Nunberg to AP: Never mind

Or perhaps more accurately, Sam Nunberg to Robert Mueller: Never mind. During a bizarre series of media appearances and rambling declarations of defiance and accusations yesterday, the former adviser to Donald Trump had one consistent message — that he would refuse to cooperate with a subpoena issued by the grand jury for documents required by the special counsel. “Screw that,” Nunberg told CNN’s Gloria Borger.

Consider that unscrewed, at least for the moment. Nunberg capped off his wild ride by telling the Associated Press that he’d end up cooperating with the subpoena. Probably.

A former Trump campaign aide spent much of Monday promising to defy a subpoena from special counsel Robert Mueller, even throwing down the challenge to “arrest me,” then backed off his defiance by saying he would probably cooperate in the end.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Sam Nunberg said he was angry over Mueller’s request to have him appear in front of a grand jury and turn over thousands of emails and other communications with other ex-officials, among them his mentor Roger Stone. But he predicted that, in the end, he’d find a way to comply.

“I’m going to end up cooperating with them,” he said.

So why all the drama? Nunberg wants to negotiate with Mueller on the scope of the request:

“I’m happy if the scope changes and if they send me a subpoena that doesn’t include Carter Page,” he said, insisting the two had never spoken.

He also said he believes the only reason he’s being asked to testify before the grand jury is to provide information that would be used against Stone, a longtime Trump adviser, which he says he won’t do.

Yeah, well, good luck with that. If you want to negotiate the scope of a grand jury subpoena, you call up Plato Cacheris or Robert Bennett and pay them to negotiate with Mueller. Going on television to emote all over the place won’t cut it. In fact, going public with complaints about your grand jury subpoena is one sure-fire way to make investigators even more interested in your documentation and more convinced you’re trying to hide something. That’s why the first rule of Subpoena Club is that you don’t talk about Subpoena Club — and the second rule is …

However, Nunberg’s media tour yesterday raises another question, which I raise in my column for The Week. Has he destroyed his credibility enough to eliminate any value he might have to Mueller as a witness? And a better question — did he have any value as a witness to eliminate?

Nunberg, a relatively peripheral Trump campaign figure, announced he had received a subpoena from Mueller’s grand jury. In a series of bizarre, whiplash-inducing interviews to follow, Nunberg at times declared President Trump both guilty and innocent of collusion, accused other campaign figures of playing footsie with the Russians, and pledged to tear up his subpoena on live television. Then, by the end of the day, he had backtracked completely, saying he’d cooperate with the investigation. …

It’s tough to believe that Mueller would be able to make much of Nunberg, regardless of his antics on Monday. Nunberg’s connection to the campaign ended well before Mueller’s interest in records begins. The subpoenas demand communications starting from November 2015, but Trump fired Nunberg in July 2015. Plus, his media tour this week has undermined whatever credibility he had as a witness. While we still don’t know what Mueller might have uncovered, nothing that has been made public shows an underlying predicate for criminal collusion or obstruction of justice, at least not on Trump’s part — and the lists in these subpoenas suggest perhaps that’s true of the other suspects in the media’s collusion theories.

If Nunberg keeps calling in to media talk shows, though, he might earn a contempt charge at the very least, if he doesn’t incriminate himself in other ways — and you can bet Mueller’s keeping close tabs for that very purpose.

One might even wonder whether that was Nunberg’s intention all along — to make himself worthless as a witness. That would presume a level of strategy that wasn’t exactly in evidence on Nunberg’s media tour yesterday. The self-immolation was undeniable, but the intentionality and strategic value wasn’t.

At the very least, Nunberg certainly entertained a lot of people yesterday. He’d better hope that Mueller was one of them. In the meantime, here’s Emily Litella wrapping up the Nunberg-defies-subpoena story: