Donald Trump's response to provocation has been a problem for the presumptive Republican nominee throughout his unexpected run for the presidency. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s jabs about the size of his hands drove Trump to discuss the size of his own privates on national television. More recently, Trump’s insistence on defending his campaign’s decision to Tweet out a picture that many criticized as obviously anti-Semitic kept the unflattering story in the headlines for nearly a week.
This time, however, Trump decided to make an example of former campaign adviser Sam Nunberg who, like everyone else working for Trump, signed an airtight confidentiality agreement. Trump fired Nunberg in the summer of 2015 after Nunberg’s racist Facebook posts became public. The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that Trump has filed a $10 million arbitration case against Nunberg in New York state court.
Not only does the suit remind voters of the chaotic nature of the Trump campaign, it also dredges up claims by Nunberg, made in a court filing, that Trump’s lawsuit is driven by “a misguided attempt to cover up media coverage of an apparent affair."
The alleged “affair” Nunberg is talking about -- and for which he supplies no actual evidence -- supposedly involved Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who is married, and the campaign’s press secretary, Hope Hicks.
But affair or not, the decision by Trump to file a lawsuit against a former adviser in the middle of his presidential campaign is remarkable because it creates a wholly unnecessary and unflattering distraction from his effort to best presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
And Trump should have been unaware that Nunberg, given the opportunity to throw sand in the gears of his campaign, would seize it. The former aide, a protégé of former Richard Nixon dirty-tricks specialist Roger Stone, has made no secret of his antipathy toward Team Trump in general and Lewandowski in particular. In an interview with GQ earlier this year, Nunberg vowed revenge rather colorfully against Trump’s former campaign manager.
“I literally will suck the f***ing blood out of his skull by the time I’m done with him,” Nunberg promised.
What’s more, the timing of the suit reinforces the impression that Trump has an uncanny ability to provoke headlines that step all over other news that could benefit his campaign. The news about the Nunberg suit broke on the same day that new polling showed Trump leading Clinton in the polls in key primary states.
Nunberg attorney Andrew Miltenberg told the AP that Trump’s decision to file suit against his client is “a cautionary tale of what the American people face if Mr. Trump is elected president."
In a statement released Wednesday, Trump attorney Alan Garten said, “As is standard practice for all major businesses, organizations and other entities dealing with proprietary information, Mr. Trump requires employees to sign and adhere to strict confidentiality agreements. When the agreements are not adhered to, he will enforce them to the full extent of the law, and Mr. Trump’s litigation track record on such matters is outstanding. With regard to Mr. Nunberg, this agreement specifically calls for arbitration, and Mr. Nunberg is simply looking for free publicity using categorically false claims."
If Nunberg really is looking for “free publicity,” well, Trump’s lawsuit is giving it to him.