White House NDAs

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Trump had senior White House officials sign NDAs, reports WaPo's Ruth Marcus:

Back in April 2016, when the notion of Donald Trump in the White House still seemed fanciful, The Post's Robert Costa and Bob Woodward sat down with Trump, and Costa, at one point, raised the subject of the nondisclosure agreements for employees of which the candidate was so fond.

Costa: "One thing I always wondered, are you going to make employees of the federal government sign nondisclosure agreements?"

Trump: "I think they should. [...] But when people are chosen by a man to go into government at high levels and then they leave government and they write a book about a man and say a lot of things that were really guarded and personal, I don't like that.

Marcus continues:

In the early months of the administration, at the behest of now-President Trump, who was furious over leaks from within the White House, senior White House staff members were asked to, and did, sign nondisclosure agreements vowing not to reveal confidential information and exposing them to damages for any violation. Some balked at first but, pressed by then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the White House Counsel's Office, ultimately complied, concluding that the agreements would likely not be enforceable in any event.

"This is extraordinary," writes Marcus:

Every president inveighs against leakers and bemoans the kiss-and-tell books; no president, to my knowledge, has attempted to impose such a pledge. And while White House staffers have various confidentiality obligations -- maintaining the secrecy of classified information or attorney-client privilege, for instance -- the notion of imposing a side agreement, supposedly enforceable even after the president leaves office, is not only oppressive but constitutionally repugnant. Unlike employees of private enterprises such as the Trump Organization or Trump campaign, White House aides have First Amendment rights when it comes to their employer, the federal government. If you have a leaker on your staff, the cure is firing, not suing.

"This is crazy," said attorney Debra Katz, who has represented numerous government whistleblowers and negotiated nondisclosure agreements. "The idea of having some kind of economic penalty is an outrageous effort to limit and chill speech. Once again, this president believes employees owe him a personal duty of loyalty, when their duty of loyalty is to the institution."

"Now we know," continues Marcus, "that he imported these bullying tactics into the White House:"

Which raises the obvious question: Why is he so consistently frantic to ensure that no one knows what goes on behind closed doors?

H/t to Digby for mentioning Michelle Goldberg's "Burn it down, Rex:"

Since the beginning of this nightmare administration, we've been assured -- via well-placed anonymous sources -- that a few sober, trustworthy people in the White House were checking Donald Trump's worst instincts and most erratic whims. A collection of generals, New York finance types and institution-minded Republicans were said to be nobly sacrificing their reputations and serving a disgraceful president for the good of the country. Through strategic leaks they presented themselves as guardians of American democracy rather than collaborators in its undoing.

What has happened as the nightmare continued?

Over the past 14 months we've also seen monstrous levels of corruption and chaos, a plummeting of America's standing in the world and the obliteration of a host of democratic norms. Yet things could always be worse; the economy is doing well and Trump has not yet started any real wars.

Increasingly, however, the people who were supposed to be the adults in the room aren't in the room anymore [but] The self-styled grown-ups are, for the most part, being replaced by lackeys and ideologues.

"This new stage of unbound Trumpism," Goldberg says worrisomely, "might make the administration's first year look stable in comparison:"

That would partly vindicate the adults' claims that things would be even messier without them. But it would also mean that by protecting the country from the consequences of an unhinged president, they helped Trump consolidate his power while he learned how to transcend restraints.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on March 18, 2018 7:47 PM.

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