White House: It’s ‘common’ for government employees to sign NDAs
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday would not say whether she’s signed a nondisclosure agreement since joining the Trump administration, but asserted it’s “common” for government employees to sign such documents.
“I’m not going get into the back and forth on who has signed an NDA here at the White House,” Sanders said at a press briefing when asked whether she’s signed such a document.
“I can tell you that it’s common in a lot of places for employees to sign NDAs, including in government, particularly anyone with a security clearance,” she added.
The question about requiring White House staffers to sign nondisclosure agreements has emerged as a point of contention as former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman has published a new book filled with explosive claims about her time on the Trump campaign and as an aide in the Trump administration.
In her book released Tuesday, “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House,” Manigault Newman alleges President Trump is a racist, a misogynist and a narcissist, and claims he repeatedly used the N-word on the set of “The Apprentice.”
Trump has lashed out at Manigault Newman in response, calling her a “dog” and a “lowlife.
The Trump campaign escalated the president’s war with Manigault Newman earlier Tuesday when it filed for arbitration, alleging she violated a nondisclosure agreement.
The campaign claims that by publishing the book, Manigault Newman violated the terms of a 2016 confidentiality agreement she signed with the campaign.
Asked Tuesday why compelling Manigault Newman to defend herself and potentially pay damages is necessary, Sanders said she could not speak on behalf of the campaign. However, she re-asserted that it’s “very normal” to require staffers to sign NDAs, arguing that “this White House is certainly no different” from past administrations.
Manigault Newman has acknowledged she signed a confidentiality agreement with the 2016 campaign but has denied signing a similar agreement upon leaving the White House.
The White House has in recent days confirmed its practice of requiring West Wing staffers to sign nondisclosure agreements, despite concerns from watchdogs that such documents are unenforceable and uncommon for public employees.
“We’ve all signed them in the West Wing,” she said. “We have confidentiality agreements in the West Wing, absolutely we do. And why wouldn’t we?”
After Trump tweeted that Manigault Newman signed a nondisclosure agreement, the American Civil Liberties Union called the practice unconstitutional, saying Trump was attempting to “muzzle federal employees.”
Requiring public employees and contractors to sign an SF312 security clearance is one thing, a non-disclosure agreement for all employees to silence critical speech is another and is clearly unconstitutional.