Judge Is Hesitant About Ordering Trump to Back Off Nondisclosure Agreements

Team of Viper - Book Cover - Publicity -P 2019
Courtesy of MacMillan Publishers

Cliff Sims, a former White House aide who authored Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House, believes the First Amendment prevents Trump from enforcing a nondisclosure agreement. He's brought suit to vindicate his free speech rights, but he's stumbled upon a judge who is expressing hesitancy about ordering Trump to do anything.

"In reviewing the parties’ arguments concerning subject matter jurisdiction, the Court is most concerned about its ability to grant declaratory or injunctive relief against the President of the United States," wrote Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in an order Wednesday. 

According to Kollar-Kotelly, a judge appointed by Bill Clinton in 1997, the law is somewhat unsettled on what kind of relief is available against a sitting president.

She points to two recent cases.

One involved an attorney's attempt to compel more fulsome financial disclosures from Trump. Kollar-Kotelly herself was the judge and ruled just weeks ago, "This Court should not grant mandamus, injunctive, or declaratory relief against a sitting President to require performance of a ministerial duty."

The other case entails compliance with the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, that being the ban on foreign money and gifts for members of government. Democratic lawmakers achieved an initial ruling that they had standing to sue Trump with the judge not ruling out the prospect of injunctive relief, but the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals recently remanded the case with instruction to make further review of the separation-of-powers issue.

With both of those cases subject to further opinions, Kollar-Kotelly is proposing a pause on further adjudication of Sims' suit until 60 days after a D.C. Circuit decision in either case.

The impact would be that Sims, who has appeared widely in the media to promote his book and talk about Trump, won't get the First Amendment ruling as soon as he hopes nor would Trump and the Justice Department get word on their own bid to force the dispute into arbitration. The potential delay also comes as Jessica Denson, an actress and writer from California who worked briefly for the Trump campaign, recently failed in her own effort in federal court to overturn a $52K arbitration award for Trump over an NDA violation.