Sam Nunberg, a former political adviser to Donald Trump, said during a defiant live television interview that he’d risk arrest by refusing to comply with a grand jury subpoena from special counsel Robert Mueller — and also admitted that he thinks Mueller might have something on Trump.
Nunberg, who advised Trump for years but was fired early in the presidential campaign (in August 2015), complained that the subpoena he got was too broad, that the investigation was a “witch hunt,” and that he didn’t want to spend hours collecting and handing over all his emails with people like Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, Corey Lewandowski, and Hope Hicks.
And yet, late in the interview with MSNBC’s Katy Tur, Nunberg also said that Mueller’s investigators’ questioning of him when he went in for a voluntary interview last month gave him the sense that Trump “may have done something,” though he said he wasn’t sure about that.
TUR: Do you think that they have something on the president?
NUNBERG: I think they may. I think that he may have done something during the election. But I don’t know that for sure.
TUR: Why do you think that?
NUNBERG: I can’t explain that unless you were in there.
TUR: Explain the atmosphere.
NUNBERG: Uh, the way they ask questions about anything I heard after I was fired from the campaign, to the general election, to even November 1 — it insinuated to me that he may have done something.
Oddly enough, Nunberg proclaimed earlier in the interview that “Donald Trump did not collude with the Russians.” However, in a different interview with CNN afterward, he said that “Trump may have very well done something during the election with the Russians” — while also stating that Trump was not a “Manchurian candidate.” It is not clear what to make of all this, but one possibility is that Nunberg thinks Trump may have been involved with something Russia-related that wouldn’t quite rise to the level of “collusion.”
However, Nunberg also told CNN’s Jake Tapper in yet another interview that Trump “talked about” the infamous Trump Tower meeting his son Don Jr. had with a Russian lawyer and other Russia-tied individuals in June 2016 the week before. Participants have claimed that Trump knew nothing about the meeting, but Nunberg scoffed at that:
TAPPER: President Trump says he knew nothing about the meeting, do you think that that’s true?
TAPPER: You don’t think that’s true?
NUNBERG: No! It doesn’t — and Jake, I’ve watched your news reports, you know it’s not true. He talked about it a week before. And I don’t know why he did this. All he had to say was, “Yeah, we met with the Russians. The Russians offered us something. And we thought they had something.” And that was it. I don’t know why he went around trying to hide this.
It is unclear exactly how solid Nunberg’s information is here, since, again, he had been fired several months earlier. (Update: Indeed, my colleague Zack Beauchamp interviewed Nunberg later Monday afternoon and he said he had no special knowledge of the meeting, and was referring to some ambiguous Trump comments that week that have long been publicly known.)
Who is Sam Nunberg?
You could be forgiven for being unfamiliar with the sudden star of the Trump-Russia saga — because he hasn’t actually been in Trump’s inner circle for two and a half years now.
A protégé of longtime GOP operative and on-and-off Trump adviser Roger Stone, Nunberg advised Trump back in 2014, the year before the presidential campaign began — and when few expected Trump was actually serious about running. He helped arrange what turned out to be a derisive, mocking profile of Trump by McKay Coppins of BuzzFeed News, and in fact got fired for it.
But once Trump did end up running, he brought Nunberg back into his orbit, and he and Stone started off as advisers to Trump’s campaign in June 2015.
They didn’t last long. Nunberg ran into trouble in late July, when Hunter Walker of Business Insider found racist posts on Nunberg’s Facebook page. One semi-coherent post read: “meeting Rev. Sharpton today, no joke - he will tell him that his daughter is N—-!” Others mocked Obama’s “Hip Hop Inaugural Ball” of 2009, and said Obama wanted “universal Kenyan health care.”
Nunberg was fired soon afterward. Roger Stone, meanwhile, only lasted one week after that. He came under fire for his own offensive tweets, and he and Trump went their separate ways in early August, with the two disagreeing on whether Stone quit or Trump fired him. Since then, both Nunberg and Stone have been open about their bitterness toward Corey Lewandowski, who they blame for their ouster from Trump’s orbit.
Nunberg even says he’s “not a fan” of Trump anymore, telling Tur, for instance, “He treated Roger and me very badly, and he screwed us over during the campaign.” However, he remains friendly with people in Trump’s orbit and is widely known in Washington to be one of the favorite sources for reporters covering the Trump beat.
Nunberg says he doesn’t want to hand over his emails with Roger Stone and Steve Bannon
During the MSNBC interview, Nunberg described getting a subpoena that asked for all his communications with Trump and several other Trump associates since November 1, 2015. Though he claimed he hadn’t even communicated with some of the people on the list, like Carter Page and Corey Lewandowski, Nunberg seemed particularly reticent to hand over his emails with two people: his “mentor” Roger Stone, and Steve Bannon.
“Why does Bob Mueller need to see my emails when I send Roger and Steve clips and we talk about how much we hate people?” Nunberg asked. “This subpoena is absolutely ridiculous.”
When Tur followed up by asking whether Nunberg was afraid of being arrested for refusing to comply with the subpoena, Nunberg said he wasn’t. “Let’s see what Mr. Mueller does,” he said. “I think it would be funny if they arrested me. 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 I had with Steve Bannon and Roger Stone.” (People who refuse to comply with grand jury subpoenas are often arrested.)