Trump: Gee, I hope I don’t have to sue assistant who leaked personal matters to the press

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Was this a gracious attagirl for Madeleine Westerhout after getting fired for sharing personal family matters with reporters? Or was it a warning to the former secretary to keep her mouth shut? In a brief Q&A as he left the White House for Camp David, Trump told the press yesterday that Westerhout had done a good job, but that she had trusted the media a little too much to keep its word about “off the record”:

“I guess she said some things. She called me. She was very upset. She was very down,” Trump said. …

Trump on Friday chastised the media, claiming they leaked the details of the off the record conversation and calling them “dishonest.”

“But still, you don’t say things like she said, which were just a little bit hurtful to some people,” he said.

So far, so good. Trump sounded as though he genuinely liked Westerhout and wished her well. This morning, however, Trump extended his remarks on her firing by noting that Westerhout had signed a non-disclosure agreement when she came to work for Trump at the White House. He doesn’t think he’ll have to sue her to force Westerhout to abide by it, but ….

Nice career ya got there, this seems to hint, shame if anything … happened to it. Lest Westerhout miss the point or believe this to be an empty threat, Trump followed it up with this reminder:

Had Trump just stopped at yesterday’s statement on the White House lawn, he might have gotten credit for a moment of rare grace. His most ardent defenders might still claim that Trump’s follow-up tweets are still complimentary to Westerhout, but come on, man. That’s barely a tangent to what is clearly a threat to make Westerhout’s life miserable if she decides to talk about what she knows, or especially if this unemployed 29-year-old woman needs “some cheap money from a book.”

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That hardly sounds as though Trump “fully understood and forgave” Westerhout.  At the same time, though, it’s tough to blame Trump for being sore about what Westerhout leaked. This wasn’t someone blowing the whistle on official misconduct; Westerhout passed along personal gossip that seemed designed to hurt the one daughter who has pointedly stayed out of the public eye since her father got elected. NDAs are not bulletproof, especially when it comes to public malfeasance, but gossiping about First Family dynamics shouldn’t qualify as an exception to a signed agreement. In fact, that might be one of the more acceptable uses of an NDA.

One has to wonder, however, why Trump made this threat public. He could just as easily have had his attorneys send her a private reminder of the NDA while publicly offering sympathetic words over the predicament into which the big bad media put Westerhout. That might have given the impression that any information Westerhout has represents no big threat to Trump. Instead, by going public, Trump looks like a bully and is waving a big red flag about Westerhout’s potential for damage to every media outlet and book publisher in America. He’d better hope that Westerhout is, and remains, a “very good person.”

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