Anybody watching cable news last night probably saw Sam Nunberg, hopping from channel to channel, daring Robert Mueller to arrest him, casually throwing other members of the Trump campaign under the bus, and who may possibly have been drunk the whole time. To some it was shocking, to others it was amusing, but now that the smoke has cleared and we can see the wreckage, almost everybody had the same question: Just who is this guy, anyway? And what could he possibly have been trying to achieve?
- Nunberg was an aide on Trump’s campaign: Nunberg, a minor figure on Mitt Romney’s 2008 campaign, apparently landed in Trump’s orbit via right-wing news pundit (and lawyer currently assisting Trump on the Russia probe) Jay Sekulow. Sekulow hired Nunberg in his attempt to prevent Park51, a mosque and Islamic cultural center, from opening up near the former site of the World Trade Center. During the process, Nunberg met Roger Stone, who seems to have made a deep mark on Nunberg, since he called him his “mentor” and “father” on air.
- But Nunberg didn’t last long, getting fired, rehired, and fired again: It’s a long, convoluted story, but essentially, Nunberg got Trump to participate in an article that turned out to be highly critical of the campaign, got fired for that, was rehired, and when the media got a look at racist Facebook posts that Nunberg oddly claimed someone else wrote, he was fired again. Either way, he was out the door for good by July 2016, when Trump sued him over violating a non-disclosure agreement. Nunberg was alleged to have leaked details of Corey Lewandowski’s screaming match with Hope Hicks.
- So, why is a minor figure having such an enormous, public, freak-out? Theories range from Nunberg realizing he’s facing jail time and snapping under the pressure, to sending up an emergency flare for Donald Trump that he’s in serious legal jeopardy in the only place he knows Trump will see it, to simple attention-hogging for some laughs. He also may have been mixing alcohol and antidepressants, which is dangerous. But one thing he kept returning to was that he wasn’t going to do anything, or turn over any emails, that might harm Roger Stone, and he seems keenly interested in avoiding any discussion of Carter Page, who doesn’t do well on air or under oath himself.
In the end only two people — Nunberg and Robert Mueller — likely know what’s going on here. Neither are likely to lay out their motives or the data behind them. But there is one very important point Nunberg should probably consider going forward. Repeatedly, Mueller’s investigation has shown a deep, broad access to information, particularly email. When he indicted thirteen Russian trolls, the filing mentioned the investigation had looked at their personal emails to friends and family. In other words, there’s an excellent chance Mueller already has Sam Nunberg’s emails, and no amount of cable news theatrics can erase that fact.