No, it’s not Corey Lewandowski. It’s Sam Nunberg, who was part of the Trump campaign in its early stages and then was fired — allegedly on Lewandowski’s orders — over old Facebook posts last August. As best as I can tell, that was the start of an intramural feud that persists to this day between Lewandowski and the Roger Stone wing of Trump’s operation, of which Nunberg (a Stone protege) was a major part. That feud was seemingly settled when Trump finally bounced Lewandowski as campaign manager and handed over operations to Paul Manafort, another longtime Stone crony. Yet suddenly here’s news that Trump is trying to squeeze Nunberg for $10 million despite the risk it carries of unleashing a clusterfark for his campaign.
In the court filings, Nunberg denied disparaging Trump and accused the presumptive GOP nominee of attempting to “bully” him into silence after Nunberg decided to publicly support Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential bid.
“Mr. Trump’s actions in starting a $10 million arbitration, seeking to silence Mr. Nunberg and have the proceedings sealed, are a cautionary tale of what the American people face if Mr. Trump is elected president,” said Andrew Miltenberg, Nunberg’s attorney. Miltenberg said Trump’s attorney argued for the documents to be sealed in a hearing Wednesday morning…
In particular, Nunberg said Trump filed a $10 million arbitration claim against him and falsely accused him of being a source of a New York Post story from mid-May that recounted a public quarrel between former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks. Lewandowski was fired from the campaign in June after months of tension with other senior Trump advisers.
Nunberg denied being the source of the article, but in court papers referred to the quarrel as being part of an “apparent affair.”
Here’s the Post story, which was suggestive but not specific about the “apparent affair.” It was published on May 19, two weeks after Trump became the presumptive nominee; Nunberg isn’t mentioned in it. According to the AP, Trump sought private arbitration over Nunberg’s nondisclosure agreement sometime that same month, apparently believing for reasons that are unclear that Nunberg was the source. Also unclear is why an NDA signed by Nunberg last year would prevent him from discussing things he’s learned about the campaign many months after he left it, especially an argument between Hicks and Lewandowski “in plain view of passersby on 61st Street near Park Avenue.”
Anyway, Trump sought arbitration of the contract, which would have kept the dispute private, but it was foreseeable that Nunberg would make it public by challenging the arbitration in court. (In fact, Roger Ailes and Gretchen Carlson are currently having a similar argument over arbitration. Alies wants her sexual harassment claims resolved in confidential arbitration, per her contract; Carlson is suing in state court, claiming that the arbitration clause in her Fox News contract doesn’t apply to a suit against Ailes in his individual capacity.) So here’s a krazy kwestion: Why would Trump, within the first few weeks of becoming the GOP’s presumptive nominee for president, decide that one of his top priorities was to go to war with Nunberg, knowing that that was bound to go public and become a distraction to his general election campaign? Just for starters, today’s news will be crowding out a bunch of stories about terrible new polls for Hillary in the papers tomorrow.
And a follow-up question: Why would he want to risk reviving a scandalous gossip-sheet story about an “apparent affair” that everyone would have forgotten about otherwise?
And another follow-up question: Why would he want to antagonize Roger Stone and, presumably, his own campaign manager Paul Manafort by going after an ally of theirs?
And another follow-up question: Now that he’s being targeted and has less to lose by staying silent, why wouldn’t Nunberg start quietly leaking other dirt he might have on Trump?
I don’t get it. The best theory is Ed’s, that Trump came after Nunberg pour encourager les autres, to send a message to the rest of his staff that he means business about them honoring their NDAs. Okay, but there’s a cost/benefit calculation there: How likely is it that letting Nunberg (if he’s the source of the Post story) slide would have done more damage to Trump’s campaign than injecting this sideshow into the media will do, especially at a moment when Trump’s getting ready to choose his VP and accept the nomination?
WaPo reporter Robert Costa has another theory for why Trump moved against Nunberg: He couldn’t help himself.
He was angry and that was enough. Never mind what going after Nunberg might do to his messaging effort against Hillary by handing a shiny object to the media, never mind the fact that this is bound to antagonize Stone and possibly, and more importantly, Manafort. He was mad so Nunberg had to pay. That’s the sort of fancy, far-reaching strategic vision America needs in the Oval Office. I hope he gets every penny of that $10 million for his sake, if only to compensate him for the needless PR headache he’s created for himself here.
Exit question: Does Roger Stone have an NDA with Trump too? If you believe Daily Mail editor David Martosko, he has his own issues with pushing rumors about Hicks and Lewandowski.