If you had not heard of Sam Nunberg before Monday, you are not alone. However, his awesome (in the classic sense of the word) meltdown on live television is so stark, singular, and self-immolating that we now need to know who he was, and what exactly happened. Mr. Nunberg was originally an adviser to Donald Trump who was fired in 2014 for recommending his boss take part in a Buzzfeed article that turned out to be non-obsequious. He was then hired by the campaign a year later as a communications adviser, and fired in August of that year, because he apparently made multiple racist remarks. About a year after that, in July of 2016, Donald Trump sued Mr. Nunberg for $10 million over violating confidentiality agreements; the issue was settled for an undisclosed sum
Now, Mr. Nunberg’s bad day actually started over the weekend. Previously, Nunberg been interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team. In fact, he was interviewed on MSNBC and noted the team’s professionalism and directness. An subpoena was leaked over the weekend that demanded all communications involving most high level people in the campaign, including Manafort, Page, Bannon, President Trump himself, and Roger Stone, who Nunberg sees as a mentor. It would later be revealed that this subpoena was indeed for Nunberg.
Then Monday starts. As a note, if you are having an interview on national television and say “by the way, I think my lawyer is going to dump me right now right now”, things are probably not going well. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First, the Washington Post reported that Nunberg was not going to comply with the subpoena, and that he would not appear before the Grand Jury, scheduled on Friday.
Soon after, he had a phone interview with Katy Tur on MSNBC, and that’s when things took a turn. He was apparently completely offended that he was asked about Roger Stone, saying “Roger is like family to me. I’m not going to do it.” Nunberg’s situation deteriorated from there. He relayed his impression that Mueller has something quite serious on Trump, which is not exactly a surprise, but someone from anywhere near his corner admitting it is new. Asking a reporter interviewing you on live television for legal advice is also probably not the greatest timing in the world, although Tur’s response of “it sounds like contempt of court” seems to be mostly accurate. Nunberg is also under the impression that Trump would have endorsed Clinton over any of his primary rivals if he had lost the nomination.
One of Nunberg’s objections came from the sheer effort of having to comb through his emails, sorting them out so he can give them to the Mueller investigationHe claimed it would take “80 hours”, which he mentioned again and again. This, by the way, is not a reason any grand jury would find acceptable to not comply with such an order, in case one was curious.
He had several more interviews, with continued deterioration, all without ever speaking to any sort of legal counsel, so far as we know. He moved on to CNN, and some local news shows as well. One of the reactions by people who knew him was that he was doing all of these interviews while intoxicated. At one point, after being told an interviewer smelled alcohol on him, he said that he had taken nothing but some antidepressants. He also claimed that Trump knew about his son’s meeting in Trump Tower with Russian agents before it happened, and that Carter Page was certainly colluding.
The interviews ended with one to New York Magazine, where he was personally insulting to members of the press and Trump’s staff. He also admitted he would comply, and said that the basis of his objection was questions about communications with Steve Bannon and Roger Stone.
Again and again Nunberg proclaimed his innocence, saying that he never even spoke to Mr Page, for example. The obvious question of “then why are you objecting to hand over your communications” hung over him like a funeral shroud for the entire day.
By the end of the day, it seemed to dawn on him that he may have titanically screwed up, but whether that realization sticks, and the sheer scope of the consequences, remain to be seen.
Why this happened is impossible to say at the moment. Did Nunberg lie to Special Counsel, and then realized there was no way Mueller didn’t know? Was he trying to throw off news stories, such as the State Department spending none of the $120 million allocated for protecting another attack on the integrity of our elections by Russia, or the New Yorker piece that said that Russia vetoed Mitt Romney as Secretary of State?