Former Trump staffer sues for right to publish inside account of White House

Former White House aide Cliff Sims is suing President Donald Trump for his attempts to invoke a nondisclosure agreement and possible damages for Sims’ publication of “Team of Vipers,” an account exposing Trump’s disfunctional administration. Sims signed a nondisclosure agreement as a member of Trump’s 2016 campaign staff but could not remember signing one for his White House job. Sims claimed that the demand for secret arbitration constituted state action to violate his First Amendment rights. (The New York Times, February 11, 2019, by Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni)

Fox News legal analyst Judge Andrew P. Napolitano doubts that Trump could prevail in the Sims dispute. Nondisclosure agreements provide that in return for employment,  employees agree to keep secret what they learn on the job. Should a dispute arise, it would be settled in secret arbitration, and if the arbitrators find against the employee, the employee owes money, in the case of Sims, $10 million even if no damages occurred. Napolitano argues that even if Sims signed an agreement with the White House, under the First Amendment, the government could not enforce it given First Amendment protections. There are federal laws that protect whistleblowers regardless of nondisclosure agreements. Napolitano concludes, “If presidents can use legal artifices to punish the speech they hate and fear, they are no longer presidents in a free society. They are princes in an empire.” (Newsmax, February 14, 2019)

For prior FAC coverage, click here.



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