In Reversal, Former Trump Aide Says He’ll Probably Cooperate with Mueller Probe

A former Trump campaign aide spent much of the day promising to defy a subpoena from special counsel Robert Mueller, even throwing down the challenge to “arrest me,” then backed off his defiance by saying he would probably cooperate in the end.

In an interview Monday night with The Associated Press, Sam Nunberg said he was angry over Mueller’s request to have him appear in front of a grand jury and turn over thousands of emails and other communications with other ex-officials, among them his mentor Roger Stone. But he predicted that, in the end, he’d find a way to comply.

 

“I’m going to end up cooperating with them,” he said.

 

It was a reversal from his tone throughout the day, when he lashed out at Trump and his campaign and threatened to defy Mueller in a series of interviews.

 

“Why do I have to do it?” Nunberg told CNN of the subpoena. “I’m not cooperating,” he said later as he challenged officials to charge him.

 

In the earlier interviews, Nunberg said he thought Mueller may already have incriminating evidence on Trump directly, although he would not say what that evidence might be.

 

“I think he may have done something during the election,” Nunberg told MSNBC of the president, “but I don’t know that for sure.” He later told CNN that Mueller “thinks Trump is the Manchurian candidate.” A reference drawn from a Cold War novel and film, a “Manchurian candidate” is an American brainwashed or otherwise compromised to work on behalf of an adversarial government.

 

Shortly after Nunberg lobbed the first allegation, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders rebuffed him during the White House press briefing.

 

“I definitely think he doesn’t know that for sure because he’s incorrect. As we’ve said many times before, there was no collusion with the Trump campaign,” Sanders said. “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.”

 

Nunberg also said he thinks former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page, a key figure in the Russia investigation, worked with the Kremlin. “I believe that Carter Page was colluding with the Russians,” Nunberg said on CNN. “That Carter Page is a weird dude.”

 

Page called Nunberg’s accusations “laughable” in a comment to The Associated Press.

 

The Justice Department and FBI obtained a secret warrant in October 2016 to monitor Page’s communications. His activities during the presidential campaign that raised concerns included a July 2016 trip to Moscow.

 

In the interviews, Nunberg said he believes the president probably knew about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his eldest son, top campaign staff and a team of Russians, which Trump has denied. And he blamed Trump for the investigation into Russia meddling, telling MSNBC that he was “responsible for this investigation … because he was so stupid.”

 

A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.

 

During his afternoon tirades, Nunberg detailed his interview with Mueller’s investigators, mocking them for asking such questions as if he had heard Russian being spoken in Trump Tower. He then said he would reject a sweeping demand from Mueller for communications between him and top Trump advisers.

 

“I think it would be funny if they arrested me,” Nunberg said on MSNBC.

 

He later added on CNN: “I’m not going to the grand jury. I’m not going to spend 30 hours going over my emails. I’m not doing it.”

 

Nunberg said he’d already blown a 3 p.m. Monday deadline to turn over the requested communications. He said he’d traded numerous emails a day with Stone and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, and said spending 80 hours digging through his inbox to find them all was unreasonable.

 

But in his call with the AP, Nunberg said he might be more willing to comply if Mueller’s team limits the scope of its request.

 

“I’m happy if the scope changes and if they send me a subpoena that doesn’t include Carter Page” he said, insisting the two had never spoken.

 

He also said he believes the only reason he’s being asked to testify before the grand jury is to provide information that would be used against Stone, a longtime Trump adviser, which he says he won’t do.

 

Nunberg is the first witness in the ongoing federal Russia investigation to openly promise to defy a subpoena. But he’s not the first to challenge Mueller: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort filed a lawsuit in January challenging Mueller’s authority to indict him.

 

It’s unclear how much Nunberg would know about the inner workings of the Trump campaign or the White House. He never worked at the White House and was jettisoned from the Trump campaign early on, in August 2015, after racist social media postings surfaced. Trump filed a $10 million lawsuit against Nunberg in July 2016, accusing him of violating a nondisclosure agreement, but they settled the suit one month later.

 

John Dean, a White House counsel to President Richard Nixon during Watergate, tweeted Monday that Nunberg can’t flatly refuse to comply with a grand jury subpoena.

 

“This is not Mr. Nunberg’s decision, and he will be in criminal contempt for refusing to show up. He can take the Fifth Amendment. But he can’t tell the grand Jury to get lost. He’s going to lose this fight.”

 

Nunberg appeared pleased by his performance, telling the AP that he was “doing something I’ve never seen.”

 

“They don’t know what’s going on,'”he said, speculating that Mueller would not appreciate his comments and suggesting the authorities might send police to his apartment.

 

His usual cockiness, however, did appear, at times, to ebb. At the end of an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Nunberg asked whether the TV anchor thought he should instead cooperate with Mueller.

 

“If it were me, I would,” Tapper responded, telling Nunberg: “Sometimes life and special prosecutors are not fair, I guess.”

 

 

 

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Democrats Head into US Primaries With Bumper Crop of Candidates

Two years ago, just one Texas Democrat volunteered to run against Republican Rep. John Culberson in a metro Houston congressional district. This year, not even that failed Democrat’s double-digit loss could scare seven Democrats away from jumping in the race.

 

As primary season opens on Tuesday with the Texas vote, Democrats across the country are enjoying a bumper crop of candidates. It’s the latest sign of enthusiasm — like massive women’s marches and victories in state races around the country — heading into midterm elections that look increasingly hopeful for the opposition party.

 

But the abundance of volunteers also comes with a reality check: The crowded primaries are giving the party’s ideological divide a full public airing and could give party leaders less control over who carries the mantle in November.

 

Conversations with more than a dozen Democratic candidates, party officials and strategists found confidence that a glut of crowded primaries won’t damage the party’s overall prospects for a big November. Yet Democrats acknowledged the lively nomination fights could result in victories for candidates with little experience, scant scrutiny or political views that are out of step with general electorate.

 

That’s largely because it’s the party’s left flank that has provided much of the enthusiasm since President Donald Trump’s election capped nearly a decade of Democrats’ losing more than 1,000 federal and state offices.

 

“Just any blue won’t do,” says Nina Tuner, a former Ohio legislator who leads Our Revolution, the spinoff of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. Like Sanders, the group calls for a $15 minimum wage, free public university tuition and a national health insurance plan.

 

“People are not just voting for people because they are Democrats,” Turner adds. “They want to vote for people who are fighting for their values.”

 

In Washington, though, there’s a hint of worry about what kinds of candidates can win in Republican-leaning areas Democrats may need to regain majorities on Capitol Hill and dent GOP advantages in some statehouses. Even in Democratic strongholds, where partisan control isn’t at play, the battles will help determine the direction of the party.

 

The tensions will get their next test in Texas with primaries Tuesday.

 

The party has candidates in every Texas congressional district — 36 of them — for the first time in 24 years. There are 25 contested Democratic primaries, including in each of the five districts that appear on national Democrats’ target list of 98 GOP-held seats. Democrats need to flip 24 seats to win control of the House.

 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised eyebrows in Culberson’s district when it publicly released a memo calling one of its seven candidates, Laura Moser, a “Washington insider” who’d once declared she’d “rather have my teeth pulled out without anesthesia” than live in Paris, Texas.

 

Meredith Kelly, a party spokeswoman, explained the move saying the committee wants to “ensure that there’s a competitive Democrat on the ballot” in November, the implication being that Culberson and Republicans would use the same material to make Moser unelectable.

 

Local members of Our Revolution, Sanders’ political organization, endorsed Moser soon after the party memo surfaced.

 

For her part, Moser turned the flap into a television ad blasting Washington for meddling.

 

Meanwhile, in California, the state Democratic Committee ensured an internal fight when it snubbed Sen. Dianne Feinstein after 26 years in office and instead endorsed her more liberal Democratic rival.

Feinstein still leads in the polls and may not be seriously threatened in California’s so-called jungle primary system, which places all candidates, regardless of party, on the same first ballot, with the top two vote-getters advancing to a second round of voting. But the environment within the party still forces Feinstein to withstand a challenge from the left.

 

The same system that may help Feinstein, however, means a free-for-all among Democrats running for California congressional seats. The party is seriously targeting about a half-dozen Republican-held seats, with multiple Democrats running for each. Five signed up for retiring Republican Rep. Darrell Issa’s seat in San Diego County. Seven are taking on Rep. Mimi Walters in Orange County, while eight want to unseat Republican Dana Rohrbacher in a nearby district.

 

The same party committee that endorsed Feinstein’s Democratic challenger opted to stay out of the crowded House races.

 

Tom Perriello, who ran for Virginia governor in 2017 with backing from party liberals, says intense primaries, crowded or otherwise, don’t have to spell doom the winner. “I think people try to impose the 2016 Bernie-Hillary divide” on every matchup, he said, referring to the presidential nominating fight between Hillary Clinton and Sanders.

 

It’s rarely that simple. Perriello lost the Democratic nomination to Ralph Northam, viewed as the more moderate choice.

 

“We agreed on 90 percent of things,” Perriello says, remembering “a respectful primary based on ideas.” Afterward, Perriello campaigned for Northam and Virginia legislative hopefuls. Northam won by 9 percentage points, while a slate of liberal nominees changed the direction of the Virginia Assembly.

 

Periello says the Virginia results show there’s room in the party — even in the same primary — for a range of philosophies and styles.

 

In the Texas 7th, one of Moser’s opponents agrees.

 

“Even though it’s a crowded Democratic primary field, I think the upside of that is a lot of people working to turn out the vote and telling people this is a district where people can win,” says Lizzie Pannill Fletcher. “We all agree that our opponent is John Culberson.”

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Democrats Head into US Primaries With Bumper Crop of Candidates

Two years ago, just one Texas Democrat volunteered to run against Republican Rep. John Culberson in a metro Houston congressional district. This year, not even that failed Democrat’s double-digit loss could scare seven Democrats away from jumping in the race.

 

As primary season opens on Tuesday with the Texas vote, Democrats across the country are enjoying a bumper crop of candidates. It’s the latest sign of enthusiasm — like massive women’s marches and victories in state races around the country — heading into midterm elections that look increasingly hopeful for the opposition party.

 

But the abundance of volunteers also comes with a reality check: The crowded primaries are giving the party’s ideological divide a full public airing and could give party leaders less control over who carries the mantle in November.

 

Conversations with more than a dozen Democratic candidates, party officials and strategists found confidence that a glut of crowded primaries won’t damage the party’s overall prospects for a big November. Yet Democrats acknowledged the lively nomination fights could result in victories for candidates with little experience, scant scrutiny or political views that are out of step with general electorate.

 

That’s largely because it’s the party’s left flank that has provided much of the enthusiasm since President Donald Trump’s election capped nearly a decade of Democrats’ losing more than 1,000 federal and state offices.

 

“Just any blue won’t do,” says Nina Tuner, a former Ohio legislator who leads Our Revolution, the spinoff of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. Like Sanders, the group calls for a $15 minimum wage, free public university tuition and a national health insurance plan.

 

“People are not just voting for people because they are Democrats,” Turner adds. “They want to vote for people who are fighting for their values.”

 

In Washington, though, there’s a hint of worry about what kinds of candidates can win in Republican-leaning areas Democrats may need to regain majorities on Capitol Hill and dent GOP advantages in some statehouses. Even in Democratic strongholds, where partisan control isn’t at play, the battles will help determine the direction of the party.

 

The tensions will get their next test in Texas with primaries Tuesday.

 

The party has candidates in every Texas congressional district — 36 of them — for the first time in 24 years. There are 25 contested Democratic primaries, including in each of the five districts that appear on national Democrats’ target list of 98 GOP-held seats. Democrats need to flip 24 seats to win control of the House.

 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised eyebrows in Culberson’s district when it publicly released a memo calling one of its seven candidates, Laura Moser, a “Washington insider” who’d once declared she’d “rather have my teeth pulled out without anesthesia” than live in Paris, Texas.

 

Meredith Kelly, a party spokeswoman, explained the move saying the committee wants to “ensure that there’s a competitive Democrat on the ballot” in November, the implication being that Culberson and Republicans would use the same material to make Moser unelectable.

 

Local members of Our Revolution, Sanders’ political organization, endorsed Moser soon after the party memo surfaced.

 

For her part, Moser turned the flap into a television ad blasting Washington for meddling.

 

Meanwhile, in California, the state Democratic Committee ensured an internal fight when it snubbed Sen. Dianne Feinstein after 26 years in office and instead endorsed her more liberal Democratic rival.

Feinstein still leads in the polls and may not be seriously threatened in California’s so-called jungle primary system, which places all candidates, regardless of party, on the same first ballot, with the top two vote-getters advancing to a second round of voting. But the environment within the party still forces Feinstein to withstand a challenge from the left.

 

The same system that may help Feinstein, however, means a free-for-all among Democrats running for California congressional seats. The party is seriously targeting about a half-dozen Republican-held seats, with multiple Democrats running for each. Five signed up for retiring Republican Rep. Darrell Issa’s seat in San Diego County. Seven are taking on Rep. Mimi Walters in Orange County, while eight want to unseat Republican Dana Rohrbacher in a nearby district.

 

The same party committee that endorsed Feinstein’s Democratic challenger opted to stay out of the crowded House races.

 

Tom Perriello, who ran for Virginia governor in 2017 with backing from party liberals, says intense primaries, crowded or otherwise, don’t have to spell doom the winner. “I think people try to impose the 2016 Bernie-Hillary divide” on every matchup, he said, referring to the presidential nominating fight between Hillary Clinton and Sanders.

 

It’s rarely that simple. Perriello lost the Democratic nomination to Ralph Northam, viewed as the more moderate choice.

 

“We agreed on 90 percent of things,” Perriello says, remembering “a respectful primary based on ideas.” Afterward, Perriello campaigned for Northam and Virginia legislative hopefuls. Northam won by 9 percentage points, while a slate of liberal nominees changed the direction of the Virginia Assembly.

 

Periello says the Virginia results show there’s room in the party — even in the same primary — for a range of philosophies and styles.

 

In the Texas 7th, one of Moser’s opponents agrees.

 

“Even though it’s a crowded Democratic primary field, I think the upside of that is a lot of people working to turn out the vote and telling people this is a district where people can win,” says Lizzie Pannill Fletcher. “We all agree that our opponent is John Culberson.”

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Plan to Open Drilling Off Pacific Northwest Draws Opposition

The Trump administration’s proposal to expand offshore drilling off the Pacific Northwest coast is drawing vocal opposition in a region where multimillion-dollar fossil fuel projects have been blocked in recent years.

 

The governors of Washington and Oregon, many in the state’s congressional delegation and other top state officials have criticized Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s plan to open 90 percent of the nation’s offshore reserves to development by private companies.

 

They say it jeopardizes the environment and the health, safety and economic well-being of coastal communities.

 

Opponents spoke out Monday at a hearing that a coalition of groups organized in Olympia, Washington, on the same day as an “open house” hosted by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson told dozens gathered — some wearing yellow hazmat suits and holding “Stop Trump’s Big Oil Giveways” signs — that he will sue if the plan is approved.

 

“What this administration has done with this proposal is outrageous,” he said.

 

Oil and gas exploration and drilling is not permitted in state waters.

 

In announcing the plan to vastly open federal waters to oil and gas drilling, Zinke has said responsible development of offshore energy resources would boost jobs and economic security while providing billions of dollars to fund conservation along U.S. coastlines.

 

His plan proposes 47 leases off the nation’s coastlines from 2019 to 2024, including one off Washington and Oregon.

 

Oil industry groups have praised the plan, while environmental groups say it would harm oceans, coastal economies, public health and marine life.

 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee met with Zinke over the weekend while in D.C. for the National Governors Association conference and again urged him to remove Washington from the plan, Inslee spokeswoman Tara Lee said Monday.

 

There hasn’t been offshore oil drilling in Washington or Oregon since the 1960s.

 

There hasn’t been much interest in offshore oil and gas exploration in recent decades though technology has improved, said Washington’s state geologist David Norman.

 

“It’s a very active place tectonically. We have a really complicated tough geology. It’s got really rough weather,” Norman said.

 

There’s more potential for natural gas than oil off the Pacific Northwest, said BOEM spokesman John Romero. A 2016 assessment estimates undiscovered recoverable oil at fractions of the U.S. total.

 

Proponents have backed the idea as a way to provide affordable energy, meet growing demands and to promote the U.S.’s “energy dominance.” Emails to representatives with the Western States Petroleum Association and the American Petroleum Institute were not immediately returned Monday.

 

Sixteen members of Washington and Oregon’s congressional delegation last month wrote to Zinke to oppose the plan, saying gas drilling off the Northwest coastline poses a risk to the state’s recreational, fishing and maritime economy.

Kyle Deerkop, who manages an oyster farm in Grays Harbor for Oregon-based Pacific Seafood, worried an oil spill would put jobs and the livelihood of people at risk.

 

“We need to be worried,” he said in an interview, recalling a major 1988 oil spill in Grays Harbor. “It’s too great a risk.”

 

Tribal members, business owners and environmentalists spoke at the so-called people’s hearing Monday organized by Stand Up To Oil coalition.

 

The groups wanted to allow people to speak into a microphone before a crowd because the federal agency’s open house didn’t allow that. Instead the open house allowed people to directly talk to staff or submit comments using laptops provided.

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