Sam Nunberg’s Epic Meltdown

The former Trump campaign official made the most of his 15 minutes of fame.

If, like me, you’d never heard of Sam Numberg before now, he made the most of his 15 minutes of fame.

WaPo (“Former Trump aide Sam Nunberg called before grand jury, says he will refuse to go“):

Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg publicly defied the Justice Department special counsel on Monday, announcing in an extraordinary series of media interviews that he had been subpoenaed to appear in front of a federal grand jury investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election but that he will refuse to go.

“Let him arrest me,” Nunberg told The Washington Post in his first stop on a media blitz, saying he does not plan to comply with a subpoena from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to hand over emails and other documents related to President Trump and nine current and former Trump advisers.

“Mr. Mueller should understand I am not going in on Friday” to the grand jury, he added. It is unclear what actions Mueller might take if Nunberg does not appear.

In a remarkable act of rebellion, Nunberg seized the national media spotlight for much of Monday afternoon to denounce Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt” and to detail what he said he had learned about the probe from his private interview last month with Mueller’s team. He at times sounded nervous and self-doubting, openly questioning his legal fate. And by Monday evening, he signaled a possible shift, telling the Associated Press he might cooperate with Mueller after all.

Nunberg, a top political staffer for Trump in the run-up to the campaign, was fired in 2015 and has since existed on the fringes of Trump’s orbit as a consultant. White House officials on Monday attacked his credibility and characterized his media appearances as unhinged.

Buzzfeed (“Sam Nunberg, A Former Trump Adviser, Denied Drinking After A Series Of Jaw-Dropping TV Interviews“):

In a series of increasingly bizarre interviews that culminated with a question about whether he had been drinking, former Trump aide Sam Nunberg said Monday that he would not comply with a subpoena from a grand jury that is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Nunberg participated in multiple televised, sometimes meandering interviews on MSNBC, NY1, and CNN, repeatedly calling demands to hand over emails related to the investigation and testify before a grand jury “ridiculous.” He also speculated that special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Russia investigation, might have incriminating information about Trump and added that the president’s team is “doing a terrible job.”

Nunberg was fired from Trump’s campaign in August 2015 after racist Facebook messages that he allegedly wrote surfaced. Nunberg told media outlets on Monday that he had been subpoenaed to provide documents and to appear in Washington, DC, on March 9 to testify before the grand jury.

“Screw that,” he told Gloria Borger on CNN.

“I’m objecting to it because I shouldn’t have to spend that much time,” he later told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “I shouldn’t have to go back down to a grand jury. I spent — I’m spending a lot of money on legal fees. A lot of other people are. And, 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. You have to explain that one to me, ’cause I’ll never understand it.”

Later in the evening, talking to Ari Melber at MSNBC, Nunberg said that Trump was “the most disloyal person [you’re] ever gonna meet.”

The comments were among many Nunberg made Monday that prompted widespread speculation about his mental state. During Nunberg’s final televised interview of the day, CNN anchor Erin Burnett referenced that speculation, and asked if he had been drinking during the day.

“Talking to you, I have smelled alcohol on your breath,” Burnett said.

“Well I have not had a drink,” Nunberg replied.

Asked moments later if Nunberg had taken “anything else,” he said he had not consumed anything besides his antidepressant medication.

“They can say whatever they want. I don’t care,” Nunberg added about rumors that he could have been intoxicated.

Earlier in that same interview, Nunberg had criticized White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, saying she “should shut her fat mouth.” Nunberg repeatedly targeted Sanders on Monday, and during his interview on MSNBC appeared to threaten the press secretary.

“And I’m warning her by the way to shut her mouth,” Nunberg said.

Mediaite (“Sam Nunberg: Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro, and Hannity Will ‘Be Very Embarrassed’ Over Trump/Russia“):

It has been all about Sam Nunberg on cable news today following his announcement that he wasn’t going to appear in front of a federal grand jury on the Russia investigation, essentially snubbing his nose at Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

During his interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett, he reiterated his belief that Mueller has something on President Donald Trump. After telling Burnett that he thinks it may have something to do with Trump’s businesses, Nunberg took the opportunity to take a shot at pro-Trump cable news hosts.

“I just got a feeling he did something,” he told Burnett. “By the way, you’re going to be fine when it comes out what he did but people like Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro — they’re gonna be very embarrassed.”

Daily Beast (“‘What The F*ck?’ Former Trump Aide Sam Nunberg’s Mueller Meltdown Leaves Friends Petrified“):

Sam Nunberg, an early political adviser to Donald Trump, had a very public meltdown on Monday afternoon, repeatedly daring special counsel Robert Mueller to greenlight his arrest and insinuating that his old boss, the president, did indeed do “something” wrong during the campaign.

“You know [Trump] knew about it,” Nunberg said at one point during an interview with CNN, of the infamous Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and a Russian lawyer. “He was talking about it a week before…I don’t know why he went around trying to hide it.”

Rarely, if ever, has a political operative acted so brazenly when facing the very real prospect of being tossed in jail. Nunberg seemed not to care about how the chips would fall. But several of his friends told The Daily Beast they were concerned that he was putting himself in severe legal jeopardy by going on multiple live cable-news programs Monday afternoon.

They also said that they were worried Nunberg had been drinking prior to dialing in to MSNBC and CNN.

Starting Monday morning, Nunberg began calling several close associates that he was flatly refusing, at this time, to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Three Nunberg friends said they walked away from those conversations fearful that he was “drinking again” and was about to embark on a personal tailspin. They didn’t know it would play out on daytime TV.

CNN’s Chris Cizzilla lists “The 42 craziest quotes from Sam Nunberg’s absolutely bonkers CNN interviews.“  They’re worth checking out in their entirety, as are the video clips at the Buzzfeed and Mediaite links.

Aside from the comedic value—which is yuuge—this isn’t the best look for Team Trump.



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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mark Ivey says:

    Whiskey&Cocaine locker room talk..

  2. I watched several of the clips last night–just incredible. I don’t think I have ever seen anything quite like it.

  3. dmhlt says:

    You just don’t see such epic contumacious behavior like that very often.

  4. Franklin says:

    Wish I had the time to view it right now, I need a laugh. From the quotes, it seems he may either be not too bright (which is apparently a requirement for getting hired by Trump) or he has been abusing some type of meds, or both. That’s just my quick impression.

    To be honest, I kind of believe him when he acts like he doesn’t know much about Trump’s missteps. And he was fired in August 2015, that was a while ago.

  5. JohnMcC says:

    In vino veritas.

  6. teve tory says:

    I hope Fox & Friends talked about this this morning. Trump will go apeshït on Twitter.

  7. MarkedMan says:



    Well, that’s my vocabulary word of the day….

  8. mattb says:

    Trump has proven again that he only hires, then fires, then rehires, and then refires the best people.

  9. MarkedMan says:


    To be honest, I kind of believe him when he acts like he doesn’t know much about Trump’s missteps

    Yeah, but I didn’t get the impression this was about Trump. FWIW, to me this seemed like someone who realizes the noose is closing on him personally and who then decides to mix prescription drugs with some drinks and start visiting TV studios.

    Dashiel Hammett used the term “Blood Simple” to describe how immersion in murder and crime seemed to addle people, making them act in obviously stupid and self destructive ways.

  10. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Watched him interviewed by Ari Melber on MSNBC last night while I was working out.
    You could see the abject fear in his eyes when two former prosecutors told him point blank that he would indeed go to jail if he refused to cooperate. I knew then he would change his mind…and apparently, after sobering up, he did.
    If anything defines the Trumpies…it’s a lack of conviction in whatever principles they may have.
    I do feel bad for these folks…Trump will skate free but they are going to be ruined by legal fees. Pick who you choose to blindly support, carefully.

  11. Blue Galangal says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: I saw on Twitter that poor Mike Flynn is having to sell his Virginia* house to pay his legal fees.

    *Also seen on Twitter: a suggestion that all people who own more than one house are required to make their tax returns public.

  12. al-Ameda says:

    I watched this bizarre interview last night.
    My thought was, I hope he’s joking because, if he is not, he needs help.

  13. Kathy says:

    I hope he knows something incriminating, because there’s no way the Orange Clown will choose to grace him a pardon.

  14. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Mark Ivey: Cocaine is a helluva drug. – Rick James

  15. MarkedMan says:

    Going on a limb here, but my guess is that he tried to cut a deal but found out he didn’t have enough to buy him anything. And he knows from the negotiations that Mueller has him dead to rights.

  16. Kathy says:

    Serious question: if a federal prosecutor subpoenas you to a grand jury in a different city, not where you live, and you can’t afford to travel there, does the government pay your travel expenses?

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: Just a guess but I suspect yes. In handcuffs on a federal prison bus/train/plane.

  18. Mister Bluster says:

    Sam Nunberg reversed course and decided to cooperate with Mueller after getting on-set legal advice during one of his meltdowns
    Stamford Advocate

    When Nunberg complained that the subpoena meant he had to spend “80 hours” going through documents and communications to hand over to Mueller, Wiley said, “You’d rather spend possibly a year in jail than 80 hours going through documents?”

    What a difference a day made

    “I’m going to cooperate with whatever they want,” Nunberg told CNN Tuesday in a phone interview.