Former Trump adviser Sam Nunberg testifies before Mueller grand jury

Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg is pictured. | AP Photo

Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg (center) arrives at the U.S. District Courthouse to appear before a grand jury on March. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Sam Nunberg, the conservative activist and former political adviser to Donald Trump, spent more than six hours on Friday answering questions before a grand jury investigating allegations of collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia.

Nunberg, who threatened earlier this week to defy a subpoena from special counsel Robert Mueller, ignored a throng of reporters and did not comment as he left the federal courthouse building in Washington.

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His attorney, Patrick Brackley, also did not comment.

Nunberg offered the Mueller grand jury a window into multiple areas of Trump’s political career. He worked for Trump starting in 2014 when he was still mulling a New York gubernatorial bid and then into the earliest days of his presidential campaign. He was fired once and then, after being rehired, was fired again in August 2015 over racially insensitive Facebook posts.

Despite being on the outs with Trump, Nunberg has nonetheless remained in close contact with staffers who have also circulated inside the president’s orbit, including Roger Stone and Steve Bannon.

Nunberg’s grand jury appearance capped a whirlwind week that started with his anonymous leaking to the media of a Mueller subpoena for his communications with Trump and other members of the president’s inner circle.

He embarked on a series of erratic, manic interviews — many on live television — in which he vowed to defy the subpoena, speculated that prosecutors had “something” on Trump, made disparaging remarks about several Trump aides, and suggested that prosecutors were seeking to indict Roger Stone, a prominent Trump adviser.

Despite his initial comments about ignoring the subpoena and potentially risking arrest for contempt of court, Nunberg quickly backed down and agreed to comply.

By midweek, he told reporters he was turning over materials Mueller had requested, including emails with Stone and former Trump aides Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Keith Schiller, Corey Lewandowski and Carter Page.

Nunberg’s participation had another twist: Fox Business Network reporter Charles Gasparino said Tuesday that he’d spoken with Nunberg, who reportedly said he was planning to enter substance abuse treatment after his grand jury testimony.

“There’s something, and drinking I believe is a big part of it, and that’s what happened yesterday,” Gasparino said. “That’s where the story actually goes from here.”

Nunberg’s initial defiance prompted all manner of analysis over whether the Mueller grand jury should even be talking with a witness who was headed in for mental health or substance abuse treatment.

“The team may be debating that very question as we speak,” Melinda Haag, a former federal prosecutor who worked with Mueller when he was a U.S. attorney in San Francisco in the late 1990s, said in an interview on Wednesday.

But a defense attorney working with another senior Trump aide predicted that Mueller’s team would bring Nunberg in for the grand jury appearance and begin by peppering him with questions to determine his sobriety, credibility and fitness to answer questions.

The former Trump aide’s public suggestions about skipping the grand jury appearance, the lawyer added, may have been a strong indication to Mueller that he was still worth talking to.

“Honestly, if I’m Mueller, one of the things I’m thinking is, this guy probably does have something to say and he’s making a big stink to spook me into withdrawing the subpoena so there’s no sideshow at the grand jury on Friday,” the lawyer said, adding that Mueller may decide: “‘I’m going to call the guy’s bluff.’”

Nunberg earlier this week said he was hardly a fan of Trump, who had sued his former staffer at one point for $10 million for breaching a confidentiality agreement. They settled the case a month later.

In a January interview, Nunberg said he didn’t expect to be contacted by Mueller. But that may have changed with the mid-January publication of Michael Wolff’s tell-all book, “Fire and Fury.”

The book quotes Nunberg describing everything from his allegiance with Bannon to Trump’s decision to run for president and attempts to explain the Constitution to the rookie political candidate.

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Trump Organization sends $151,470 in foreign profits to Treasury

George Sorial is pictured. | Getty Image

“Although not a legal requirement, this voluntary donation fulfills our pledge to donate profits from foreign government patronage at our hotels and similar business during President Trump’s term in office,” George Sorial said in a written statement. | Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The Trump Organization has transferred $151,470 in profits earned from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury, a company executive said on Friday.

George Sorial, the Trump Organization’s executive vice president and chief compliance counsel, said the donation made good on the company’s promise to return any profits earned from foreign governments during President Donald Trump’s administration.

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“Although not a legal requirement, this voluntary donation fulfills our pledge to donate profits from foreign government patronage at our hotels and similar business during President Trump’s term in office,” Sorial said in a written statement.

He called the transfer an “annual” donation to taxpayers. The money represents profits from foreign governments patronizing Trump Organization hotels and businesses between Jan. 20, 2017, and Dec. 31, 2017, Sorial wrote.

The Trump International Hotel in Washington, just a few blocks from the White House, has been a frequent host to foreign guests. Lobbying records show the hotel took in about $270,000 in payments tied to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2016 and 2017. In February 2017, the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S. booked the hotel for a gala to celebrate the anniversary of his country’s independence from British rule.

Congressional Democrats and watchdog groups have sued Trump, claiming violations of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which was designed to prevent corruption by foreign influence. Lawyers for the plaintiffs in Blumenthal v. Trump, a case brought by 196 House and Senate members, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump handed over management of his company’s day-to-day operations to his sons Donald Jr. and Eric before taking office last year.

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Trump pardons sailor in submarine photos case, White House says

Donald Trump is pictured. AP Photo

President Donald Trump ” is appreciative of Mr. [Petty Officer First Class Kristian] Saucier’s service to the country,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. | Evan Vucci/AP Photo

President Donald Trump has pardoned a Navy submariner sentenced to prison for taking photos inside the classified engine room of a nuclear submarine, the White House announced on Friday.

Petty Officer First Class Kristian Saucier pleaded guilty in May 2016 to two felony counts, one for unlawful retention of national defense information and another for obstruction of justice, for taking cellphone pictures inside the Navy vessel and later destroying his own equipment upon learning he was under investigation.

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“The president has pardoned Kristian Saucier, a Navy submariner,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced at a briefing with reporters.

Sanders added that “the president is appreciative of Mr. Saucier’s service to the country.”

Saucier was sentenced to 12 months in prison for mishandling classified information. Critics have cited the episode to allege a double standard in how low- and high-ranking U.S. officials handle sensitive material.

The president brought the case back into public view in January, when he compared the treatment of Saucier with that of his former electoral opponent Hillary Clinton and her top campaign officials.

“Crooked Hillary Clinton’s top aid, Huma Abedin, has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols. She put Classified Passwords into the hands of foreign agents,” Trump tweeted in January. “Remember sailors pictures on submarine? Jail!”

Prosecutors had sought a much steeper sentence for the former Navy machinist, calling for him to face six years in prison, but the judge gave a more lenient sentence, a point the White House highlighted in announcing his pardon.

“The sentencing judge found that Mr. Saucier’s offense stands in contrast to his commendable military service,” Sanders noted.

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Trump lawyers seek to offer Mueller an interview in exchange for wrapping up probe: report

Attorneys for President TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out ‘subversion’ at VA MORE are reportedly considering asking special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE to set a hard end date for his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election as one of the preconditions for an interview with president.

While Trump’s lawyers remain split on the terms of such a deal, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday, they also want Mueller to agree to parameters on the scope of such an interview. 

One idea being floated is that Mueller would agree to wrap up the probe within 60 days of interviewing Trump.

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Trump has said he is “looking forward” to speaking with the special counsel’s team, but his lawyers have repeatedly emphasized that he would only agree under certain conditions.

Legal experts interviewed by the Journal expressed skepticism Mueller would agree to the idea.

“You can’t put a timeline on these things,” said former federal prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg. “Someone could walk in the door on the day before their proposed deadline and say, ‘I’ve got some information that’s going to blow your minds.’ … [And] Mueller’s going to say, ‘Oh, too bad, the deadline’s tomorrow?’”

On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that Trump has asked as least former witnesses interviewed by the special counsel about their experiences and what they discussed. 

The scope of Mueller’s probe has reportedly expanded to included possible obstruction of justice, as well as the business ties of Trump and members of his family.

The Journal reports that Trump lawyers expect any questions for the president to focus on the firings of former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyDopey Russian ads didn’t swing voters — federal coverups did Assessing Trump’s impeachment odds through a historic lens Drama surrounding Shulkin — what is the future of VA health care? MORE and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who in December pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators.

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Scott signs school-gun safety bill

Rick Scott is pictured. | Getty

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act was controversial in the GOP-led Florida Legislature, which has never passed gun control measures. | Getty

Updated

TALLAHASSEE — Flanked by grieving parents Friday afternoon, Gov. Rick Scott signed an unprecedented $400 million school safety and gun bill into law, saying it should prevent another massacre like the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting on Valentine’s Day.

“Unfortunately this wasn’t the first time our state has been rocked like this,” Scott said, referring to the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre of 49 and the 2017 Fort Lauderdale airport shooting that left five dead.

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“Today should serve as an example to the entire country that government can and must move fast,” he added.

The parents of the victims issued a statement, read by one of the fathers, Tony Montalto, who praised Scott and the Legislature for their quick action.

“The state of Florida has now taken an important first step to enhance the safety of our schools,” Montalto said. “When it comes to preventing future acts of horrific school violence, this is the beginning of the journey. We have paid a terrible price for this progress. We call on more states to follow Florida’s lead and create meaningful legislation to make all schools safer.”

“This time,” he said as he raised his voice, “must be different!”

Though no one has opposed the heart of the bill — schools and mental health money — the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, or FL SB7026 (18R), was controversial in the GOP-led Florida Legislature, which has never passed gun control measures. Amid NRA lobbying, the legislation passed the Florida Senate by just one vote.

Many Republicans couldn’t stomach the provisions that regulate long guns like handguns by requiring a three-day wait for buying rifles and shotguns, the purchase of which is generally limited to those who are 21 and older. The accused Stoneman Douglas shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was 19 years old. He was indicted this week on 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.

For Democrats, who wanted an assault weapons ban, the plan had too little gun control and most opposed arming school personnel in schools. The provision was watered down so that it is voluntary and doesn’t apply to front-line, full-time classroom teachers. Most large urban counties have announced or are expected to announce they won’t participate.

Some of the most significant gun control — allowing police to seize weapons from people adjudicated “mentally defective,” spouse-beaters, stalkers or those otherwise deemed to be a harm to themselves or others — was barely mentioned during days of debate. The legislation also bans so-called bump stocks that allow a semiautomatic rifle to fire more like a machine gun.

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