Trump-Russia: Former aide Nunberg wavers over defying Mueller inquiry

Sam Nunberg
Sam Nunberg worked on the Trump campaign in 2015 until he was fired in August that year.

A former Trump aide has stunned Washington with an extraordinary round of media interviews in response to a subpoena from the inquiry looking into alleged Russian election meddling.

Sam Nunberg, who helped launch Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, said at first he would not comply with special counsel Robert Mueller’s demand.

He called the probe a “witch hunt” and dared Mr Mueller to arrest him.

But he later told the Associated Press he would probably end up complying.

Mr Nunberg, who lost his job in 2015, complained in a series of interviews about being asked to share his email conversations with a long list of ex-campaign aides.

“I think it would be really, really funny if they wanted to arrest me because I don’t want to spend 80 hours going over emails,” he told MSNBC.

While he thought investigators believed they had something on Mr Trump, he argued that the subpoena was unfair and added he would like Robert Mueller’s team to narrow its scope of inquiry.

Mr Mueller is investigating whether there were any links between the Trump campaign and Russia, or any effort by the White House to obstruct justice.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders would not be drawn on Mr Nunberg’s remarks, saying: “I’m not going to weigh in on somebody that doesn’t work at the White House.”

Airing grievances or spilling secrets?

Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC Washington

Refusing to comply with a grand jury summons could result in contempt of court and obstruction of justice charges – and, eventually, a prison sentence. It’s a steep price to pay to make a point about the scope of Robert Mueller’s inquiry.

If Sam Nunberg wants to know how bad it could get, he might familiarise himself with the story of Susan McDougal, who served 18 months in jail for refusing to co-operate with independent counsel Ken Starr’s investigation into then-President Bill Clinton’s Arkansas real estate deals.

Throughout Monday he soaked up the media spotlight and aired grievances against old campaign colleagues.

If Mr Nunberg can be believed, his comments shed light on the direction of Mr Mueller’s investigation and its apparently wide-ranging questions.

In other words, Mr Mueller’s investigation is digging deep – and probably won’t be wrapping up anytime soon.

Who is Nunberg?

Sam Nunberg worked on the Trump campaign in 2015 until he was fired in August that year over racially charged Facebook posts.

He was later sued by Mr Trump for $10m (£7.2m) for breach of confidentiality.

The lawsuit was “amicably settled” out of court, a lawyer for the Trump Organization said at the time.

Mr Nunberg told CNN on Monday: “I’m not a Donald Trump fan. He treated me like crap.”

‘Arrest me’

During the volley of interviews with US media, Mr Nunberg said he had met Mr Mueller’s team for five-and-a-half hours over the weekend.

He said he had had enough of the investigators’ “pretty ridiculous” questions.

Mr Nunberg told CNN they had asked him if he had ever heard Russian spoken around Trump Tower.

“I’m not co-operating. Arrest me,” Mr Nunberg said on live television. “You want to arrest me? Arrest me.”

He said he would not appear before a grand jury to testify on Friday.

Mr Nunberg rejected any suggestion he himself had colluded with Russians to help Mr Trump win the 2016 presidential election.

‘They suspect something’

At times during the interviews, Mr Nunberg appeared to contradict himself – suggesting Mr Trump may have “done something”, while insisting the president was innocent.

“I suspect that they suspect something about him [Mr Trump],” he told CNN, referring to Mr Mueller’s investigators.

Mr Nunberg added: “Trump may very well have done something during the election with the Russians. If he did that, I don’t know.”

“Mueller thinks that Trump is the Manchurian candidate, and I will tell you I disagree with that,” Mr Nunberg told CNN, referring to a 1959 novel about a US politician brainwashed into becoming a pawn of foreign conspirators.

But Mr Nunberg also told CNN’s Jake Tapper: “Donald Trump did not collude with the Russians!

“It’s the biggest joke to ever think Donald Trump colluded with the Russians.”

Trump and Moscow women

Mr Nunberg said he had been told by former Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller that a Kremlin-connected Russian “had offered to send women up to Trump’s room” at a Moscow hotel during the 2013 Miss Universe beauty pageant.

But he said Mr Trump “didn’t want it”.

“Trump is too smart to have women come up to his room,” Mr Nunberg said.

Unsubstantiated allegations linking Mr Trump to Russian prostitutes surfaced in a research file that was part of an attempt to dig up dirt on the then-Republican candidate during the 2016 election.

The dossier was compiled by an ex-British spy, Christopher Steele, through a Washington DC research firm that was hired by a conservative website and later by the Clinton campaign.

‘He knew’ about Trump Tower meeting

Mr Nunberg said Mr Trump was aware at the time of a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower when a group of Russians offered his campaign staff damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

“You know he knew about it,” Mr Nunberg told CNN.

“He was talking about it a week before. I don’t know why he went around trying to hide it.”

The White House has repeatedly denied Mr Trump knew anything about that meeting.

The Trump Tower encounter appears to have become a focus of the Mueller investigation.


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