Trump's broad nondisclosure agreement was reportedly meant to appease him, and wasn't actually enforceable

  • The White House counsel who created President Donald Trump's nondisclosure agreement for staff members reportedly suggested the document was not legally binding.
  • The NDA imposed financial penalties, $10 million for each offense, for staff members who released unauthorized "confidential information."
  • White House counsel Don McGahn privately told senior aides that the NDA was primarily drafted to appease Trump, who expressed dissatisfaction with embarrassing leaks coming from the White House.


The White House counsel who created President Donald Trump's nondisclosure agreement for White House staff members reportedly suggested the document was not legally binding, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

The NDA imposed financial penalties, $10 million for each offense, for staff members who released unauthorized "confidential information." The agreement was said to remain in effect even after a staffer leaves the White House.

White House counsel Don McGahn privately told senior aides that the NDA was primarily drafted to appease Trump, and with the hope of preventing embarrassing leaks coming from the White House.

McGahn was also said to have made it clear to people who signed the document that it was not enforceable.

Some staff members reportedly resisted signing the document, but eventually gave in to pressure from then-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.

According to one source familiar with the situation, Trump wanted to make staff members think twice about spilling insider details on his administration by making them think they would be "on the hook for some serious damages," The Washington Post, which first reported on the existence of the NDA, reported.

24 PHOTOS
Notable people who have been fired or resigned from Trump's administration
See Gallery
Notable people who have been fired or resigned from Trump's administration

White House Communications Director Hope Hicks reportedly announced her resignation after testifying about her job and being required to tell "white lies."

(Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned from his position on July 5, 2018 after a number of ethics scandals.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Rob Porter resigned as White House staff secretary in February 2018 amid abuse allegations made by his ex-wives.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired by President Trump in March 2018.

(Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

White House Counsel Don McGahn

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

H.R. McMaster was replaced by John Bolton as national security advisor in March 2018.

(Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)

White House aide Kelly Sadler left her position in June 2018 after reportedly mocking Sen. John McCain.

(REUTERS/Leah Millis)

Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn announced his resignation in March 2018 after becoming a key architect of the 2017 tax overhaul 

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Sally Yates was fired from her post as acting attorney general when she refused to enforce President Trump's travel ban. 

(Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser in February after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his interactions with Russian officials. 

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

President Trump announced David Shulkin was out as secretary of veterans affairs by sending a tweet announcing he had nominated his personal physican, Ronny Jackson, to replace him on March 28, 2018.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in early May.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned in July.

(June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus resigned in July.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Former advisor to President Donald Trump Steve Bannon resigned in August.

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Anthony Scaramucci, former White House communications director was fired in July after just 10 days on the job. 

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Trump fired Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh amid White House leaks in April.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria/Files)

Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price resigned in late September. 

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

White House aide Omarosa Manigault insists she resigned and was not fired from her role in December 2017.

(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

President Trump fired U.S. Attorney in Manhattan Preet Bharara in March.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Mike Dubke resigned as White House communications director in late May.

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Walter Shaub, former Director of the United States Office of Government Ethics in Washington, DC resigned in July.

(Photo Linda Davidson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

White House deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka resigned in August 2017. 

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Rick Dearborn, White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative Affairs, left the White House in December 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

It's not entirely clear how effective an NDA would be in the White House. Federal government employees, to some degree, can be bound by rules that govern how internal communications are recorded and archived. Some White House staffers have simply talked to reporters on background, or off the record to avoid scrutiny.

Trump said in an interview in 2016 that if he were to be elected president, he would want all high-level federal employees to sign NDAs.

"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," Trump told The Post.

NOW WATCH: BILL BROWDER: How sanctions on Russia hurt Putin's closest allies

See Also:

SEE ALSO: The mood inside the White House is the worst it's ever been, with staffers calling it 'the most toxic working environment on the planet'

Read Full Story