Cliff Sims, a former campaign aide, Director of White House Message Strategy and Special Assistant to President Donald Trump, has released a memoir detailing what he describes as an “out of control” White House. And he may face a lawsuit from the Trump campaign for writing it.
According to his LinkedIn page, Sims worked on communications and messaging strategy before leaving the administration in May of 2018. Sources in the White House communications department told Politico that some staffers felt Sims was not trustworthy and were relieved to see him leave.
Sims’ tell-all book is called “Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House.” The book allegedly was modeled after George Stephanopoulos’ book “All Too Human.” Stephanopoulos, the ABC anchor who formerly served as the White House Communications Director under President Clinton, received criticism for releasing his book while Clinton was still in office. The New York Times reported that Sims received an advance of more than $1 million from the publisher.
Sims’ book was released on January 29, 2019. President Donald Trump slammed Sims on Twitter the day the book became available, writing, “A low level staffer that I hardly knew named Cliff Sims wrote yet another boring book based on made up stories and fiction. He pretended to be an insider when in fact he was nothing more than a gofer. He signed a non-disclosure agreement. He is a mess!”
Shortly after that tweet from the president, Michael Glassner, the chief operating officer of the Trump campaign, followed up. Glassner posted that “The Trump campaign is preparing to file suit against Cliff Sims for violating our NDA.”
Sims was giving an interview on CNN as the president tweeted, and shrugged off the criticism. “My identity is not wrapped up in being a Trump staffer. My identity is wrapped up in who I am, in my faith, and those are things that matter to me. I know who Jesus says I am. Don’t matter to me what Donald Trump or anyone else says that I am.”
But Sims has taken a major step to protect himself. It was revealed on February 11 that Sims had filed a lawsuit against President Trump, arguing that the non-disclosure agreement he signed while working for the president violated his first amendment rights.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Sims Describes the White House Staff as ‘Out of Control’ & Includes Critical Self-Reflection About His Own Role in the Communications Office
In his book, Cliff Sims described a White House administration in which trust between team members was lacking and infighting ran rampant. Sims wrote that he was often by the president’s side and witnessed his interactions with top aides, members of Congress and other world leaders. The Amazon review includes that Sims “found himself pulled into the President’s inner circle as a confidante, an errand boy, an advisor, a punching bag, and a friend. Sometimes all in the same conversation.” Sims claimed that he “even helped Trump craft his enemies list, knowing who was loyal and who was not.”
Sims described the White House staff as being “out of control” and as a “nest of back-stabbing and duplicity,” according to the New York Times.
Politico, citing sources, originally reported that Sims had attempted to strike a balance in the memoir. Sims apparently approached the book with a different tone than fellow former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman, who titled her book “Unhinged.” She released secret recordings of conversations she had with the president and chief of staff John Kelly, which led to questions about whether she had broken the law by recording in the White House Situation Room.
Sims did not appear to be planning anything similar. Sims allegedly includes a critical review of his own job performance in the White House. In addition, the Times reported that Sims also included an emotional moment the president had when he learned that a service member had been killed in the line of duty.
But sources said Sims’ book would not be like former Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s memoir, either. Spicer’s book, “The Briefing: Politics, The Press, and The President,” published in July of 2018, was endorsed by the president himself. President Trump tweeted in June 2018, “A friend of mine and a man who has truly seen politics and life as few others ever will, Sean Spicer, has written a great new book, “The Briefing: Politics, the Press and the President.” It is a story told with both heart and knowledge. Really good, go get it!”
The White House was reportedly unaware that Sims had been working on a memoir. President Trump’s tweet on January 29, bashing Sims, was the first comment from either the president or the administration about the book.
2. Cliff Sims Served as Director of Message Strategy at the White House & Was Viewed as a Trump Loyalist
Cliff Sims joined the Trump team as a campaign staffer. After the 2016 election, he was offered a position in the communications department.
Sims’ title was Special Assistant to the President and Director of Message Strategy. According to his Linkedin page, his job responsibilities included writing press releases, op-eds and statements, producing President Trump’s video recordings, and briefing members of Congress about the president’s priorities. He was also heavily involved with communications strategy surrounding tax reform.
Sims reportedly clashed with other staffers who had been brought on from the Republican National Committee. But he was reportedly viewed as loyal to President Trump and had a good relationship with him.
Since leaving the administration, Sims did share a clue on his Twitter handle about how he may have felt about the president’s own use of the outlet. He shared a tweet from Kanye West, which read, “when in doubt… don’t.” Sims’ comment on that was “Strong advice when considering whether to hit “tweet”… ??”
3. Cliff Sims Was Reportedly Offered a Job at the State Department But Did Not Take Take the Position
During his time in the White House, Sims worked on messaging during the confirmation hearing of Mike Pompeo. Pompeo replaced Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State in April 2018, after serving as CIA Director for a little more than a year.
Axios reported in May that Secretary Pompeo offered Sims a position at the State Department. The website cited a source as saying, “Cliff will be a senior advisor to Secretary Pompeo. Cliff worked on communications for Pompeo’s confirmation and did an outstanding job, which led to Secretary Pompeo offering him that position.”
But Sims never ended up taking that position. Instead, he is now running his own consulting firm, according to his Linkedin page. The company is called C.D. Sims & Co. Sims writes that he advises “major corporations, CEOs and nationally-known media personalities on communications and messaging strategy.”
4. Sims Launched a Media Company in 2011 That Was Focused on News in Alabama
Sims was the founder and CEO of Yellowhammer Media. Based in Birmingham, Alabama, the website focuses on politics and business stories. The organization, as laid out on its website, is committed to “delivering the news in a manner that reflects the state of Alabama, its people and their values. Our mission is to tell our readers something they did not know about something they love: the great state of Alabama. Whether breaking news, hometown stories or sharp political coverage, Yellowhammer News strives to deliver the highest quality content with integrity.”
Sims also launched the Yellowhammer News Radio Network. He hosted a daily radio show. Sims described on his Linkedin profile that he interviewed presidential candidates during the 2016 race, including Donald Trump, before joining the Trump campaign.
Sims sold the media company in December 2016, after accepting a job in the Trump administration.
5. Cliff Sims & Wife Megan Are Both Alabama Natives
Cliff Sims earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Alabama. His wife, Megan, also attended the University of Alabama but it’s unclear whether they met there. Sims is 34 (his birthday is February 17, 1984). An online records search shows that Megan is 29 and appears to have graduated college in 2010.
Sims’ parents are still in Alabama. An online search shows they live in the city of Enterprise. According to his Linkedin and Twitter accounts, Sims has remained in the Washington, D.C. area since leaving the administration.