Former White House Staffer Cliff Sims Says He’s Defending First Amendment in Lawsuit Against Trump

Cliff Sims

WASHINGTON — Cliff Sims, a former White House communications staffer who wrote the recent tell-all about his tenure called “Team of Vipers,” defended a lawsuit he filed against President Donald Trump as a way to defend his “First Amendment right to tell the truth.”

He filed a lawsuit in federal court, challenging the Trump campaign’s effort to enforce a non-disclosure agreement over information he learned as a federal employee. His lawsuit claims such details are protected by the First Amendment and cites court precedent.

His book, which is now No. 3 on the New York Times’ nonfiction bestseller list, describes the chaotic nature of the White House, although perhaps not in as scathing terms as other tell-alls.

Appearing on CNN’s “New Day,” Sims said he was “backed into a corner” by the Trump campaign’s effort to impose the NDA on those who serve in the White House. The lawsuit claims such actions “unconstitutionally censor and punish a former federal employee for disclosing unclassified information outlining what he saw and observed during his time in the White House.”

“To permit this circumvention of decades of judicial and institutional precedent regarding the First Amendment rights of former federal employees would chill free speech and impermissibly censor the disclosure of information of public interest regarding the actions of the” U.S. government, the lawsuit states.

Sims was hired by the Trump campaign in September 2016, and signed a non-disclosure agreement that bars talking about “confidential” information and making disparaging remarks about the Trump campaign, Trump, and his family. He said in the lawsuit that he does not recall if he also signed a non-disclosure agreement when he was hired to serve in the White House as a special assistant to the president.

Trump bashed Sims’ book in a Jan. 29 tweet, writing, “A low level staffer that I hardly knew named Cliff Sims wrote yet another boring book based on made up stories and fiction. He pretended to be an insider when in fact he was nothing more than a gofer. He signed a non-disclosure agreement. He is a mess!”

Michael Glassner, the chief operating officer of the Trump campaign, later wrote that they were preparing to file suit against Sims for violating the NDA. According to Sims’ lawsuit, the campaign later filed a demand for arbitration that seeks monetary damages, the return of materials from his tenure, and from making “disparaging statements” or “commenting further regarding ‘confidential’ information derived from his time in the White House.”

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that Sims has a right to disclose non-classified information from his stint on Trump’s White House team. A Trump campaign spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.