Adding to what already must be one of the most miserable existences in politics, reports are surfacing that the Trump White House is threatening low level staffers and interns with financial ruin if they refuse to sign non-disclosure agreements. That seems like a well run organization with nothing to hide, right?
Zoe Jackman is the director of the internship program that invited interns into the White House earlier this year, but the interns were met by a demand from the White House to sign an NDA during an orientation meeting that was called an “ethics training”. It was during this training that the interns were warned about the consequences of leaking information to the media.
“Interns were also told that they would not receive their own copies,” The Daily Beast reported, citing inside sources.
The Washington Post got their hands on a draft of the non-disclosure agreement, which shows threats to violators with a $10 million penalty for each offense.
However, when CNN’s Jake Tapper asked the White House about it, a statement was issued saying that Trump staffers “were never asked or required to sign NDAs with $10 million clauses. Beyond that, we do not discuss security or personnel matters.”
“All White House employees—from senior officials to interns—understand the necessity of discretion based on the fact that they hold positions of public trust, with an emphasis on public,” the Beast quoted former Obama National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price. “But this White House’s approach to non-disclosure agreements, even for interns, seems to suggest that guarding against criticism of the president and his family—what most of us would consider to be protected speech—is just as important as safeguarding the sensitive information the American public entrusts to the government.”
“A public employee can’t be forced to sign away the right to speak,” law professor Mark Fenster of the University of Florida said to Reuters.
“These NDAs strike me as clearly unconstitutional under the First Amendment,” law professor Heidi Kitrosser of the University of Minnesota concurred.
Being unconstitutional is not normally something that would stop this administration from doing anything. This is no different.