Wednesday, October 14, 2020
The Trump Administration is once again suing to enforce one of its non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with one of its former employees. In this case, the defendant is the ex-BFF of Melania Trump (pictured), Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, author of Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady. That book is no-doubt a White-House memoire all that will enjoy lasting fame alongside those of George F. Kennan, Robert McNamara, and Henry Kissinger. Among its substantive revelations is the bombshell that Melania Trump really doesn't care what people think of her. Who would have guessed that?
According to the complaint, Ms. Wolkoff was volunteered to serve as the First Lady's advisor and signed a "Gratuitous Services Agreement" in which she promised to maintain strict confidentiality with respect to all "nonpublic, privileged or confidential information." Her official duties involves advising the First Lady on speeches, appearances and policies. Her unofficial duties apparently involved taping her private conversations with the First Lady, which is, you know, just what good friends do. According to the government, Ms. Wolkoff's non-disclosure obligations continued after she left her volunteer position and had no end date.
As with the Mary Trump book and the John Bolton book, and the Stormy Daniels case (not to mention the Omarosa case), this suit comes too late to prevent the harm that an NDA is supposed to prevent. The book has been published and became a New York Times #1 bestseller; the recordings of Ms. Wolkoff's conversations with the First Lady have gone viral. The purpose of the suit (we imagine) is not to prevent disclosures but to disgorge profits made in violation of the NDA. If the purpose of such suits is to deter future violations, the strategy seems to be failing. So, perhaps the motivation is pure cussedness. A fine use of tax dollars and the resources of the federal government.
And it may not work. According to this article on Politico, in addition to wasting government resources, the case may be frivolous. The article cites Brad Moss, a national security attorney, as follows: "The case law has been expressly clear for decades that former officials cannot be contractually censored for anything other than classified information. . . ." The complaint identifies no classified information disclosed in Ms. Wolkoff's book. Indeed, the case may in the end reveal that the White House's NDA's are overbroad and unenforceable.
B.J. Thomas, can you take us out?