ACLU: Donald Trump's White House non-disclosure agreements unconstitutional

The ACLU said that Trump does not have the right to force government employees to sign non-disclosure agreements

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published March 19, 2018 10:24AM (EDT)

 (Getty/Win McNamee)
(Getty/Win McNamee)

President Donald Trump may have violated the Constitution when he pressured high-level White House staffers into signing a non-disclosure agreement, according to the ACLU.

"Public employees can’t be gagged by private agreements," Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, explained in a statement. "These so-called NDAs are unconstitutional and unenforceable."

The agreement, which was first reported by The Washington Post on Sunday, was apparently signed by staffers due to pressure from then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the White House Counsel’s Office. Trump had made it clear as early as the 2016 campaign that he liked NDAs and regularly used them on his employees when he was a private citizen. As the White House faced an increasing number of leaks during its early days, Trump turned again to NDAs to bar White House staffers from speaking out about him while he was president — or, for that matter, afterward.

The NDA signed by the staffers penalized them for each occasion in which they revealed information to the public that Trump would prefer be kept confidential  This included "all nonpublic information I learn of or gain access to in the course of my official duties in the service of the United States Government on White House staff" as well "communications . . . with members of the press" and "with employees of federal, state, and local governments."

Norman L. Eisen, the former Special Counsel for Ethics and Government Reform under President Barack Obama, took to Twitter to denounce the news of Trump's White House NDAs.

"White House lawyers who knowingly participated" in pressuring staffers to sign NDAs "could be subject to bar discipline for violating ethics rules —and maybe even lose their licenses," he tweeted.

The story of the White House NDAs comes at an unpropitious time for the Trump White House, given that stories are swirling around an NDA that was allegedly signed by porn star Stormy Daniels to keep her from discussing an affair she supposedly had with Trump prior to his presidency.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

MORE FROM Matthew Rozsa

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aclu Donald Trump Nda Non-disclosure Agreement Norm Eisen