The Business of Silence
We're on the record. This is the video takes up position of Donald Trump. Taking the case in two thousand ten Donald Trump sits down for a deposition in a law office in midtown Manhattan. He's being sued by buyers and Trump rounded building. The topic of secrecy comes up gopher. Joe is very important because I don't want my competitors to know my deals. I don't want them to see what deal on making Tampa, what deal I make in Panama, what deal I'm making New York, what deal making throughout the world. So we have confidentiality in many of our deals if not all. I mean, you'd have to ask as we've all come to learn, Donald Trump cares a lot about confidentiality in his business deal in his political life and with women. You've heard of stormy Daniels the adult film actor who says she had an affair with Trump as the two thousand sixteen campaign drew to a close. She was paid to keep quiet. He said that it was great. He had a great evening and it was nothing like he expected that I really surprised earlier this year. Daniels decided to speak to sixty minutes according to the Wall Street Journal, President Trump, personally directed the legal response to stormy Daniels, even got his business and his son, Eric involved the message. If you don't keep his secrets, he'll make you pay. This applies to a lot of people who work for Trump in some capacity, including people who didn't allege intimate relationships like Jessica Denson who worked on his campaign. She wasn't one of the big names. She started in the data department, moved onto Hispanic outreach. We found a teeny recording of her from a local TV station in Colorado. During the campaign Denson Brown eyes, Brown hair dressed. In crisp, business attire is defending Trump against critics and the audience with all due respect to all of them. I think that their presence was not necessarily unbiased. The reason I'm telling you about her. She's in a confidentiality fight with the Trump campaign right now. Not quite a year ago. She files a case in New York state court. She is representing herself saying her co workers on the Trump campaign bullied and harassed her. She says, one of them had referred to her as his sheep and the Trump campaign has an unusual reaction to her lawsuit. It says by making these. Claims and a public court case Denson has breached the confidentiality agreement. She signed the campaign demands. One point, five million dollars. It denies the charges harassment. The five page confidentiality agreement which is now in the public record says, Denson cannot reveal any confidential information about Donald Trump or any of his family, including his five children Don Jr. Ivanka, Eric, Tiffany, and baron. It says she can't demean or disparage publicly the company or anyone in Trump's family. It even says she can't talk if she's legally required to, for example, in another lawsuit without notifying the campaign, if that happens, she has to help Trump prevent any information from getting out. The last paragraph says, this whole agreement lasts forever. It's weird. This is Nancy. Erica Smith who represented former Fox News anchor, Gretchen Carlson in her sexual harassment suit against Roger Ailes. Smith has been handling cases like this for thirty eight. Years, smallest nondisclosure agreements are when we bring a claim of discrimination or harassment, and the employer wants to settle them. But as a condition of settling, they want my client to agree not to describe what happened to her. But she says, having designed them to get a job that is highly unusual, especially in a political campaign. This is the kind of thing you would expect when you bring a nanny into your home to say, you know your most personal life experiences. Smith says they're good business reasons for company. She -ality other companies have property -ality agreements, meaning important things like what's our strategy, trade secrets, competitive information, that sort of thing. Lots of companies and lots of celebrities have them that Trump. He's not just a celebrity. He's not just a businessman. He's those things, and he's the president with a long history of working to keep people silent. Hello and welcome to Trump can open investigation from WNYC and propublica that digs deep into how the president's business works and who might be profiting from the Trump administration. I'm Andrea Bernstein Ilya marritz before we take Trump Inc any further, we have to talk about the thing that makes reporting on Trump different from reporting on other US presidents. It's not just that the Trump organization is a closely held private business or that Trump hasn't released his tax returns. It's that Trump has worked really hard often in hidden ways to protect and shape his reputation. I'm dealing with this right now. I am reporting story, which I hope to bring to you sometime soon where every source who knows anything about this particular matter of public interest and importance. As far as I can tell. All of them have signed a confidentiality agreement. This insistence on confidentiality pervades even the White House. The Washington Post has reported dozens of. Government employees were asked to sign confidentiality agreements, although these ones are particularly questionable a little later. This episode, we'll talk with Ronan Farrow of the New Yorker, a journalist with the black belt and getting past secrecy clauses because obviously they're not airtight, we know a lot of alleged detail about Trump's personal life. But first, let's talk about how Trump got us to this point. Donald Trump failed to come up with a thirty million dollar debt payment on bonds used to finance the Trump castle casino last week in nineteen ninety Trump is buffeted by what his biographer. Wayne Barrett called twin cataclysms won his Atlantic City, casinos face bankruptcy, and his creditors are circling to. He's divorcing his wife of thirteen years. Ivana Trump has been having a secret affair with an actress named Marla Maples. It's a logistical feat Trump security detail has been shuttling Maples in and out of Trump properties. So she innovative don't mean inevitably, they do now the New York tabloids on the story. Headline the New York Post Friday, February sixteen best sex. I've ever had photo Donald with a yougov me smile. It went on like this for months to get a rescue from the banks Trump needs to settle his chaotic in public divorce. His brand depends on the Vonnas deal says. She can't talk about their marriage period. Lesson learnt protect your image and protect your business. After Trump's casino MAG Ramsey big banks don't wanna lend to him anymore. So he starts to shift his business model from building tall towers to licensing his name, controlling how people think of that name matters more than ever or colleague l. Elkin over at propublica told me this extraordinary story about a proposed condo tower Trump got involved with in two thousand five in Tampa, Florida. It was announced initially as a Donald J Trump signature property, and he also spoke of being a partner in the project and it being his project and the message was delivered to prospective buyers was the Trump was developer and a partner and Trump actually said things to the press that conveyed the impression explicitly to local press. He spoke of the deal being so hot and so good that while he has less than an ownership stake at fifty percent. He did have a substantial stake and he wanted to increase it. But as partners would let him do so because units were selling so well. I feel like the next thing you're gonna tell me is that none of that was true. None of that was true. He at Notre ship stake whatsoever. He was simply a licensor, but the people who are buying the units had no idea. So Trump in the developer actually wanted to keep their buyers in the dark. It's an document, the brand licensing agreement, which came to light when unit buyers sued Trump on page fifteen. There's a one paragraph confidentiality agreement that says, without the written consent of the other party, unless report by law, they will not under any circumstances disclose or permit to be disclosed the existence of this agreement or any of its contents Danny persons or entities for any purpose whatsoever. So neither Trump nor the developers can tell people that Trump is not a developer here. It is during this legal dispute that Trump gives a deposition saying, as you heard right of the beginning of this story, quote confidentiality is. Very important to me later. He's asked why the license agreement also describes Trump as quote, wiser a worldwide, renowned builder and developer developer wise that putting these agreements because we want them to know that we have a very important reputation and we don't want them to screw up. And so it's a way of putting in writing with the party who you're going to license, your name to your reputation is important thing in room, want them to do a good job. Okay. Tower in Tampa is never built Trump, eventually settles with the buyers. All of this plays out is Trump staging, an epic comeback on the apprentice playing a successful businessman and now America's Donald Trump. In our first season of trumpeting we got a fascinating tip from someone who worked on the show about catering on the set of the apprentice. We could never confirm it. There was a confidentiality agreement. The White House and the Trump campaign didn't respond to our request for comments. But in an emailed statement, a spokesperson for the Trump organization said, it's common practice for high profile companies such as the Trump organization to require employees and business partners to sign confidentiality agreements as a means of protecting against the unauthorized dissemination of both personal and proprietary information. Now, the people who signed these agreements find themselves limited in their ability to speak publicly about the man who is now president of the United States. There's at least one case we know of where company and she -ality went beyond protecting the value of Trump's brand in had to do with the criminal investigation in Manhattan before Trump was president. It's eight years ago, Donald Trump and his children Ivanka Don Jr. are sued by group of buyers in the Trump SoHo condo hotel in lower Manhattan. The buyers say the Trump's misled them the Trump say, it's a case of buyer's remorse. The civil suit raises a red flag in the Manhattan District attorney's office prosecutors there think they might actually have a criminal case. But before prosecutors can finish the criminal investigation, the buyers settle, and there's a catch as part of the agreement. The buyers affirm that they will no longer willingly cooperate with the district attorney. Here's their lawyer. Adam Lightman Bailey talking with NPR's Kelly mcevers about his settlement with the Trump organization. Obviously, we found other things in stuff. I can't talk about. It when I settle the case, they asked for a confidentiality, right? So they were like, you found some stuff out, but if we're going to settle with you, you can't talk about talk about right. Is that confidentiality agreement forever? Yes, I'm still not. I still haven't talked about it Elliott, and I reported on this case last year you should look it up. Suffice it to say after the civil settlement, Trump's personal lawyer makes a donation to the Manhattan DA. There's a lot of legal back and forth. Trump's argue what they did was puffery not a crime with the buyer silence to the DA drops the case. All this was before the two thousand sixteen election. A lot of stuff that voters might have wanted to know about only came to light after Trump was elected. So he enters the race with all these invisible gags on the people around him. Campaign staff have these confidentiality agreements. So do transition staff and people planning his inauguration and people now working in the White House. Here is Kellyanne Conway. We have confidentiality agreements to the west wing, absolutely we do. And why what you mean by the way, the fact that you're your Washington Post says, new employees at the White House are no longer being asked to sign the commentators who defense Trump on TV. Some of them have these agreements to for a while after he was fired. Former Trump campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski was still being paid by the campaign where he had a non disparagement agreement while also being a paid contributor for CNN and this is still going on and maybe I'll do a Trump translation rob Asterio. Paid CNN contributor was recently called out on this by CNN anchor, poppy Harlow. Okay. I just need to note that you work on the Trump twenty twenty advisory committee and they're for. You have signed an NDA that includes non-disparagement clause, which so you can't. You can't really tell me then if I mean you really don't believe the president's own words, raw Pastorino is still a paid contributor. A number of White House. Ex employees have gone on to be paid by entities that support Trump his campaign or political action committee as is so often the case with Trump. There's a twist in one instance that we know about the offer of job seemed to come with strings attached. I'm Orosa manacled Newman. Yeah, we know released to tape in August. When she was exiting the White House, I'm Orosa had a call with the Trump campaign official Laura Trump wife of Eric daughter-in-law of Donald Roseau recorded the Call Laura Trump said in a paraphrasing. It sounds like you've got something in your back pocket. If you come to work for the next Trump campaign, won't want to keep things positive. Then she makes her. Kind the way now and maybe we can work something out. Where would you bring along? Does mommy. Only the numbers talking now. Running. Dahlie appear. Joel Brandt Omarosa didn't take the offer. Now she has a bestselling book. The Trump campaign is seeking millions in fines for violating her confidentiality agreement. Laura Trump called the tape of fraud. So we've been surveying the landscape of Trump and secrecy. We began with Ivana Marla and Trump sex life. And that's where we are again today in August. I was in a courtroom in lower Manhattan Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen in a charcoal suit and a yellow tie. Frequently, stopping to Cy was pleading guilty. He said he'd committed crimes by keeping information that could be harmful to Trump out of the public eye on or about the summer of two thousand sixteen Cohen said in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office. I and the CEO of a media company at the request of the candidate worked together to keep an individual with information that would be harmful to the candidate and to the campaign from publicly disclosing disinformation without using any of their names. Cohen explained that number one, he paid stormy Daniels to keep quiet and number two. Two, he got the National Enquirer to pay Karen McDougal for the rights to her story without any intention of running it. The latter practices known as catch and kill Trump denies extramarital affairs with the women. There is audio of Trump and Michael Cohen talking about how to buy McDougal silence. She's the former playboy playmate who says Trump struck up a relationship shortly after his son. Barron was born Cohen. Recorded this conversation in September, twenty. Sixteen I, you'll hear Cohen then Trump. Are you need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David, so that I couldn't do that right away. I've actually come up to me and I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up. David here is David pecker CEO of the national enquirers parent company Allen Weisselberg is the Trump organization's chief financial officer. Cohen is saying the shell company he's setting up, can be used to make payments to the inquirer to suppress McDougal story funding. Yes, and it's all the stuff all the stuff because you know, you never know where that company of know what he's going to be hit by. Correct. It sounds like Trump is saying if something happens to the publisher of the National Enquirer Trump's information may not be saved by correct. So I'm I'm all over that. And I spoke to Alan about it when it comes time for the financing, which will be listen. We'll have to make new soul pave getting old woman on. I got nothing for many years. The National Enquirer kept Donald Trump secrets in a safe. This is not a metaphor, but an actual locked box containing stories that could be harmful to him and records of hush money payments. Five sources confirmed the safe's existence to these Societa d- press all of them spoke anonymously because they to have confidentiality agreements. Despite all these efforts, people are speaking out in a minute. The New Yorker journalist who's challenging the paradigm of secrecy. We'll be right back. Trump Inc is an investigative reporting partnership from WNYC and propublica were following leads talking to people and seeing where the facts take us along the way. We're bringing you what we find. Sometimes the tips come from you. Our story about the Trump golf course t. markers and blazoned with the presidential seal that came from a listener. We've received hundreds of tips like that, and we're working on a bunch of stories based on them. Reporting can take time and we know you don't wanna miss a single Trump Inc story. So good at Trump in podcast dot org slash updates or text Trump Inc. That's t r u m p I n c, two, seven, zero one zero one and make sure you sign up for our periodic updates. We've won't spam. You just give you an update when there's something new for your ears and more stories are on the way. Thanks. Hi podcast. Listeners, pardon the interruption. I'm Catholic too. I'm Tobin low where the host of the podcast, Nancy, and we have thirty seconds to tell you why our show is amazing. Okay, go note you go, okay, fine. We've got stories that make you laugh and cry stories by and about queer people. You ported from all over the world, and we bring our listeners together. Critics love us. Homophobes Pete us, which side do you wanna be on? Listen to Nancy from WNYC studios, whatever you get your podcasts. Confidentiality agreements, legal settlements, catch and kill. All of them create an enormous barrier to truth telling around truck, but it turns out people do wanna talk. There's a journalist at the New Yorker who's made an art of this. He's been kind of busy lately, but we got him on the phone during a break in cavenaugh Senate testimony. Hello? Hello, every high Ronin. How're you? Ronan. Farrow is one of the reporters who's contributed the most to our understanding of the culture of sex power and secrecy, and how prominent people use confidentiality agreements to control information. He went to Pulitzer prize for his reporting on Harvey Weinstein. So then you start looking into President Trump and his use of silence. So can you just tell us a little bit about how you came to do that and what you encountered? I personally doubled in. To this through a very direct route from the reporting. I did on Harvey Weinstein who was using the National Enquirer to acquire damaging information about opponents and also to suppress damaging information about him. And it was through that triple of sources around the National Enquirer that it became apparent very quickly that this wasn't just Harvey Weinstein using tactics. This wasn't just a Hollywood tactic. This was something that Donald Trump did pretty regularly. Now there's an important difference here with Harvey Weinstein. The damaging information was about alleged sexual assault. In the Donald Trump, Karen McDougal case, it's about an alleged consensual affair wouldn't compare the two except to say in this one, specific respect, they were both using the same playbook of working with a tabloid outlets to manipulate ends depress the truth. Have you. Done reporting, or are you aware of reporting about how Donald Trump established this relationship with the inquirer? He and David Hecker have a longstanding relationship. Pecker is the publisher of the Enquirer relationship that Donald Trump had with the gospel of media in general, extend back decades. You know, we, we've obviously heard the accounts of Donald Trump's using fake voices and identities to call reporters. He's a person who for many, many years has been engaged in this game of manipulating the press. You know, both the efforts to suppress items and also the efforts to plant items that were favorable cuff used to use the name John barren when he called reporters, pretending to be his own PR man. But David pecker became one of his closest on in that respect. And you know, in our first story about the efforts of the press Karen McDougal's account for their with Trump through the National Enquirer. We talked to a number of employees who described Trump's very cozy, very close relationship with Packers. When you spoke to her, then she told you, I'm afraid to even say his name. Yes, it was her first on the record interview about the subject in that article, but she remains very fearful of legal retaliation and spoke extremely carefully. At that point. Herron McDougal signed a contract that she felt barred her from talking to the press. And indeed the records of those contracts support that at the time of the elections, Karen McDougal was effectively gagged in legal terms. Subsequently, there was an amendment to her agreements that allowed on paper anyway from exemptions. But our understanding along the way was that behind the scenes, even as am I pointed to that exception and said, hey, we're not gagging anyone, their lawyers worth. Still engaged in an effort to intimidate and silence or it didn't work. McDougal told her story, and you know, I wish I could take credit for that. I think that that really is down to Karen McDougal becoming convinced that this was an issue of national significance as time went on and that the public should be aware after Ronin published his piece. Something important happened McDougal got back the right to tell her story, but she'd been silenced during the campaign. It was not the only way the Enquirer helped shape perceptions of Trump in the eyes of a lot of the sources we talked to from around the National Enquirer. Donald Trump had a profound degree of influence over the coverage that AM I end the Enquirer did in general Maxine page. One of the employees that we talked to talked about the leverage that pecker had over a lot of celebrities. This other employees, Jerry George said, quote, we never printed a word. About Trump without his approval. The political ramifications of that are pretty significant. Have you done any reporting on what else is in that vault at AM? I I have and I cannot comment on any recording. I haven't publish. There may be people in the Trump administration who would keep the president secrets without signing a loyalty. Oh, that is how it's always worked in Washington in this administration. Dozens of White House aides were told to sign nondisclosure agreements NDA's that's according to the Washington Post. These are government employees paid by the tax payers who were asked to sign what the post calls breathtakingly broad agreements. It's very, very rare that you see government agencies or actors requiring people to pledge themselves to secrecy outside of the context of classified information. This is Heidi Koutros her a professor at the university of Minnesota law school and an expert on first amendment and whistleblower law. The supreme court has made quite clear that information about government and politics and policy, what they sometimes some up as matters. Of public concern is really at the core of the first amendment. And for that reason, the notion that somebody might be subject to criminal or civil damages for sharing non-classified information about government is pretty anathema to most of the case. Law could trust. Her says for this reason, non-disparagement agreements made during the campaign may also violate the first amendment because the agreements never expire. And I think the reason for that is that otherwise you'd be driving a huge hole through the first amendment. If you could knowing that one day you might run for office, have people sign, non-disparagement agreements that they'll never say a bad word about you, knowing that those will cover your time in office could trust her says, even if these secrecy clauses are on such shaky legal ground that they'd be bounced out of court if they were challenged. Well, many people are not going to want the hassle or emot-. Shnell strain of being threatened. And instead they'll say, well, you know what? I'll just refrain from saying anything that would be deemed a breach of confidentiality or if there's a non-disparagement clause, I'll just refrain from saying anything that might even come close to being critical because I'm afraid I'll get sued. The framers of the constitution wanted people to be able to criticize the president. It's an important check on presidential power. Nondisclosure agreements can get in the way of that. And I think that these indie as particularly in so far as they would seek to bar not just breaching confidentiality but saying anything that cuts against the official White House line. I think that's deeply concerning it really cuts at the heart of why we protect speech. Coming up. I'm Trump Inc going to drain the swamp. Decades fed. You're in Washington and decades of special interest dealing must and will come to an end. The president is funder of prime minister and a casino. Trump ANC is produced by Meg Kramer. The associate producer is Alice wilder. Bill moths is the technical director original music composed by Hannah's Brown, Charlie, Herman, and Eric, humanity are the editors. We had helped this episode from Peter l. kind captain Sullivan, Jacob, Pearson, and Arianna Tobin at propublica, Robin fields as Republicans managing editor, Jim Schachter as the vice president for news at WNYC and Steve Engelberg is the editor in chief at propublica special. Thanks to Kelly mcevers and NPR's podcast embedded for the type of adamant unveiling. That's fascinating. I know you either do or don't have a nondisclosure agreement which if he didn't have a nondisclosure agreement, do you have a nondisclosure agreement too high? You can't say whether you have a nondisclosure agreement, but if you didn't have a nondisclosure agreement, Hugh most certainly could say, I don't have a nondisclosure agreement. Yes, you're cysts mart. Thank you very much. Okay.