Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg blew up the internet on Monday afternoon by suggesting that President Donald Trump knew about his son’s infamous meeting with Russians at Trump Tower a week before it happened.
If true, that would mean then-candidate Trump had been willing to work with Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton, a disclosure that would potentially help special counsel Robert Mueller build his case against the president. One Democrat quickly tweeted out the quote with the hashtag #TrumpColluded.
There’s only one problem: Nunberg didn’t actually mean what everyone thought he did. I know because I spoke with him.
Trump “never talked” about the Trump Tower meeting privately before it happened, Nunberg told me Monday evening, adding, “I have no special knowledge at all.”
That seems to directly contradict the exchange Nunberg had with CNN’s Jake Tapper earlier Monday that set off the initial scrum. Here’s a transcript of the key part:
TAPPER: President Trump says he knew nothing about that [Trump Tower] meeting. Do you think that’s true?
NUNBERG: No. And Jake, I’ve watched your news reports — you know, you know it’s not true. He talked about it a week before.
It turns out, however, that Nunberg was actually talking about public comments Trump made on June 7, 2016 — two days before the Trump Tower meeting. In it, Trump promised that he would soon be offering interesting revelations about Clinton.
“I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week, and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons,” then-candidate Trump said. “I think you’re going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.”
Nunberg interpreted Trump’s comments as a veiled reference to the Trump Tower meeting that Donald Trump Jr. had set up. “He said publicly we’ll find something out about Hillary Clinton,” Nunberg told me about Trump. “You can look it up.”
This, he emphasized during our conversation, is only his interpretation of Trump’s comments. He has no special inside knowledge that Trump was informed of the meeting before it happened, as many have taken his CNN comments to imply, or that Trump was referencing it in that speech. Nunberg thinks that’s what Trump meant, but he never heard any proof.
“I never heard about the Trump Tower [meeting],” he insisted during our call.
That would make sense, as Nunberg was dismissed from the Trump campaign in August 2015 — 10 months before the Trump Tower meeting. Sam Nunberg said a lot of eye-opening things Monday, including daring Mueller to arrest him, but this wasn’t one of them.
Alex Ward contributed reporting to this piece.