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Trump-Russia: Ex-aide refuses to co-operate with Mueller probe

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A former aide to Donald Trump says he will not co-operate with the inquiry into alleged Russian election meddling.

Sam Nunberg, who helped launch Mr Trump’s campaign, said he would refuse to comply with a grand jury subpoena.

“I think it would be really, really funny if they wanted to arrest me because I don’t want to spend 80 hours going over emails,” he told MSNBC.

Mr Nunberg also suggested he thinks the special counsel’s team believes they have something on Mr Trump.

Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller is currently investigating if there were any links between the Trump campaign and Russia, and if there was any effort by the White House to obstruct justice.

Airing grievances or spilling secrets?

Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC Washington

Refusing to comply with a grand jury summons could result in contempt of court and obstruction of justice charges – and, eventually, a prison sentence. It’s a steep price to pay to make a point about the scope of Robert Mueller’s inquiry.

If Sam Nunberg wants to know how bad it could get, he might familiarise himself with the story of Susan McDougal, who served 18 months in jail for refusing to co-operate with independent counsel Ken Starr’s investigation into then-President Bill Clinton’s Arkansas real estate deals.

There’s time for Mr Nunberg to change his mind and meet with the grand jury, of course. In the meantime, he’s soaking up the media spotlight and airing grievances against old campaign colleagues.

In addition, if Mr Nunberg can be believed, his comments shed light on the direction of Mr Mueller’s investigation, which includes wide-ranging questions about Trump confidant Roger Stone’s connections to Wikileaks, Mr Trump’s 2013 trip to Russia for a beauty pageant and the president’s personal business dealing.

In other words, Mr Mueller’s investigation is digging deep – and probably won’t be wrapping up anytime soon.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders would not be drawn on Mr Nunberg’s remarks, saying: “I’m not going to weigh in on somebody that doesn’t work at the White House.”

“I’m not cooperating. Arrest me,” Mr Nunberg said on live television. “You want to arrest me? Arrest me.”

In a volley of extraordinary interviews with cable networks, Mr Nunberg said he had met with Mr Mueller’s team for five-and-a-half hours over the weekend.

He said he had had enough of the investigators’ questions, insisting the White House had not directed him to refuse to co-operate.

Mr Nunberg said they had asked him if he had ever heard Russian spoken around Trump Tower – a question which he called “pretty ridiculous”.

  • All you need to know about Trump Russia story
  • What does the special counsel do?

The line of questioning “insinuated to me that he may have done something”, Mr Nunberg said.

“I suspect that they suspect something about him [Mr Trump],” he told CNN.

He added: “Trump may very well have done something during the election with the Russians. If he did that, I don’t know.”

But Mr Nunberg also rejected claims that he or fellow political strategist Roger Stone had somehow colluded with the Russians to help Mr Trump win the 2016 presidential election as “absolutely ridiculous and ignorant”.

“Mueller thinks that Trump is the Manchurian candidate, and I will tell you I disagree with that,” he told CNN, referring to a 1959 novel about a US politician brainwashed into becoming a pawn of foreign conspirators.

Mr Nunberg, who was sacked by the Trump campaign in August 2015 over racially charged Facebook posts, also told CNN: “I’m not a Donald Trump fan. He treated me like crap.”

  • The tactics of a Russian troll farm

He also said he had been told by former Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller that the Russians tried to send prostitutes to the real estate magnate’s hotel room in Moscow during the 2013 Miss Universe beauty pageant.

But Mr Nunberg said Mr Trump had refused.

“He’s too smart,” he said.

After he was fired by then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, Mr Nunberg was sued by Mr Trump for $10m (£7.2m) for breach of confidentiality.

The lawsuit was later “amicably settled” out of court, according to a lawyer for the Trump Organization.

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