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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview With Former Trump Aide Sam Nunberg; Former Trump Aide Says He Will Refuse to Testify in Russia Probe. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired March 5, 2018 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: A former Trump campaign ad says, "Let them arrest me." He is not going to abide by the subpoena.
THE LEAD starts now.
Breaking news, Trump campaign aide of past days Sam Nunberg says Robert Mueller called him to the grand jury, but he's not going to go. Instead, he wants to rip up the subpoena on national television. What does Nunes think Mueller will do next?
With the White House being described by one ally as pure madness, are we seeing the chaos reflected in the president's policies? One minute, he says trade wars are easy. The next, he says he doesn't think there will be any trade wars. Which is it?
A self-proclaimed sex expert claims she will share information linking the Trump campaign and Russia, but only if the U.S. gets her out of a prison in Thailand. Why should anyone believe her? Why is this causing an international ruckus? We went to her to find out.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
TAPPER: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We're going to be begin with some breaking news in the Russia investigation. Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg says he will not comply with a subpoena from special counsel Robert Mueller to appear before the grand jury, telling "The Washington Post" -- quote -- "Let him arrest me."
The Trump campaign aide fired Nunes in August 2015 after a series of offensive Facebook posts came to light, but he maintains close ties with Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser, and knows President Trump very well.
Moments ago, the White House responded to Nunes's claims that Mueller may have something on President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I definitely think he doesn't know that for sure because he's incorrect. As we have said many times before, there was no collusion with the Trump campaign.
Anything further on what his actions are, he hasn't worked at the White House. So I certainly can't speak to him or the lack of knowledge that he clearly has.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Joining me on the phone right now is Sam Nunberg.
Sam, thanks for joining us.
So the special counsel is investigating President Trump for any possible ties to Russia that would have resulted in inappropriate, if not illegal behavior.
You worked for Mr. Trump. Why are you refusing to cooperate with the subpoena?
SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: Because it is absolutely ridiculous what they requested from me.
They requested -- first of all, they sent me a subpoena where they asked me after November 1 of 2016 did I communicate with Carter Page, Corey Lewandowski? I despise Corey. Why would I communicate with him?
Hope Hicks, who was having an affair with Corey? And I would communicate? I should give them every e-mail from November 1 of 2015 to perpetuity with Steve Bannon and Roger Stone? Why? Why do I have to give that to the government?
TAPPER: Well, because it's a special prosecutor, and he is requesting information.
NUNBERG: Well, you know, what would you say if it was a Democrat?
TAPPER: Same thing.
NUNBERG: Would you agree? Would you agree that I would have to do that if they were investigating a Democrat?
NUNBERG: You would?
NUNBERG: OK, fine.
Well, you know what? I don't think I should. And I spent hours going over it today. It was really ridiculous. And I just think -- and I'm not interested in going in there for them to set up a case against Roger Stone, who had no communication with Julian Assange. The idea that Donald Trump colluded with the Russians, you would be
giving the Russians -- you would be looking down on them. He wouldn't be able to keep his mouth shut.
TAPPER: So, let me ask you. So, they're asking for any communication with Hope Hicks, with Steve Bannon, with Corey Lewandowski, with Carter Page. Is that it? Those four individuals?
NUNBERG: Oh, Gates and Manafort, who I have never spoken to in my life.
TAPPER: OK. Rick Gates and Paul Manafort. So, those...
NUNBERG: I forget the other ones, and I will send it to you.
You know what? I may have to release it. Because I am not a fan of Donald Trump. He treated me like crap. OK?
NUNBERG: He treated Roger like crap. We should -- I should not have been fired. Roger should not have been treated the way he did.
And Trump decided that he loved Corey more than us. That's fine. OK. It's old business.
But the idea that I was colluding with the Russians, that Roger was colluding with the Russians to help Trump? All we were doing was trying to get Corey fired.
TAPPER: So is that the reason that you're objecting to turn over these e-mails because...
NUNBERG: No. I'm objecting to it because I shouldn't have to spend that much time. I shouldn't have to go back down to a grand jury. I spent -- I'm spending a lot of money on legal fees. A lot of other people are.
And, granted, Donald Trump caused this because he's an idiot, because he decided to give an interview to Lester Holt the day after he fired James Comey, and then he decided to have to have the Russians in the Oval Office.
You have to explain that one to me, because I will never understand it.
TAPPER: I'm not going to be able to explain that to you, Sam.
NUNBERG: No, nobody will.
But I don't want to hear -- I don't want to hear from what's her name today attacking me. (CROSSTALK)
TAPPER: Sarah Sanders?
NUNBERG: Yes, Sarah Sanders.
If she wants to attack me, I can attack her back.
TAPPER: Let me ask you. So they're asking -- I just want to make sure I understand what the subpoena is requesting.
The subpoena is requesting all communication you have with a whole bunch of people.
NUNBERG: Jake, I'm going to send you the subpoena.
NUNBERG: You know what? I'm going to send you -- I'm going to be the first one in history to flat out say, I'm not going.
TAPPER: You're not going?
NUNBERG: I'm not going to the grand jury. I'm not going -- I'm not going to spend 30 hours going over my e-mails. I'm not doing it. Why do I have to do it?
TAPPER: You have testified before the grand jury already, right?
I met with them, very professional.
TAPPER: You met with them. OK.
NUNBERG: I met with them. And they were very professional.
And, by the way, I was very impressed. But what I'm not doing is following up with it. I think Mueller has enough on Trump. He doesn't need me to start giving him information on Roger Stone and Steve Bannon.
Jake, I communicate -- I communicated with Roger Stone and Steve Bannon 15 times a day. So I have to spend 80 hours going over e- mails?
TAPPER: Well, I agree that it seems like a lot of time. But it is law enforcement telling you that you have to do it. That's what a subpoena is.
NUNBERG: OK, fine.
TAPPER: Are you actually willing to go to jail for this, Sam?
NUNBERG: I'm not cooperating. Arrest me.
TAPPER: You're not cooperating. Arrest you.
NUNBERG: Yes. I'm not cooperating. You're more than happy -- you want to arrest me, arrest me, because you know what? And I'm not a fan of Donald Trump, Jake.
TAPPER: I know. You had a big falling out.
NUNBERG: I'm not a fan of his.
You know what? When they start asking for stuff like this, Trump is right. It is a witch-hunt.
TAPPER: Well, let me ask you a question. When you did meet with the members of the special prosecutor's team, and you said they acted very professionally.
NUNBERG: They acted professionally. And, by the way, I was very impressed by them.
TAPPER: You were very impressed.
What were they asking you about?
NUNBERG: They asked about everything in terms of my relationship with Trump, in terms of my -- they even asked -- you know, my father worked for Trump in the '80s for Dreyer & Traub. If you read "Art of the Deal," Trump mentions it.
NUNBERG: They asked about it. They asked about stuff like that. You wouldn't believe it.
And they know. They know something on him. And, Jake, I don't know what it is.
TAPPER: They know something on him.
NUNBERG: And perhaps I'm wrong. But he did something.
TAPPER: You think that they have him on something. But you don't know if it is related to the Russians or something else.
NUNBERG: I think it could be -- I think if they have him on something, they're smart enough to know, if they have him on something, it has to be during the election, because the same way that they went after Bill Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas -- and they were right to -- they have to go -- the minute Trump is a politician, they can go after him.
Now, Sarah Huckabee has attacked me again. And I would be more than happy to deal with her face to face. I would be more than happy to go back to court with her. I think she's terrible, by the way.
How do you have -- it's the funniest thing to me Trump that likes her. Trump's approval ratings are in the -- are dirt. They are like in the 30s. So, I know he likes her because of her father and whatever else. But I would really suggest to Sarah she shouldn't attack me again.
TAPPER: I'm sure she's getting that message loud and clear.
Let me ask you a question. What do you think the odds are -- well, first of all, about the Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner meeting with individuals that were sold to them as being with the Russian government and having dirt on Hillary Clinton, this happened in the summer of 2016.
NUNBERG: You know why Trump was so stupid to fire Comey?
NUNBERG: Because Comey can do anything to Trump because he didn't do anything against Hillary. So, Trump fires him.
I have heard -- and you can imagine who I heard it from -- that Jared was going around for two months saying that Trump should fire him.
But he fires him, and then he gives the interview to Lester Holt, and then he has the Russians in the Oval Office. Who in the hell advised him to allow those Russians in the Oval Office?
TAPPER: It's a mystery.
But let me ask you about that Trump Tower meeting. What do you make of it, as somebody who has worked for President Trump?
NUNBERG: I have defended that meeting. I don't think there's anything wrong with it. And you're going to disagree with me. There's nothing wrong with...
TAPPER: I don't know what happened at that meeting.
Do you think that -- Donald Trump says that -- 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 have 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, yes, 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 it. And he shouldn't have.
TAPPER: I think that that's one of the mysteries of all of this, is that, if there's nothing to hide, why is he doing things like firing James Comey, et cetera, trying to -- why is he so angry at the attorney general for recusing himself, et cetera?
NUNBERG: By the way, I just want to say this on your air, and I know you may not like it.
NUNBERG: No. No, I'm not going to say you may not like this.
James Comey deserved to be fired.
TAPPER: He deserved to be fired?
NUNBERG: James Comey was a disgrace for what he did letting Hillary Clinton off for that investigation. And he colluded with Obama about it.
TAPPER: OK. You're certainly entitled to your opinion. I'm not offended by that.
NUNBERG: No, I know you're not offended.
Actually, you know what? I'm wrong and I should apologize. You didn't say anything about that.
But I would say, James Comey was pathetic. Now, Robert Mueller is a professional person. Robert Mueller is an honorable man.
I'm not going to cooperate, Jake. I'm not going to spend 80 hours going over e-mails. I'm not going to go into a grand jury so that they can set up a case against Roger Stone because they don't like Roger. Roger is my mentor. I support Roger.
We were treated very badly by Trump. That's -- but I'm not going in there.
TAPPER: So, you -- so, it sounds like there are two things you're objecting to, and correct me if you're -- wrong, Sam.
One is, you think it would take too much time, and you also just think the request is ridiculous for all these e-mails and texts and whatever between and you Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, et cetera?
TAPPER: That's one.
NUNBERG: You know what, Jake? TAPPER: Yes.
NUNBERG: I'm going to send this to you afterwards, because you asked me for it before, so you can see it.
NUNBERG: They asked me about communications with Carter Page. Do you think I would communicate with Carter Page?
TAPPER: I'm guessing...
NUNBERG: Carter Page is a scumbag.
TAPPER: OK. So the answer is, no, you would not communicate with Carter Page.
NUNBERG: So, the answer is no.
And Carter Page was colluding with the Russians.
TAPPER: So Carter Page was colluding with the Russians, you think?
NUNBERG: Yes. I believe Carter Page was colluding with the Russians.
TAPPER: Well, if that's true, Sam, Carter Page was an adviser to the Trump campaign.
NUNBERG: He wasn't really an adviser, Jake. Come on. Do you really think he was an adviser? He was a name on a list.
TAPPER: Well, I know that he...
NUNBERG: I'm being honest with you. Honestly, let be -- let's be credible. Let's be honest about this.
Trump had to start, Trump had to form, as you will recall, Jake, Trump had to form a foreign policy advisory board. And he didn't know -- they were happy to get anybody they could get. That guy was introduced to the campaign through Corey Lewandowski.
TAPPER: So, you -- OK. So, you think -- I just want to wrap this up in a second, Sam, but let me just ask you.
So, you think Carter Page colluded with the Russians. What do you think about George Papadopoulos, who has also...
NUNBERG: I don't know anything about George Papadopoulos.
The reason I think Carter Page, Jake, colluded with the Russians is because, as you well know, and you have reported this -- and I watch your show.
TAPPER: Thank you. NUNBERG: About that case in 2014 or so, 2013?
NUNBERG: That's why I think he did.
I think that Carter Page is a weird dude. I don't think he should have been involved in that campaign. If you look at everybody else on that foreign policy board, they were basically brought in through what's his name, through Dr. Ben Carson, Dr. Ben Carson's campaign, because Corey was so lazy, he couldn't organize a campaign -- he couldn't organize a foreign policy division.
TAPPER: Right. All right.
Sam, always a pleasure talking to you. Thanks so much. Please keep in touch, because, obviously, I'm guessing that there will be repercussions if you tear up that subpoena and refuse to cooperate. And we want to hear your side of it.
NUNBERG: Do you think should I cooperate with -- should I spend 80 hours going over my e-mails, Jake?
TAPPER: If it were me, I would, I mean, if you're just asking my opinion, just because, it sounds like pain, but he is the special counsel and he does have the long arm of the law.
NUNBERG: Why do I have to produce every e-mail? I talked to Steve Bannon and Roger Stone eight times a day. Do you know what I mean? Why do I have to go over it? Why do I have to produce --
TAPPER: Sometimes life and special prosecutors are not fair, I guess. I would cooperate were it me. But, you know, I'm a different breed of cat.
Sam, thanks so much. I appreciate you --
NUNBERG: Jake, I'm definitely the first person to ever do this, right?
TAPPER: Say that again?
NUNBERG: I'm definitely the first person to ever do this (INAUDIBLE)
TAPPER: You're the first one I've ever spoken with who has ever done it. So --
NUNBERG: Thank you very much.
TAPPER: That much is true.
NUNBERG: By the way, it is an honor to be on your show.
TAPPER: Thank you. It's nice to have you on my show and it won't be the last time. I appreciate it. Nice talking to you.
NUNBERG: OK, thank you, Jake.
Let's bring in the political panel.
I'll start with you, Bill. Your reaction.
BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Just one of the more the unusual 15 minutes of sitting on the set with you, I'd say it is always an honor to be on the show with you.
TAPPER: You don't say that enough to me.
KRISTOL: I don't. You should have Sam up here next time. I don't know, who knows what to make of it. But I would just say this. The two he seems to be have close to and stayed close to are Roger Stone and Steve Bannon. If you listen to him, he talks about -- he doesn't like a lot of the others, he throws a lot of names around, but those are the two. And especially Stone who was his mentor.
And so, either he's just sick of dealing with them and he doesn't want to spend the 80 hours going to his emails and all that, or maybe there's something in there that he doesn't want to share that might be trouble for Stone or Bannon.
He's going to have to share it, won't he, because you can't just defy a subpoena because it takes too much time.
TAPPER: You two stick around. I want to know what you think, but I have to squeeze in a break. That interview went a little long.
Stay with us. We have lots more on the breaking news when we come back.
[16:21:10] TAPPER: We're back with the breaking news. I just finished speaking with former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg, who is refusing a subpoena he says from special counsel Robert Mueller. That was an interesting interview. I think it's fair to say.
Kaitlan Collins, one of our White House correspondents, how is the White House responding to all this? How are they taking in the news?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, I think they're taking it in like we were. They were watching it, just like we were when he went on several different networks and those conducting the lengthy e-mails, complaining about going through his emails for such a long time, but he was on TV for several hours just now. But there were several officials in the West Wing were texting me about it, saying they're watching it with attention and calling it bizarre and nuts as he just went on and on, making these accusations, talking about people inside the White House, talking about people who used to be close to the president. But I think he said several newsworthy things in there. One of those
being that he believes that there's no way that the president didn't know about that meeting at Trump Tower. Of course, Sam Nunberg, we should say, was fired from the White House long before that so it's not like he was there and would have any kind of first hand knowledge. But he keeps saying he doesn't want to meet with Mueller or turn over these emails to him, but he goes on cable news and makes all these comments that are going to generate even more interest in what he knows or what he's talked to Roger Stone and Steve Bannon and the like about.
So, I just don't see how he doesn't have -- I don't think he understands how this works. You can't just say I'm not going on, on THE LEAD and not have to talk to special counsel.
TAPPER: So in addition to saying he doesn't believe President Trump didn't know about the Trump Tower meeting with that Russian woman, the lawyer, he also said that he thinks that the special prosecutor has President Trump on something, he doesn't know what. He also that he thinks former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page was colluding with the Russians.
Again, he doesn't necessarily have firsthand knowledge of any of this, but he is a former Trump campaign aide.
KEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's right. And as we've seen Mueller's strategy all along, it's not that he necessarily thinks Sam Nunberg is the key witness here, but he obviously thinks he knows something about someone that will lead to more information. So, as Kaitlan said, it's clear he doesn't -- now, I think he's a lawyer. I'm not sure we were speculating about whether he's passed the bar, but he's gone to law school.
So, it's quite confusing he's done a tour of cable news. Now, it also seems like something Donald Trump himself would do, so perhaps he's thinking, how would Donald Trump handle this? What would he do? Oh, he'd probably call into CNN and call in to and kind of speak his mind. And that may be what's happening.
So, my first reaction is, I can't -- I'm trying to control myself from laughing at just what has happened. But there's a lot of interesting nuggets in there. If you pull them out, if you're Mueller, his team, if you're his team, if you're the White House, you're going to start looking at that and thinking if there's more to tell there.
TAPPER: I mean, Mueller, I assume would arrest him and then just subpoena his phone and computer.
KRISTOL: I assume so. I mean, look, Sam Nunberg is a Roger Stone guy. That was the introduction to Trump and he worked for Trump for a few years, helping the lay the groundwork of his campaign actually, and I guess he's entitled to be bitter that he got shoved out by a different team that came in much later.
But I can't believe Sam Nunberg does this media stunt without talking to Roger Stone, who is the master of media stunts. I've got to think -- whether there's a method in the madness, God knows, but I was struck that Nunberg brought up without your prompting him, and it's not true that Roger Stone colluded with Julian Assange.
KRISTOL: That he'd go out of his way to say that.
TAPPER: He did say, yes.
KRISTOL: So, in the principle that whatever people got their way maybe true, I mean, the Russian collusion has always -- Stone has also been a key figure in that, right? I mean, if there were real collusion, Stone clearly dealt with the WikiLeaks people. He's the one who -- didn't sort of he signal the stuff would be coming or something like that?
TAPPER: He said something will be, like Monday will be John Podesta's turn in the barrel. A signal that like Podesta was next and soon enough, Podesta's e-mails which were fished and hacked were released.
[16:25:02] COLLINS: Well, we should note that to brought up Roger Stone so much that Roger Stone says he has not been subpoenaed for any, to turn over any documents so the special counsel like the subpoena that he obviously got. But he did issue a statement while Sam Nunberg was on his first interview of the day, saying if he is asked to turn over, he does expect he would be asked at some point to turn over some kind of communication. So, Sam Nunberg can say that he's not going to turn these interviews or these e-mails or documents or conversations he had, but those are multiple ways conversations.
There's another way to get those conversations. There's even a chance that the special counsel could already have some of those conversations. So, I think that's important to keep in mind as he's denying this.
TAPPER: And the Roger Stone component of this, allegedly, allegedly, is that Roger Stone who was officially separated from President Trump or then-candidate Donald Trump. But still had a relationship with him was off trying to back channel Julian Assange who had all these hacked e-mails from DNC or John Podesta and he denies it. But there are evidence of communication, although the question is, whether or not it actually amounts to anything.
KRISTOL: And Roger Stone, former business partner of Paul Manafort, if I could just --
TAPPER: Oh, that's right.
KRISTOL: I'm old enough to remember to firm --
KRISTOL: Black Manafort Stone.
KRISTOL: Manafort shows up as campaign manager for Trump. So --
PSAKI: Yes, I mean, the truth is that this is kind of bringing back into play the Roger Stone WikiLeaks Julian Assange part of this circus that has been parked over here for a bit, while we've been focused on a lot of the other players. But in reality, that could be the most interesting part, as it relates to the whole collusion question, because Manafort's, you know, financial ties are not clearly directly tied at least apparently at this point to collusion, but there are other circus acts that are happening that obviously Mueller and his team has been actively looking into it.
TAPPER: Speaking of Paul Manafort and circus acts, coming up next, will her story have an impacted on the Russian investigation? The claim from a Russian model and self-proclaimed sex experts sitting behind bars in Thailand, next.