WASHINGTON (CN) – A former Trump communications aide brought a federal complaint Monday to block arbitration over whether his new tell-all “Team of Vipers” violated a nondisclosure agreement.
Represented by Washington attorney Mark Zaid, writer Cliff Sims does not dispute that he may have signed an NDA before signing on in September 2016 to the election campaign Donald J. Trump for President Inc.
The crux of his lawsuit hinges, however, on distinguishing that work from the job that followed, a nearly two-year-long gig as White House director of message strategy.
Sims notes that the Trump campaign hit him with an arbitration demand within days of the Jan. 29 publication of his book by St. Martin’s Press.
Though Trump publicly downplayed the book as boring, Sims says the arbitration demand seeks to enjoin him “from making ‘disparaging statements’ or commenting further regarding ‘confidential’ information derived from his time in the White House.”
A provocative account of Trump’s first 500 days in office, the book by Sims has been cited by multiple outlets as supporting leaked claims of disputes between Trump and his former Chief of Staff John Kelly as well as Congressman Paul Ryan.
In his complaint meanwhile Sims seeks declaratory judgment from what he characterizes as prior restraint.
“The U.S. government is intentionally and unconstitutionally engaging in a subterfuge effort to use a private entity, Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., to do its bidding to silence Mr. Sims when it is really the intense powers of the presidency coming down upon a sole individual,” the complaint states.
Sims also disputes that his book would be subject to the prepublication review process that is reserved for “former federal employees who signed specific documentation as part of their processing for access to classified information and who were bound to submit writings to the USGOVT in advance for classification review prior to publication.”
What Trump is doing here, according to the complaint, “is seeking to impose civil liability against Mr. Sims through application of NDAs that apply to information Mr. Sims learned solely during his federal service.” (Emphasis in original.)
“That the Trump campaign is acting on the president’s behest is not surprising given President Trump’s personal comments throughout the presidential campaign indicating his disdain of so-called ‘tell-all-books’ written by former federal officials and his desire to apply non-disclosure agreements to those who serve in the White House,” the complaint continues.