Ex-White House aide Cliff Sims has sued Donald Trump, in his official capacity as president, alleging that he used his campaign as an “illegitimate cutout” in an attempt to silence the former West Wing staffer.
Sims, a former special assistant to the president who left the White House communications shop in May 2018, rose to national prominence last month with the publication of a tell-all book about his time in the administration, “Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House.”
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But Trump’s campaign organization filed an arbitration claim against him last week, accusing Sims of violating the nondisclosure agreement he signed during the 2016 presidential race, according to The New York Times, which first reported on Sims’ litigation.
In his lawsuit, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Sims argues that the federal government is seeking to penalize “his First Amendment right to disclose unclassified information regarding which he learned during his tenure as a federal employee.”
At issue is whether using Trump’s campaign organization (a nongovernment organization) in place of Trump (a government official) to punish Sims is a tactical ploy designed to skirt Sims’ First Amendment rights.
The suit claims: “The Trump Campaign’s Demand for Arbitration is nothing but a subterfuge for the actions of the [federal government] and were undertaken under express authorization and instruction, and certainly with the blessing of, President Trump.”
Sims’ attorney, Mark S. Zaid, tweeted Monday: “We have filed federal lawsuit today against #PresidentTrump for #CliffSims to defend his #1stAmendmentrights. This is a pro bono effort to ensure any former Fed employee who desires to speak out against this Administration, or any future one, can do so w/o intimidation.”
POLITICO previously reported that Trump was incensed by Sims’ book, with several current and former White House officials having described the president as “very pissed off” and “really hopping mad” upon reading early excerpts and leaks of its text.
“A low level staffer that I hardly knew named Cliff Sims wrote yet another boring book based on made up stories and fiction,” Trump tweeted in January. “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!”