Donald Trump has long been known for demanding personal loyalty from anyone working for him, which hasn’t translated particularly well to his time in office. He made such a demand from FBI Director James Comey, and after Comey refused to commit to it, Trump fired him. Now Trump is under criminal investigation for that firing. It turns out Trump’s demands for loyalty from government employees has run far deeper and wider than previously known – and his paranoid quest for it has officially backfired on him.
Trump famously forced his campaign advisers to sign nondisclosure agreements; when Sam Nunberg violated that agreement, Trump sued him for $10 million. Now the Washington Post (link) is reporting that Trump had Reince Priebus and Don McGahn pressure various White House senior advisers into signing nondisclosure agreements. Such agreements are legally unenforceable because White House employees work for the public and not for Trump. But it gets worse for him.
Trump’s decision to force his own top White House people to sign such agreements, knowing they were unenforceable, can only be explained by pure paranoia on his part. Norm Eisen of the Brookings Institution tweeted his view that McGahn and other attorneys involved in pushing employees to sign the agreements could end up losing their law licenses for it (link). So now Trump is facing a new public controversy over these agreements which objectively make him look like he has something to hide, even as some of his associates are facing severe consequences for having participated in the scheme.
This is before getting to the question of whether Donald Trump violated criminal and/or civil law by forcing White House employees to sign the nondisclosure agreements. In addition, if any current or former such employees were under the mistaken impression that they were bound by such agreements, as of today they’re aware that they’re legally free to speak all they want. In addition, nondisclosure agreements don’t cover illegal activities, so none of this protects Trump in his Russia scandal. Trump’s paranoia caused him to make a big mess of things for no gain.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report