Congress

Democrats threaten Trump officials’ salaries over White House nondisclosure agreements

House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., has launched an investigation into nondisclosure agreements the White House made outgoing employees sign. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats are probing whether the nondisclosure agreements that the Trump White House has made outgoing employees sign comply with whistleblower protection laws.

If they don’t, House Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings warned, the salaries of administration officials who have enforced those NDAs could be withheld in accordance with federal law.

In a letter to acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Cummings renewed a request from last year — when Democrats were in the minority — for the Trump administration to hand over copies of the NDAs signed by outgoing officials.

Such agreements must include language that highlights “the rights of federal whistleblowers to make protected disclosures to Congress,” Cummings wrote, citing a clause in the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989.

But media reports since Trump took office have cast doubt on whether that language exists, he added.

“Gag orders without this required language could chill employees from reporting violations of law, waste, fraud, and abuse,” the Maryland Democrat wrote in his letter to Mulvaney.

The NDAs Trump had his outgoing staff sign were meant to last beyond his presidency, The Washington Post reported last year, theoretically barring former advisers from cashing in on lucrative book deals that have become a money cow for White House staff veterans.

In a separate investigation into potential lapses in the White House’s issuance of security clearances, Cummings has accused the Trump administration of retaliating against a whistleblower, Tricia Newbold, from the White House Personnel Security Office.

Newbold, an 18-year employee for the Executive Office of the President, accused former White House adviser Carl Kline and others in the Trump administration of granting security clearances for people whom career officials suggested should be denied. The administration overturned more than two dozen adjudications made by career security officials, including for Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, Newbold told the Oversight panel.

Newbold, who has a form of dwarfism, has claimed that Kline retaliated against her by placing files on a higher shelf, out of her physical reach.

“As the committee with primary jurisdiction over the Whistleblower Protection Act, we take extremely seriously our responsibility to investigate these allegations and to protect the rights of all whistleblowers who come before Congress,” Cummings said of Newbold’s claims of retaliation at a hearing in April.

Cummings set a May 28 deadline for the White House to provide the requested documents.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.