Donald Trump is going after former campaign aide Sam Nunberg for a whopping $10 million dollars, accusing him of violating the strict non-disclosure agreement he makes all of his staffers sign. Specifically, he is charging Nunberg with leaking information to the New York Post about a public fight and romantic affair between two other Trump campaign staffers in May.
Trump at first attempted to take Nunberg through the less transparent process of arbitration, but Nunberg sued to stay the arbitration order, and the matter is now being fought in New York’s Supreme Court. There, Nunberg is arguing that he never agreed to arbitration in the first place, and that the Constitution protects his right to discuss what he experienced as Trump’s senior campaign consultant.
The Trump campaign is attempting to bring a frivolous and arbitrary proceeding against me essentially to punish me and shut me up.
“In retaliation for my change in political opinion and the free exercise of my First Amendment right to abandon my political backing of Mr. Trump and to endorse and associate with U.S. Senator Ted Cruz publicly,” Nunberg wrote in the affadavit, “the Trump campaign is attempting to bring a frivolous and arbitrary proceeding against me essentially to punish me and shut me up.”
Nunberg added that the “leak” in question resulted from a “lovers’ quarrel” between two Trump staffers on a public street near his home. “I did not provide the New York Post with any information concerning that embarrassing and lurid event,” he wrote.
Nunberg was fired last August after reporters dug up some of his old Facebook posts with racist statements about President Obama, Al Sharpton, and other prominent black officials. After his dismissal, he joined the campaign of Trump rival Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). It was the second time Nunberg has been fired by Trump; the first occurred in 2014 when Nunberg set up an in-depth interview with Buzzfeed that resulted in an unflattering portrait of the Donald.
Trump’s current legal battle with Nunberg, over an embarrassing article that barely held a day of the media’s attention, reveals the extent of the vindictiveness of Trump’s campaign and highlights just how careful his former staffers have to be when discussing their former boss.
It is worth mentioning, then, that perhaps the highest profile ex-Trump staffer — former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski — just became an election analyst for CNN even as he is still collecting severance pay from Trump. Though it’s a long-established tradition for former campaign operatives to become TV talking heads, it is unprecedented for someone to be on both payrolls at once, and unprecedented for a news channel to hire someone who has signed an agreement never to disparage the person they are supposed to analyze.
Lewandowski, who was charged but never convicted for assaulting a female reporter at a Trump campaign event in March, has used his airtime on CNN to defend his former boss against charges of racism and antisemitism.
Fox News appears to have stricter ethical guidelines than CNN. This week, the conservative network terminated its contract with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich out of concern that Gingrich’s bid to be Trump’s vice president would be a conflict of interest in his on-air election analysis.