Sam Nunberg once dared special counsel Robert Mueller to arrest him. A few months back, the former Trump campaign adviser went on a media blitz, spending nearly an entire afternoon telling multiple outlets that he planned to become the first person to refuse to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation into Russia, and that he would defy a subpoena and a grand jury summons.
Well, so much for that. Now, Nunberg is all about cooperating with Mueller.
Since his media appearances, he’s appeared in front of that grand jury — after TV pundits started suggesting he should really reconsider the whole maybe-going-to-jail thing — and even handed his phones over to federal prosecutors, New York Magazine's Olivia Nuzzi first reported Wednesday night.
He still hasn’t gotten some of them back. And he’s just fine with that, he wants you to know.
“I went to the grand jury and in light of my theatrics earlier in the week — and my lawyer had advised me, and I agreed with him — I gave them my computer, my iPad, and my iPhone that I was currently using,” Nunberg told VICE News Thursday. “They downloaded everything out of it. And I have no problem with that.”
A few weeks later, the special counsel’s office had another request: They wanted his old BlackBerry phones. An email exchange between longtime Trump informal adviser Roger Stone and Nunberg publicly surfaced in April, where Stone — who Nunberg has said he considers a mentor — told Nunberg he’d had dinner with WikiLeaks head Julian Assange. Nunberg’s email signature contained the line, “Sent from my BlackBerry — the most secure mobile device.”
Nunberg said he gave Mueller’s team between two and four phones.
“They did not subpoena them. I have no problem with them having them,” Nunberg stressed again.
Team Trump’s personal cell phones, and the question of whether they ever used encrypted messaging apps on them, hit the headlines multiple times this week. On Monday, federal prosecutors working for Mueller asked a judge to revoke Paul Manafort’s bail, alleging that Trump’s former campaign manager tried to tamper with witnesses involved in his federal money laundering and bank fraud case. According to court documents, Manafort tried to use the secure messaging apps WhatsApp and Telegram to get in touch with witnesses. (Manafort backed his messages up on his iCloud, which is not exactly known for its security.)
Then, on Wednesday, CNBC reported that Mueller’s team wants witnesses to hand over their phones so investigators can go through any potential conversations on WhatsApp, Signal, Confide, and Dust. So far, everybody’s reportedly cooperated.
Nunberg said he first downloaded WhatsApp in late 2016 for “work” unrelated to the Trump campaign, which he was fired from in August 2015, after racist Facebook posts he’d allegedly written were uncovered. (Nunberg denies having written them.) Nunberg didn't speak with staffers about the campaign throughout 2016, he said, and did not talk to Trump at all.
The only person in the White House that he really spoke to was Steve Bannon, Nunberg said.
“The only times I can recall ever communicating with Steve Bannon was through iMessage, and I never communicated with anybody else who worked in the White House through an encrypted thing,” Nunberg told VICE News. “I also do not believe that I have ever communicated once with Roger Stone via an encrypted app.”
A spokesperson for Mueller’s office declined to comment.
Cover image: Former Donald Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg, left, leaves the U.S. District Courthouse after a day before a grand jury as ordered by special counsel Robert Mueller who is investigating the campaign's ties to Russian officials, in Washington, Friday, March 9, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)