FILE - Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Omarosa Manigault attend a church service in Detroit, Michigan, Sept. 3 2016.
FILE - Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Omarosa Manigault attend a church service in Detroit, Michigan, Sept. 3 2016.

WHITE HOUSE - President Donald Trump's presidential campaign Tuesday filed a legal action against former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman, alleging she breached a nondisclosure agreement with the campaign.

The former contestant on the reality TV show The Apprentice is promoting her new book titled Unhinged, in which she made a number of controversial claims, including that she has tapes of Trump using a racial slur.

During a White House press briefing Tuesday, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders refused to "go on a back-and-forth on NDAs" but said the agreements were "actually very normal." She added that prior administrations have "had NDAs, particularly those with a security clearance."

The book "Unhinged," by former White House staffer
The book "Unhinged," by former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman on her time in the White House administration, is seen for sale in Manhattan, New York, Aug. 14, 2018.

Nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) are commonly used in the business world to protect corporate interests. However, it is not usually applied to White House aides, particularly in a broad context beyond the handling of sensitive and classified national security materials.

The White House is defending accusations of silencing aides through the use of NDAs. The allegations come on the heels of an ongoing saga between the president and Manigault Newman, who has been making public secret recordings that she claimed to have made during her time at the White House before she was fired in December 2017.

 

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Lata Nott, director of the First Amendment Center, said it raises the question of "whether the government is violating the First Amendment by censoring speech." She added that government employees don't have absolute First Amendment protection. For example, they can be fired for revealing classified or confidential information.

Nott voiced a concern shared by many legal scholars — that "an NDA that prohibits a former government employee from revealing unclassified information probably violates the First Amendment."

Presidential historian Allan Lichtman of American University said he is "unaware of any other president compelling staff members or other members of the executive branch to sign nondisclosure agreements" beyond what relates to classified information.

He added that former members of presidential administrations frequently write and speak about their experience in government, and such information "serves the public interest," including instances where whistleblowers expose corruption within government.

On Monday, Trump continued his attacks on Manigault Newman and her signing of a nondisclosure agreement.

The Twitter attacks, particularly one where Trump called her a "dog" who deserved to be fired, also raised questions about race and allegations that the president has a pattern of insulting prominent African-Americans.

Sanders defended Trump's attacks as "nothing to do with race" and simply his "calling out on someone's lack of integrity." She insisted that the president is "an equal opportunity person that calls things like he sees it. He always fights fire with fire," she said.