At 11:30 on Monday night, Sam Nunberg returned a call from New York. Usually easy to get ahold of, Nunberg had been tied up for hours, busy creating absolute mayhem of a variety not enjoyed by American media consumers since the brief era of Anthony Scaramucci. He’d spent the day mostly on television, making news with explosive comments about his former boss, President Donald Trump, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who has subpoenaed him as part of his investigation into Trump, Russia, and the 2016 election. It all began when Nunberg invited Mueller to arrest him during an interview with the Washington Post. “I’m not going to cooperate!” he insisted during a nearly 20-minute on-air talk with MSNBC’s Katy Tur, reiterating those sentiments in interviews with Bloomberg News, CNN, NY1, Vox, and Yahoo News. But close to midnight, he seemed to have a change of heart. He told New York, “Of course, I’m going to cooperate!”
Monday’s events were a glimpse at what might’ve been had Trump not fired Nunberg in August 2015, two months into his presidential campaign, after it was reported that seven years earlier, he’d posted several racist comments on Facebook. Trump had fired him twice previously, but quickly rehired him each time. Nunberg maintains that his final firing was the result of infighting, and he’s held a grudge against Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager at the time, ever since.
Nunberg was a political adviser to Trump for the handful of years before the campaign, a relatively placid time when Trump had few such people in his orbit — besides Nunberg, there was Nunberg’s mentor, Roger Stone — and when the safe bet seemed to be that the reality-TV star would never actually run for office. I met Nunberg during that period, in 2014. He arranged for me to interview Trump, which was then as easy as getting a recommendation from a single adviser, dialing into the Trump Organization, and enduring a brief hold as a secretary connected you. Nunberg was then as he is now: a colorful character prone to fits of unpredictability and episodes of utter boneheadedness. But unlike some of the figures who have surrounded the president — or surround him still — there’s an honesty to Nunberg, which emerges in a willingness to admit when he’s screwed up, or apologize, or see himself and his place in the hierarchy of Trump World as it really is. His conversation with New York has been condensed for clarity, though you may still be confused at times, as I am.
On the record, what made you do this today?
Because I didn’t wanna spend 80 hours going over emails and sending them news clippings that I send Steve Bannon and Roger Stone. And I’m also not interested in any kind of case they’re trying to start against Roger, and I think that they don’t like Roger and they want to go after him, and I’m not gonna be a part of it.
And by the way, I’ve been very clear about this: they can take down Trump! I don’t care! Take him down! Take him down!
Have they reached out to Stone yet about doing an interview?
Not as far as I know, and I didn’t coordinate this with Roger.
And you got your subpoena today?
No! You know what pissed me off? And this is something you should report: after I was in there for six hours, and I paid for an attorney and we paid to go down there, they then sent me this on Friday and wanted it by 3 p.m. today. That’s why I started calling around and saying I’m not giving them shit.
Why do you believe you were subpoenaed?
Because that’s the way they’re gonna operate. By the way, if they have something on Trump, take him down! I don’t care!
Have you heard from Trump today?
No. He started having Sarah Huckabee Sanders go around. [Audio cuts out, but Nunberg believes the White House was promoting talking points accusing him of substance abuse.] And once again, I would say, she should really shut her fat mouth if she wants to talk crap about me. I’m not the one who has a presidential candidate who has a 33 percent approval rating, she does. She’s terrible.
When you were asked that question on the air — were you drinking, or are you okay — were you offended?
Was I offended by it? You know what I was offended by was that Erin Burnett begged me to go on her show, and I think that Erin Burnett asked that question because earlier in the interview, I said Sarah Huckabee [Sanders] should shut her fat mouth. I wasn’t talking about how Sarah is fat, I was talking about how she’s a big mouth. And I would really suggest she stops talking about me and Roger.
Didn’t you call Sarah Huckabee Sanders a slob?
Yeah, I called her a slob. She is a slob!
What does that mean? Like, Trump called Steve Bannon “Sloppy Steve” — what does that mean?
Steve got Trump’s fat ass elected. Trump would’ve lost by 15 points had Steve not gotten involved in the campaign.
Wait, wait — what does slob mean in this case? Like, why is Sarah Huckabee Sanders “a slob”?
Because she does Trump’s dirty business.
I see, so you’re not making a judgment about her appearance, you’re talking about her personality?
Yeah, I’m not making a judgment about her terrible appearance, because that would be very rude and not politically correct. Why would I want to do that? Did I sound drunk? I think that I was just more of myself in these interviews than I’ve ever been. That’s what I think it was.
You were just on TV nonstop today after Katy Tur?
Yeah. You know what I loved? I got phoners.
That’s like classic Trump, right?
Right, I was treated like the Sam Champ.
So, what do you think happens next with Mueller?
Nothing! I’m gonna cooperate!
Then why did you say you’d rip up the subpoena?
Here’s what I really didn’t like: I don’t think it’s fair for them to ask me for every email communication I’ve ever had with Steve Bannon and Roger Stone. And here’s the other thing I wanted to use this opportunity for: was to make it very clear to Trump, to the president, that he screwed me over.
You mean by going out there and saying that you don’t care if he gets taken down?
Right. I wanted to make it very clear it was inexcusable to me the way that I was treated. Be very fair on this: I worked for him when he was a joke. They can all talk crap about me all they want, they can talk crap about Roger. But here’s a fact: Roger and I came up with the special sauce, okay? Just because we didn’t go around with Corey and Hope [Hicks] did, Hope’s big claim to fame, that they went to those stupid rallies, boo-hoo-hoo. Boo-hoo-hoo! And I’ll tell you something, Trump listened to me more after I left.
Did you start talking to him more after August 2015?
No, I didn’t! He listened to me more after I left because he started reviewing the stuff I gave him. And when I go in there to a questioning and I can tell that Lewandowski was talking shit about Roger and me? Okay, fine, let’s do it! You know what Mr. President? Let’s do it. You love Corey? Let’s do it. And, you know, Trump will have a bigger problem with me than he will with Roger, because Roger lets him off the hook. Roger and I have a big disagreement, as I said on TV. The disagreement is Roger blames Corey for everything. My issue is Trump let Corey do everything to us. And Corey’s a scumbag lowlife, by the way, who’s a thief.
[Stone disputed Nunberg’s assessment. “I resigned. It was my decision. I was far more effective on Trump’s behalf outside the campaign. Perhaps you’ve heard of the “Stop the Steal” effort or Danney Williams … or The Clintons’ War on Women?” he told New York. “I have no animus towards the president but none of these things would have been possible if I had remained in the confines of the campaign.”]
When was the last time that you talked to Trump?
I’ve not talked to him for a very long time, and I’m not gonna talk to him for a very long time after what he did to Steve. It’s inexcusable to me. You know what, that’s where Roger and I have a big disagreement, too. Trump would not have won that election without Steve. Not with his stupid-ass son-in-law. You know what Trump’s falling is gonna be? Trump’s falling is gonna be that Trump is loyal and won’t do anything to his stupid-ass son-in-law, who, by the way, is a thief that stole money from him.
I wanna know! Here’s what I wanna know! And I think in the interest of transparency we should know what Brad Parscale took from the 2016 campaign and if he gave any money to Jared Kushner. [Parscale was the 2016 campaign’s digital media director, and was just hired to manage Trump’s reelection bid.] I just wanna know it! Maybe I’m wrong! Who knows.
When you say that you haven’t spoken to Trump in a very long time, do you mean, like, weeks, months?
How many months?
Uh, I don’t wanna get into it.
Did he call you the last time that you spoke?
Yes, he called me.
Was it at night?
Yeah, it was at night.
What was it about?
I’m not gonna get into it. I think it would hurt me with my thing with Mueller. I’m not getting into it.
So what does your lawyer think about all this?
I don’t know, I haven’t spoken to him today. He’s probably not happy.
[Nunberg excused himself to accept another call and then called back at 12:55 a.m.]
When you sat down with Mueller, was it contentious?
Not at all! Once again, here’s what pissed me off, and I think I explained this to you before, I’m repeating myself: but what really pissed me off is they called me up, I went in, I met with them, and then they give me a subpoena and tell me I have to answer it by 3 p.m. today and they want me back on Friday for grand jury testimony? To start a circumstantial case against Roger Stone? Whether Roger likes me or not, whatever Roger says about me — I think he does like me. As I said, he’s my mentor. He trained me. I’m not going to help them set up a case against him. I think they don’t like him.
Why do you believe they’re setting up a case against him?
Because of the questions I got. I think it was inappropriate when they asked me, do I know what business Roger Stone does, who are his clients?
I want you to tell me, but are you allowed to talk about the questions that they ask you in public?
If I decide to. I didn’t get dumped by my lawyer today, so I’m happy about that.
Has your lawyer called you like a million times today?
No, he didn’t, he’s just like, are you getting it out of your system? During the day, I got a text.
Besides asking about Stone’s clients, what else did they ask about?
I don’t know, it’s a longer conversation. It’s one in the morning, can I go to sleep?