Ex-Trump aide defies Mueller, risks jail

Sam Nunberg insists Donald Trump didn’t collude with the Kremlin, but also suggests that special counsel Robert Mueller “has something” on the president.

Trump fired Nunberg — a self-described protégé of political operative Roger Stone — in August 2015 after the disclosure of racially offensive Facebook posts he had written.

.. “Roger is my mentor. Roger is like family to me. I’m not going to do it,” Nunberg told MSNBC.

.. Nunberg also disobeyed requests from Mueller’s investigators to avoid publicly discussing his five-plus hour interview with Mueller’s team in Washington last month.

.. And he called “ridiculous” a question about whether he had ever heard anyone speak Russian in Trump’s office.

.. Nunberg speculated that the grand jury appearance he plans to skip on Friday was arranged in part so he could be asked about what he’s heard from senior Trump associates involving Trump’s attendance in 2013 at the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.

.. Nunberg said he’s spoken with Trump’s longtime security guard Keith Schiller about that Trump visit — specifically including what Nunbeg calls an offer by Trump’s Russian partners in staging the pageant to send prostitutes to his hotel room.

.. “Trump flat out refused it,” Nunberg said. “I can tell you that Trump is too smart to have women come up to his room.”

.. Disobeying a grand jury subpoena is considered civil contempt and can be the basis for arrest, and prosecutors typically respond with a motion asking the court to hold the witness in contempt.

.. Legal experts pointed to the precedent of Susan McDougal, a former Arkansas business partner of President Bill Clinton who spent 18 months in prison in the 1990s for civil contempt after refusing to testify to a grand jury investigating his Whitewater real estate deals.

.. Nunberg also has ties to one of Trump’s personal attorneys, Jay Sekulow, who he credits with helping him get his start in campaign politics.

.. Nunberg was working as a volunteer for Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign when he first met Sekulow, who also is the chief counsel of the non-profit American Center for Law & Justice. Sekulow hired Nunberg to work in ACLJ’s New York office to help stop the construction of a mosque near the World Trade Center site.

.. Nunberg on why he’s saying no to Mueller:

Because what they said to me was absolutely ridiculous. They wanted every email I had with Roger Stone and with Steve Bannon. Why should I hand them emails from November 1, 2015. I was thinking about this today, Katy, I was preparing it. Should I spend 50 hours going over all my emails with Roger and with Steve Bannon. And then they wanted emails that I had with Hope Hicks, with Corey Lewandowski, are you — give me a break. It’s ridiculous.

.. Nunberg on the value of mentorship, loyalty:

I’m not going to cooperate when they want me to come in to a grand jury for them to insinuate that Roger Stone was colluding with Julian Assange. Roger is my mentor, Roger’s like family to me. I’m not going to do it.

.. Nunberg on some of the stuff that Mueller’s people had already asked him about:

You know what they asked — they asked things like, ‘Did you hear people speaking Russian in the Trump office?’ Katy, I did not hear people speaking Russian in the Trump office. They asked things like, ‘Did you hear about Trump Tower Moscow?’ No, I never heard about Trump Tower Moscow.

Donald Trump, a Playboy Model, and a System for Concealing Infidelity

One woman’s account of clandestine meetings, financial transactions, and legal pacts designed to hide an extramarital affair.

.. At the time of the party, Trump had been married to the Slovenian model Melania Knauss for less than two years; their son, Barron, was a few months old. Trump seemed uninhibited by his new family obligations. McDougal later wrote that Trump “immediately took a liking to me, kept talking to me – telling me how beautiful I was, etc. It was so obvious that a Playmate Promotions exec said, ‘Wow, he was all over you – I think you could be his next wife.’ ”

.. Purchasing a story in order to bury it is a practice that many in the tabloid industry call “catch and kill.” This is a favorite tactic of the C.E.O. and chairman of A.M.I., David Pecker, who describes the President as “a personal friend.”

.. Six former A.M.I. employees told me that Pecker routinely makes catch-and-kill arrangements like the one reached with McDougal. “We had stories and we bought them knowing full well they were never going to run,”

.. George said that Pecker protected Trump. “Pecker really considered him a friend,” George told me. “We never printed a word about Trump without his approval.”

.. Pecker also used the unpublished stories as “leverage” over some celebrities in order to pressure them to pose for his magazines or feed him stories. Several former employees said that these celebrities included Arnold Schwarzenegger, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, and Tiger Woods.

.. McDougal wrote that Trump impressed her. “I was so nervous! I was into his intelligence + charm. Such a polite man,” she wrote.

..  All three women say that they were escorted to a bungalow at the hotel by a Trump bodyguard, whom two of the women have identified as Keith Schiller.

.. Over the course of the affair, Trump flew McDougal to public events across the country but hid the fact that he paid for her travel. “No paper trails for him,” she wrote. “In fact, every time I flew to meet him, I booked/paid for flight + hotel + he reimbursed me.”

.. In July, 2006, McDougal joined Trump at the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, at the Edgewood Resort, on Lake Tahoe. At a party there, she and Trump sat in a booth with the New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, and Trump told her that Brees had recognized her, remarking, “Baby, you’re popular.”

.. During the Lake Tahoe tournament, McDougal and Trump had sex, she wrote. He also allegedly began a sexual relationship with Clifford at the event.

.. Another adult-film actress, whose screen name is Alana Evans, claimed that Trump invited her to join them in his hotel room that weekend. A third adult-film performer, known as Jessica Drake, alleged that Trump asked her to his hotel room

.. During Trump’s relationship with McDougal, she wrote, he introduced her to members of his family and took her to his private residences. At a January, 2007, launch party in Los Angeles for Trump’s now-defunct liquor brand, Trump Vodka, McDougal, who was photographed entering the event, recalled sitting at a table with Kim Kardashian, Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Trump, Jr.,’s wife, Vanessa, who was pregnant. 

.. At one point, Trump held a party for “The Apprentice” at the Playboy Mansion, and McDougal worked as a costumed Playboy bunny. “We took pics together, alone + with his family,” McDougal wrote. She recalled that Trump said he had asked his son Eric “who he thought was the most beautiful girl here + Eric pointed me. Mr. T said ‘He has great taste’ + we laughed!”

.. In Trump Tower, McDougal wrote, Trump pointed out Melania’s separate bedroom. He “said she liked her space,” McDougal wrote, “to read or be alone.”

.. McDougal’s account, like those of Clifford and other women who have described Trump’s advances, conveys a man preoccupied with his image. McDougal recalled that Trump would often send her articles about him or his daughter, as well as signed books and sun visors from his golf courses.

.. Trump also promised to buy McDougal an apartment in New York as a Christmas present. Clifford, likewise, said that Trump promised to buy her a condo in Tampa. For Trump, showing off real estate and other branded products was sometimes a prelude to sexual advances.

.. The decision was reinforced by a series of comments Trump made that McDougal found disrespectful, according to several of her friends. When she raised her concern about her mother’s disapproval to Trump, he replied, “What, that old hag?” (McDougal, hurt, pointed out that Trump and her mother were close in age.)

.. friend mentioned a relationship she had had with an African-American man. According to multiple sources, Trump remarked that the friend liked “the big black dick” and began commenting on her attractiveness and breast size. The interactions angered the friend and deeply offended McDougal.

..Crawford said, referring to Trump. “I said, ‘You know, if you had a physical relationship with him, that could be worth something about now.’ And I looked at her and she had that guilty look on her face.”

 

The case for taking the Trump-Stormy Daniels saga seriously

Cohen created an LLC in Delaware — where LLCs don’t have to disclose their managers — and used pseudonyms to facilitate the payment to Daniels.

  • Makes reference to Trump’s bodyguard, “Keith,” being his gatekeeper for all of her contacts with Trump. She says of “Keith” that she “met [him] every time I saw [Trump]. Keith was always with him.” Trump’s longtime body man is Keith Schiller.
  • Also refers to another Trump aide, his secretary “Rhona.” This is Rhona Graff, who had worked for the Trump Organization for more than three decades.
  • Makes a few somewhat bizarre references to Trump’s distaste for sharks. “He is obsessed with sharks,” she said. “Terrified of sharks. He was like, ‘I donate to all these charities, and I would never donate to any charity that helps sharks. I hope all the sharks die.’ ” She added at another point that they “moved to the sofa so he could get a better view of ‘Shark Week.’ “ Soon, reporters and those on social media had found other examples of Trump’s anti-shark commentary.

.. She also was reportedly in talks with ABC’s “Good Morning America” about going public during the campaign.

.. The most charitable interpretation of all of this would seem to be that someone very close to Trump paid a large sum of money to someone who was prepared to make a very serious allegation about the then-candidate.

.. if it were all true and Trump did engage in an affair with a porn star early in his marriage to Melania Trump? Would it necessarily change much of anything? It is widely known — and Trump has acknowledged — having cheated on his first wife, Ivana, with Marla Maples, who became his second wife.

 

A ‘pressure cooker’: Trump’s frustration and fury rupture alliances, threaten agenda

Frustrated by his Cabinet and angry that he has not received enough credit for his handling of three successive hurricanes, President Trump is now lashing out, rupturing alliances and imperiling his legislative agenda, numerous White House officials and outside advisers said Monday.

.. In doing so, Trump is laboring to solidify his standing with his populist base and return to the comforts of his campaign — especially after the embarrassing defeat of Sen. Luther Strange (R) in last month’s Alabama special election, despite the president’s trip there to campaign with the senator.

.. Sen. Bob Corker’s brutal assessment of Trump’s fitness for office — warning that the president’s reckless behavior could launch the nation “on the path to World War III” — also hit like a thunderclap inside the White House, where aides feared possible ripple effects among other Republicans on Capitol Hill.

.. The most vocal Trump defender was the one under the president’s employ, Vice President Pence.

.. One Trump confidant likened the president to a whistling teapot, saying that when he does not blow off steam, he can turn into a pressure cooker and explode. “I think we are in pressure cooker territory,”

.. Pence’s office blasted out a blanket response under the vice president’s name addressing “criticisms of the president.” The statement bemoaned “empty rhetoric and baseless attacks” against Trump while touting his handling of global threats, from Islamic State terrorists to North Korea.

.. “We have been watching the slow-motion breakup of the Republican Party, and Trump is doing what he can to speed it up,” said Patrick Caddel

.. “Trump is firmly placing himself on the outside, trying to become an almost independent president,”

.. “He knows that many people will be with him, that he helps himself when he’s not seen as the Republican president. But what about his program?

.. Other Trump aides blame Corker for what they consider an act of betrayal, arguing that he started the feud in a bid for relevance by a lame-duck lawmaker

They also accuse Corker of hypocrisy, noting that he was chummy with Trump and did not voice any concerns about his leadership style when he thought he might be picked as vice president or secretary of state.

.. “Donald Trump never truly severs relationships. There is always a dialogue. And with Corker, this isn’t a total endpoint. Trump sees relationships as negotiations, and that’s what they’re in.”

.. Trump is also without his longtime aide-de-camp and former head of security, Keith Schiller

.. His absence has left Trump with few generational peers with whom he feels comfortable venting about his staff or his rivals

.. Barrack has been buzzed about as a possible replacement for Kelly, should tensions between the president and his top aide become unsustainable.

.. his efforts thus far are focused on energizing and solidifying the 40 percent of Americans who were with him, primarily by attacking the 60 percent who were not,”

Trump Family Wedding Planner to Head New York’s Federal Housing Office

A longtime associate of President Trump’s family, who organized golf tournaments on the president’s courses and planned his son Eric’s wedding, will soon oversee billions of federal dollars as the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s New York and New Jersey office.

Lynne Patton had been working as a senior adviser and director of public engagement at HUD for several months before Ben Carson, the department secretary, recommended her for the new role

.. The appointment of a Trump family loyalist to a key government post fits a pattern. His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, work in White House offices. Dan Scavino Jr., who was the president’s caddie, is the director of social media. His longtime bodyguard, Keith Schiller, has become such an important White House figure that he hand-delivered the dismissal papers to James Comey, the former F.B.I. director.

.. Ms. Patton had earned the trust of Mr. Carson after organizing his listening tour in several cities.

.. “Dr. Carson calls her, ‘the general’ because she can lead an army. She’s that tough,” Mr. Williams said.

.. “If Donald Trump is intent on showing the contempt he has for the social safety net, then the appointment makes sense.”

.. Mr. Torres, who grew up in public housing, said Ms. Leicht had been a “strong advocate for affordable housing in New York City,” and acted as a liaison between local officials and the federal housing department.

.. Morale among some career officials at the city’s local office of the federal housing department has been low because of proposed cuts to the agency’s budget.

How Trump’s Bodyguard Keith Schiller KO’d James Comey

Ask around how Schiller got to where he is and you hear the story of a day in 1998 when he chanced to see Trump’s second wife, Marla Maples.

.. He happened to be at the Manhattan District Attorney’s office on a drug case when he saw Maples there, as a complainant against her publicist Chuck Jones, whose fetish for shoes had prompted him to steal as many as 200 pairs from her. She was accompanied by a bodyguard.

.. Schiller decided that there was no reason why he himself could not also be a bodyguard. An assistant district attorney in the Maples case agreed to call Trump’s director of security, who in turn agreed to give Schiller a try.

.. Schiller became head of security in 2014—his predecessor, Matthew Calamari, having been promoted to executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Trump Organization.

.. by figuring that Trump would be worse for America and therefore better for Russia.

.. More often than not, Trump does not so much act as react to something he had seen on television

.. Trump no doubt resented Comey’s remark about feeling “mildly nauseous” at the thought he may have influenced the election. That was tantamount to saying that Trump had not won a great victory.

.. Imagine how those agents felt upon seeing video of Trump happily meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, along with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak

.. If nothing else, Trump and Schiller appear devoutly loyal to each other.

Who is Keith Schiller, the man Trump sent to fire Comey?

Schiller is widely regarded inside and outside the White House as the “most underestimated person on Trump’s team,” as one former aide put it — someone with constant access to Trump who has not only developed a deep level of trust with the President, but also has turned into a sort-of Trump translator.
.. During the campaign, “it mattered more to me what Keith Schiller thought of me than what the campaign manager thought,” a former top campaign aide told CNN about Schiller. “Now I think it means more what Keith thinks of you than Reince (Trump’s chief of staff) thinks of you.”
.. Friends from high school say Schiller never shied away from a fight during his younger years, a trait that has stayed with him. When protesters gathered around Trump tower during the campaign, Schiller ripped a sign out of one man’s hands a punched him when he tried to grab it back.
.. Schiller, former aides and advisers said, understands the President better than most in the White House.
.. “Any time I wanted to understand something, I would ask Keith,” former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said. “I valued him for all the roles he played.”
.. Schiller is regularly the aide checking the quality of the shot to make sure his boss looks good.
.. Schiller enjoys something that not many of Trump’s White House aides has: Trust.