Former Trump aide Sam Nunberg had a full day of media availability Monday after a grand jury working under Special Counsel Robert Mueller subpoened him.
Nunberg gave a series of interviews claiming he would refuse to cooperate – leaving some, like FOX Business’s Charlie Gasparino, asking if he was “of sound mind.”
The Washington, DC, grand jury empaneled by Mueller sent Nunberg, one of President Donald Trump’s earliest enlisted – and earliest dismissed – campaign aides, a detailed subpoena over the weekend.
It requested his complete communications with the president himself, ex-Breitbart News Executive Chairman and Trump campaign CEO Stephen K. Bannon, one-time campaign chairman Corey Lewandowski, Roger Stone, Carter Page, recently resigned White House Communications director Hope Hicks, and several other close Trump campaign confidants – as well as Nunberg’s presence in Washington on Friday to answer questions before the grand jury.
Rather than quietly comply – as is the typical reaction to receiving a federal grand jury’s legally-binding summons – Nunberg leaked the substantive part of his subpoena to the Washington Post and embarking on a whirlwind media tour, proclaiming that he will not cooperate.
“I think it would be funny if they arrested me,” Nunberg told MSNBC’s Katy Tur when asked if he feared contempt charges or arrest, adding later, “I think my lawyer’s gonna dump me” and “I’m not gonna go to jail.”
“What they sent me was absolutely ridiculous,” Nunberg protested. “Should I spend 50 hours going over all my emails? … I’m not gonna cooperate when they want me to come into a grand jury for them to insinuate that Roger Stone was colluding with [Wikileaks’s] Julian Assange.”
“Roger’s like family to me. I’m not gonna do it!” Nunberg continued. “What does Bob Mueller need to see my emails when I send Roger and Steve clips and we talk about how much we hate people.”
Tur, meanwhile, repeatedly pressed Nunberg as to why, until he received his own subpoena, he was generally supportive of Mueller’s investigation. He denied anyone had pressured him, claiming he came to this decision only hours earlier.
Just minutes after hanging up with Tur, Nunberg called into CNN, where he stayed on the line for successive interviews with Gloria Berger and Jake Tapper.
A second MSNBC appearance came Monday night, in which Nunberg talked to Ari Melber about Hope Hicks being his rival Corey Lewandowski’s “paramour.”
Nunberg was no less flip in print. “Let him arrest me. Mr. Mueller should understand I am not going in on Friday,” Nunberg told the Washington Post in a similarly unguarded interview, vowing to physically tear the subpoena up live on Bloomberg TV.
The reaction across the media was one of near uniform shock at his open defiance. Some feared he was under the influence of alcohol or had become mentally unwell.
In a Fox Business recap of the Nunberg saga, Charlie Gasparino claimed that, as an old acquaintance of Nunberg’s, he did not “want to be doing this story right now,” adding later that he did not feel it was his “professional obligation” as a reporter to “blow this guy up.”
“When he told me this stuff, that he wanted to go public with it, that he wanted me to break it, I asked him three times whether he was sure and is he of sound mind to do this, because I didn’t think he was,” Gasparino related to Fox Business colleague Liz Claman. “He told me he was drinking. … I just watched him on MSNBC and CNN, and the man needs help.”
“If you’re listening Sam, get help. What I just witnessed was a trainwreck and I feel bad for the guy,” Gasparino pleaded.
Monday night when Nunberg chose to continue his TV interview marathon with a third CNN appearance with Erin Burnett, she claimed she could smell alcohol on his breath. Nunberg protested that he had not been drinking.
Relations between Trump and Nunberg took a steep dive after the latter was fired over a decade-old racial slur on his Facebook page. Eventually, Trump sued Nunberg for millions over alleged campaign leaks.
That suit settled “amicably” out of court, but the animosity towards Trump was still clearly evident in Nunberg’s Monday “meltdown.”
“I’m not a fan of Donald Trump, as you well know,” he told Tur. “He treated Roger and me very badly, and he screwed us over during the campaign.”
“He treated me like crap,” Nunberg echoed to Tapper. “I should not have been fired, Roger should not have been treated the way he was.”
Nunberg found the Trump-Russia collusion narrative “the biggest joke” and was generally dismissive of Trump as a meaningful political mind. “Had he not won the primary, he probably would have endorsed Hillary Clinton,” he said to Tur.
“I wanted Trump to lose. I didn’t care if he lost. I thought it would be funny,” Nunberg told Melber.
“The Russians and Trump did not collude,” Nunberg told the Washington Post, mocking his former boss and saying, “Putin is too smart to collude with Donald Trump.”
Later in his interview with Tur, however, he reversed course. “I think they may. I think that he may have done something during the election, but I don’t know for sure.”
“Granted, Donald Trump caused this because he’s an idiot, because he decided to give an interview to Lester Holt the day after he fired James Comey and then he decided to have the Russians in the Oval Office,” Nunberg explained to CNN’s Tapper. “Who the hell advised him to allow those Russians in the Oval Office?”
According to Nunberg, he has already flatly denied to special counsel’s office investigators both collusion and Trump taking policy positions to benefit his business. He claimed Mueller’s men asked him things like if he heard Russian being spoken at Trump campaign HQ.
Others in the Trump administration did not escape Nunberg’s broadly aimed derision. “You know what? If Sarah Huckabee wants to start debasing me, she’s a joke,” he told Tapper of the president’s popular press secretary. “Okay fine yeah, she’s not attractive, she’s a fat slob.”
At the conclusion of his media grand tour, Nunberg appeared to issue something of a recantation, telling the Associated Press (AP) that he was “going to end up cooperating” with the investigation.