Early in his presidency, Donald Trump pressured White House staff to sign non-disclosure agreements meant to last beyond his time in office, the Washington Post’s deputy editorial page editor wrote in a column Sunday.
The editor, Ruth Marcus, wrote that a draft of the non-disclosure agreement she saw carried $10 million penalties — “payable to the federal government,” she wrote — for each violation. Marcus acknowledged, based on conversations with unnamed people who didn’t remember that number, that the final agreement’s penalty may have been “watered down.”
In her column Sunday, Marcus called the document “constitutionally repugnant” and “laughably unconstitutional” and reported that an unspecified number of senior White House staff who initially hesitated to sign the NDAs ultimately did because, in her words, they’d concluded “the agreements would likely not be enforceable in any event.”
According to Marcus, senior White House staff were pressured by the President himself, then-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and the White House Counsel’s Office to sign the documents.
One unnamed person who Marcus said signed a nondisclosure agreement told her the documents “were meant to be very similar to the ones that some of us signed during the campaign and during the transition.”
“I remember the president saying, ‘Has everybody signed a confidentiality agreement like they did during the campaign or we had at Trump Tower?’” the source continued.
The source added, referring to the time frame to which the documents applied: “It’s not meant to be constrained by the four years or eight years he’s president — or the four months or eight months somebody works there. It is meant to survive that.”
Marcus wrote that the draft agreement she’d seen defined relevant “confidential” information — information that the NDA asserted it covered — as “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.”
Marcus said the White House never responded to multiple requests for comment. Representatives of the White House did not immediately respond to TPM’s questions Sunday.