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The full Nunberg? 4 presidential allies who went rogue

For years, former Trump campaign adviser Sam Nunberg has been a reliable source of chatter about the businessman and ...

Posted: Mar 6, 2018 4:30 PM
Updated: Mar 6, 2018 4:30 PM

For years, former Trump campaign adviser Sam Nunberg has been a reliable source of chatter about the businessman and President's tastes and moods, a longtime ally who, when he wasn't being hired or fired, devoted his waking existence to winning Trump's approval.

To say that changed on Monday might be to misinterpret the chaos. Nunberg, who's been in exile from Trumpworld for some time now, still surely harbors some underlying desire for a triumphant return. But with that looking unlikely, and a subpoena from special counsel Robert Mueller in his lap, Nunberg did the Trumpian thing -- he created a media spectacle.

Nunberg is hardly the first presidential friend, employee or acquaintance to implode after being hung out to dry by someone they once admired or, at the least, counted on for a paycheck. Nor is he unique for taking that sense of betrayal or alarm and sharing it with the press.

Here are four famous presidential pals turned high-profile haters.

Martha Mitchell

"If it hadn't been for Martha, there'd have been no Watergate," former President Richard Nixon told British interviewer David Frost in 1977, "because John wasn't mindin' that store."

John is John Mitchell, attorney general and then campaign manager for Nixon, who believed that because Mitchell was caught up attending to his wife's wavering mental health, he wasn't properly focused on directing the campaign. Anyway, that's Nixon's take.

The reality is that Martha Mitchell did, indeed, speed up the unraveling of that criminal presidency, usually via telephone calls with the news agency United Press International. She was known to dial up its reporters when she had an opinion none of the President's apparatchiks wanted to hear. (It was, after all, a time before Twitter.)

In May 1973, she told UPI that Nixon should resign.

Later on Mitchell offered a more personal assessment, which wouldn't have sounded out of place coming from Nunberg on Monday.

"He bleeds people," she said of Nixon. "He draws every drop of blood and then drops them from a cliff."

Scott McClellan

Before Hillary Clinton wrote her post-election memoir, there was an even more controversial book titled "What Happened," published in 2008 by George W. Bush's White House press secretary, Scott McClellan.

McClellan had been the top presidential spokesman from 2003 to 2006, nearly three years that spanned the early months of the Iraq War, Bush's successful 2004 re-election campaign and the administration's post-Katrina meltdown.

In the book, McClellan offers a gauzy take on Bush personally, but goes on to argue that the White House had used "propaganda" to sell the Iraq invasion and that he too had been misled about the role of Vice President Dick Cheney's inner circle in leaking the identity of former CIA operative Valerie Plame.

"I blame myself," he wrote of the Plame fiasco. "I allowed myself to be deceived. But the behavior of the president and his key advisers was even more disappointing."

On the subject of the Iraq War, McClellan repeatedly criticized Bush as being constitutionally unable (or unwilling) to acknowledge his errors. Then, wrapping Iraq with Katrina, he delivered this hammer blow:

"One of the worst disasters in our nation's history became one of the biggest disasters in Bush's presidency. Katrina and the botched federal response to it would largely come to define Bush's second term. And the perception of this catastrophe was made worse by previous decisions President Bush had made, including, first and foremost, the failure to be open and forthright on Iraq and rushing to war with inadequate planning and preparation for its aftermath."

Bush's press secretary at the time, Dana Perino, dismissed McClellan as a "disgruntled" former employee.

"For those of us who fully supported him, before, during and after he was press secretary, we are puzzled," she said. "It is sad -- this is not the Scott we knew."

Dick Morris

There was a period of time, after the Democrats got wiped out in the 1994 midterm elections, that Dick Morris might have been Bill Clinton's closest political aide. By 1996, Morris, whose connections to Clinton traced back to the late 1970s in Arkansas, was working as the President's chief campaign adviser.

But that all ended in a blur of scandal just a few months before the election. On the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Morris resigned his post after his relationship with a prostitute became a screaming tabloid scandal.

By 2016, Morris had established himself as one of the Clinton family's foremost critics, a font of would-be scandals and salacious gossip, who in June of that year was named the National Enquirer's chief political commentator and correspondent -- and told The New York Times a month later that he was "constantly sending ideas and thoughts to Trump and his people."

Today, Morris seems to spend most of his time posting videos to his website. This below is a representative sample:

James T. Callender

The Scottish immigrant became a hatchet man for none other than Thomas Jefferson, who ran against John Adams for the presidency in 1796, unsuccessfully, and again in 1800, when he won.

In a pamphlet titled "The Prospect Before Us," Callender -- when he was still a Jefferson man -- infamously described Adams as a "hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman."

Callender would be jailed for violating the Sedition Act, then freed soon before Jefferson, who would issue a formal pardon that year, took office. But things went downhill from there. Callender expected to be feted by the new President for his loyalty when, in reality, Jefferson was calling him, in a letter to James Madison, a charity case.

Seeing his plans spoiled, Callender would slowly drink himself to death. But before that, he resumed his writing, this time spilling ink in opposition to Jefferson in a Federalist publication. On September 1, 1802, he accused Jefferson of fathering "several children" with a woman -- a slave -- named "Sally," now believed to be Sally Hemmings.

"There is not an individual in the neighbourhood of Charlottesville who does not believe the story," Callender wrote, "and not a few who know it."

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