It's pretty obvious that our current sitting president is anything but traditional. So nothing that he does can really surprise anyone anymore. And yet, somehow President Donald Trump manages to continue to grab headlines and shock everyone over the downright ridiculous reports that have come out of his White House since taking office a little over a year ago. Just when you thought you've heard it all, yet another detail about the craziness that is Trump's administration pops up — and this latest one is something literally out of a reality show. Apparently, Donald Trump made White House officials sign non-disclosure agreements, according to a new report. And this definitely doesn't inspire me to have any confidence in our government.
The Washington Post reported on March 18 that Trump has made his officials sign the non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), which by definition forbid them from disclosing specific pieces of information that were shared between the signee and the president during a given point or period in time. Apparently Trump demanded the agreements be signed because of a plethora of leaks that were coming out of the White House in the early months of Trump's presidency. Needless to say, Trump was pissed at the leaks — and the NDAs were his response, per the Post. The terms of the NDAs would reportedly require staffers to stay silent about details of Trump's presidency after he had left office, and would subject violators to hefty financial fines.
The White House did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's request for comment on the reports.
Honestly, confirmed or not, demanding NDAs really sounds like Trump's brand of reality-show presidency, if we've learned anything over the course of his tenure in the Oval Office thus far. I think I watched this exact same scenario happen during the last season of Vanderpump Rules. I mean, we do have a former reality TV show star as president. So I guess if the shoe fits...?
It's clearly debatable how much good these agreements did though, because somehow this report about Trump forcing his employees to sign them still managed to get out to the press. According to Reuters, part of the reason staffers agreed to sign in the first place was because they didn't think that the NDAs would be legally enforceable.
While federal employees can be prohibited from sharing information, that generally applies to classified or otherwise sensitive information — not information or opinions about the Trump family or gossip about the drama in their workplace. Robert Passman, a founder of the Passman & Kaplan law firm that specializes in federal employment law, told The Daily Beast in late 2016 that any NDA signed by a member of the executive branch would have to be approved by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). “I don’t think OPM would allow it and I think it would be clearly improper,” Passman stated. As long as they're not sharing classified information, there isn't anything Trump can really do to stop them talking. What the president can do, according to Passman, is threaten to fire his employees if they do talk or say anything against his wishes. (Which clearly, we've seen happen many a time in the past. )
Trump has definitely considered NDAs before. According to that same report from the Post, in an interview with the newspaper back in April 2016 Trump stated that he might want to force his employees to sign these agreements. Trump stated,
I think they should. ... And I don’t know, there could be some kind of a law that you can’t do this. 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. I mean, I’ll be honest. And people would say, oh, that’s terrible, you’re taking away his right to free speech. Well, he’s going in.
And Trump has definitely fired someone who's criticized him before.
Just last week, we saw another departure from his cabinet — and it wasn't just some random staffer. On March 13, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired by Trump after months of both parties saying that Tillerson would not be leaving his post. Apparently Trump blindsided Tillerson, and the secretary of state found out that he'd gotten the infamous Trump "You're fired!" axe just like the rest of us did — via the president's personal Twitter account. Tillerson apparently has no idea why he was fired, but it's a pretty safe bet that it's at least in part because he reportedly called Trump a "moron" behind closed doors.
Once that report got out to the media, Tillerson was as good as fired. What's more surprising is how long Tillerson stuck around following that report, which was made public back in October 2017. (At the time, Tillerson declined to outright deny insulting Trump.) Since then, Trump has reportedly been planning the now-former secretary of state's departure, and will replace him with the current CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
This is a president that does not go by the rules, as we've seen in the past. So this latest report might be yet another nail in the coffin of this nation's confidence in this administration's effectiveness. Just saying, all these cabinet shakeups and Trump's need to make his staffers sign NDA contracts doesn't exactly scream "stable" to me.