "Bachelor" creator Mike Fleiss is pushing for the release, telling TMZ it would provide "a real accurate look at who this man is."
Mark Burnett is a smart guy who knows all about a bird in the hand, which is why he's coyly telling our photog Arnold Schwarzenegger is the man for 'Celebrity Apprentice,' even if Donald Trump loses the election.
Mark was leaving Craig's in WeHo Wednesday, and without fully closing the door, he made it clear he's satisfied with Arnold. Word on the street is that Schwarzenegger's a great host, and the show's super entertaining.
He clearly harbors no ill will toward Trump, but was strangely silent about endorsing him.
Fact is ... this one ended up well for both Trump and Burnett.
Kyle Richards filmed her first day of 'Celebrity Apprentice' Friday, but unlike the other apprentices, she spent the night in the comfort of her own home.
Sources connected to production tell TMZ, Kyle attached one string to her show contract ... she would not be confined to a hotel during the 30 days of filming. We're told she insisted on going home to studly hubby, Mauricio Umansky.
The caged contestants include Laila Ali, Brooke Burke, Lisa Leslie, Vince Neil, Snooki, Chael Sonnen and Porsha Williams. They're staying in a beachfront hotel while the show films in L.A.
Our sources say Kyle will make appearances in the hotel room, so it may look like she's living there ... but she's not.
Arnold's not the only one with power.
The cast of the new 'Celebrity Apprentice' has just been announced -- and it's packed with star athletes who will battle it out for Arnold Schwarzenegger's approval ... including 2 ex-NFL players.
The athletes will compete against reality stars like Snooki, Kyle Richards and Porsha Williams ... singers like Vince Neil and comics like Jon Lovitz.
Arnold will reportedly be joined by celeb advisers including Tyra Banks, Jessica Alba, Warren Buffett ... and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer.
Since NBC announced Schwarzenegger would replace Donald Trump -- the network has been gearing up for new contestants, and Vince jumped at the opportunity.
The Motley Crue frontman just finished the band's 'Final Tour' on December 31 ... and is ready to transition to a reality TV star.
No word on any other casting decisions. The show's set to debut in September.
Arnold Schwarzenegger has a problem ... he's got way too many taglines for "The Celebrity Apprentice."
Arnold was practicing his intonations on Snapchat, and it seems he's missing something so obvious.
Hasta la vista, baby.
Mark Burnett is a genius ... not exactly news, but the timing of the announcement that Arnold Schwarzenegger will become the new host of 'Celebrity Apprentice' couldn't be better, because we've learned Arnold will be front and center at Wednesday's Republican debate.
We're told the former California governor was always planning to attend the 2nd debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, and the timing of the announcement is not accidental.
Our sources say there will be some contact between Donald and Arnold ... likely a handshake and a short conversation that will not be picked up on mic.
"Celebrity Apprentice" will be uprooted from New York City ... TMZ has learned the show will be shot in Arnold Schwarzenegger's stomping ground ... Los Angeles.
It's a brilliant move for the show, and our sources say a lot is going to change. For starters, Arnold can attract bigger stars than ever before. A production source tells us, the show will be "a lot funnier and more fun" than before, "partly because of the contestants and partly because of Arnold.
We're also told although nothing's been decided, the show would love it if Arnold's son Patrick appears as well. The 21-year old has some business chops -- he owns two Blaze Pizza shops ... one at the Grove in L.A and the other by USC.
9:45 A.M. PST -- Trump just congratulated Arnold, tweeting "He'll be great & will raise lots of $ for charity." He added, "To all my fans, sorry I couldn't do The Apprentice any longer -- but equal time (presidential run) prohibits me from doing so. Love!"
NBC announced Arnold's new gig on Monday morning, and says he'll start calling the shots on the show during the 2016-17 TV season.
It's a pretty brilliant hire that checks off several boxes -- A-list celebrity, huge success in his chosen profession, already has a catchphrase ("Hasta la vista"), and don't forget ... he's an immigrant. As we first reported, NBC was considering hiring a minority for the role -- not that Austrian exactly fits that bill.
Also interesting ... they got a former politician to replace the guy who left to run for office.
Vince McMahon proudly hurled the n-word on national TV, which makes his decision to fire Hulk Hogan for the same offense outrageous ... so claims Hulk.
Vince was doing backstage color after a WWE event back in 2005, when he very deliberately used the n-word as he pranced away from John Cena. Even more shocking, he said it right smack in front of black wrestlers Booker T and Sharmell.
Hulk is outraged Vince is acting so self-righteous, condemning him for spontaneously using the epithet in private when the wrestling boss used it in a premeditated way, on TV and for profit.
But a WWE rep says everyone recognizes the 2005 segment "was an outlandish and satirical skit involving fictional characters, similar to that of many scripted television shows and movies.”
Translation: If it's okay for "The Wire" and "Django Unchained" ... it's okay for the WWE.
Trump fielded a lot of questions about his Mexican immigrants comments during a Friday news conference in L.A. -- but really went off when the subject of NBC dumping him came up ... Trump went for the jugular.
Check out the video ... we doubt the Donald and Williams will be sitting down for a campaign trail one-on-one after this.
We also asked Trump if proud Republican Caitlyn Jenner would have a role at the party's convention -- interesting response.
T.O. -- who appeared on "Celebrity Apprentice" with Trump earlier this year -- says he gained a TON of respect for Trump during their time on the show and thinks D.T. could do great things for the country as the man in charge.
"This may be what the country needs and Trump ... he’s a guy who won’t put up with B.S. and has what it takes to change how government is run."
"With that being said, Trump ... YOU'RE HIRED"
Owens adds, "Plus, as the president, Trump would be able to say he knows me and he likes me ... LOL!"
Terrell says he's got no beef with President Obama -- and thinks he's truly helped change the country for the better -- but says moving forward, he likes Trump.
BTW, earlier this year, Owens appeared on "TMZ Hollywood Sports" and made his pitch for a job in Trump's administration if he's elected. Check it out.
'The Apprentice' will be put on ice during Donald Trump's presidential run ... TMZ has learned.
Sources connected with Trump tell us, Season 15 will not air. The networks cannot give one candidate disproportionate airtime.
Our Donald sources say no one will take Trump's place on the show ... it's simply going off the air until his campaign runs its course.
The last season of "Celebrity Apprentice" saw a rise in ratings from the previous season, and NBC announced in February they were renewing for another season.