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Donald Trump can’t enforce non-disclosure agreements signed by 2016 campaign staff, judge rules

Federal judge rules that Trump can’t enforce non-disclosure agreements signed by his 2016 campaign staff

  • Federal judge ruled Trump can’t enforce non-disclosure agreement he required his campaign aides to sign 
  • U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gardephe, an appointee of President George W. Bush, said the language was too broad and unenforceable 
  • ‘The non-disclosure provision is thus much broader than what the Campaign asserts is necessary to protect its legitimate interests, and, therefore, is not reasonable,’ he ruled 
  • Issue came about when Jessica Denson, a Hispanic outreach director for Trump in 2016, accused the campaign of sex discrimination in a separate lawsuit 
  • In return, the campaign accused her of violating the non-disclosure 

A federal judge on Tuesday cast a blow to Donald Trump by ruling that non-disclosure agreements the president required campaign employees to sign are too broad and unenforceable. 

U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gardephe, an appointee of President George W. Bush, said the language in the agreement was so vague that it was invalid under New York contract law. 

‘The non-disclosure provision is thus much broader than what the Campaign asserts is necessary to protect its legitimate interests, and, therefore, is not reasonable,’ he wrote.

The disclosure agreement, which campaign staff were required to sign, became an issue when Jessica Denson, a Hispanic outreach director for Trump in 2016, accused the campaign of sex discrimination in a separate lawsuit. 

In return, the campaign accused her of violating the non-disclosure agreement she signed. 

A federal judge ruled Donald Trump can’t enforce non-disclosure agreement he required his campaign aides to sign – above Trump is seen visiting his campaign headquarters in Virginia to thank staff on November 3, 2020

Jessica Denson, a Hispanic outreach director for Trump in 2016, sued to have the non-disclosure agreement thrown out

Jessica Denson, a Hispanic outreach director for Trump in 2016, sued to have the non-disclosure agreement thrown out

Gardephe also said the non-disclosure suppressed freedom of speech. 

‘The Campaign’s past efforts to enforce the non-disclosure and non-disparagement provisions demonstrate that it is not operating in good faith to protect what it has identified as legitimate interests,’ Gardephe ruled. ‘The evidence before the Court instead demonstrates that the Campaign has repeatedly sought to enforce the non-disclosure and non-disparagement provisions to suppress speech that it finds detrimental to its interests.’ 

Denson praised the ruling.

‘I’m overjoyed,’ she told Politico. ‘This president … former president spent all four years aspiring to autocracy while claiming that he was champion of freedom and free speech. … There’s many people out there who have seen cases like mine and were terrified to speak out.’ 

But Trump’s team disagreed with the finding. 

‘We believe the court reached the wrong decision and President Trump’s lawyers are examining all potential appeals,’ a Trump aide told Politico.

Trump’s campaign had won a $50,000 award against Denson after claiming that she had violated the confidential agreement when she first said she was mistreated and harassed by another campaign staffer. That award was overturned by a New York State court last year. 

Then she sued to have the non-disclosure agreement thrown out.  

The ruling only applies to Denson but could be broadened to other aides.

She claimed that non-disclosures like Trump’s ‘stifled public debate.’

‘Just the terms of the NDA were wildly restricting and it completely stifled public debate, truthful public debate about the Trump campaign and presidency, so this is a massive victory,’ Denson told Politico. ‘NDAs like this are part of the reason why we ended up with a Donald Trump candidacy and presidency in the first place.’ 

Trump, in his years as a New York City businessman, required employees to sign non-disclosure agreements, a practice he carried over to his 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns. 

Donald Trump, in his years as a New York City businessman, required employees to sign non-disclosure agreements, a practice he carried over to his 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns and to the White House

Donald Trump, in his years as a New York City businessman, required employees to sign non-disclosure agreements, a practice he carried over to his 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns and to the White House

He also required White House staff to sign them even as first amendment advocates warned it was unconstitutional to make such a demand on public employees paid with tax payer dollars. 

Trump’s Justice Department tried to enforce such an agreement on Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former aide to Melania Trump who was accused of violating her non-disclosure agreement when she wrote a tell-all book about the former first lady.

The suit was seen as retaliation for the unflattering portrayal Wolfkoff gave of Melania Trump in her book ‘Melania & Me.’

President Joe Biden’s Justice Department dropped that suit in February. 

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