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The Trump campaign is requiring nearly all employees, and even many volunteers, to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements, or NDAs. Although relatively common in business, NDAs in politics are — or were, until Donald came along — all but unheard of. And the Trump organization takes them seriously. The Trump NDAs require staffers to promise never to disparage Trump himself, members of his family, or any of his companies — in perpetuity. (Here in Silicon Valley, even aggressive NDAs typically expire after five years. An NDA in perpetuity? I myself have never even heard of such a thing.) And Trump is already suing one former staffer for $10 million for violating the NDA.
The argument making the rounds: That his NDA culture is going to make it difficult for Trump to hire really good people. Who wants the threat of a lawsuit from one of the most litigious men in American hanging over his head for the rest of his life? But in an email I just received, a politically savvy friend offers this:
Allow me to make a counter argument: maybe Washington can benefit from Trump’s NDA culture.
Apply such confidentiality to the executive branch and the world’s spared the obligatory “If Only They’d Listen to Me” memoirs by disgruntled former cabinet secretaries and “What Really Goes On At the White House” confidentials by former aides trying to cash in on their public service in speaking gigs and cable TV dough.
You hit on something recently in a podcast that I thought was really profound: just how lucrative politics has become at the staff level. It’s true of strategists like Paul Manafort, communications flacks like Joe Lockhart, who’s renting the Obama’s his house in Kalorama. Perhaps by putting a few people on mute, we eliminate a little self-promotion and axe-grinding, thus lowering the current toxicity a bit.
History would still be recorded — Bob Woodward can always pit anonymous aide vs. anonymous aide. Just so only historians profit from it.
Even at the level of everyday political operations, Trump is adding wrinkles and complications.
We shall see.