To badly misquote Oscar Wilde, when ONE former staffer telephones reporters and cable news stations in order to go on a prolonged, alarming, defiant rant, it seems like a misfortune. But when it happens MULTIPLE times, it starts to look like carelessness. It starts to look like President’s Trump’s idea of assembling a great team of “the best people” was, specifically, “the best people at going on cable news in moments of crisis, sticking their feet in their mouths, choking on those feet, suggesting that the feet definitely did something with the Russians during the campaign, and making everyone even more alarmed than they were previously.”
Sam Nunberg (a man who, by his own admission, has not spoken to Trump since before he took office, and who left the campaign in 2015) spent all of Monday ranting — to MSNBC’s Katy Tur, to CNN’s Jake Tapper, in print to The Post’s Josh Dawsey, to Politico, back on MSNBC to Ari Melber, and on CNN to Erin Burnett — that he is not going to comply with the subpoena he has received from Robert S. Mueller III, on the grounds that his time is valuable and he does not want to have to go through all his emails with Roger Stone because it would take 80 hours, and he values his time, but also because Roger Stone is like a father to him, and he will DIE for Roger Stone before he shares those emails, although maybe he will share the emails, but he won’t be arrested, probably, because do you think Mueller will really do that? Mueller had better come and get him if that’s the case, but he won’t really do that, would he? Did they ask Hillary Clinton this when they were talking about her emails? What was that? No, he has not been drinking. He doesn’t care. Screw this investigation — it is a witch hunt, and he does not feel like cooperating. Anyway, Trump didn’t collude. He couldn’t collude. How could he? Trump can’t keep his expletiving mouth shut, Nunberg told Politico.
It seems to be an affliction the two of them share.
There’s a weird ritual where at some point between being employed by the Trump campaign and bursting into flame as you enter the atmosphere, you feel compelled to call up members of the media and say as many outrageous things as possible, and Monday was Sam Nunberg’s day to do that.
He told Melber on MSNBC, “Mr. Mueller, if he wants to send me to jail, he can send me to jail, and then I’ll laugh about it and I’ll make a bigger spectacle than I am on your show right now.”
Which would be hard. I have never seen someone so belligerently demanding to be taken to jail. It is hard to conceive of the weird cocktail of privilege, cluelessness and, if Burnett’s report of alcohol on his breath is correct, actual cocktails, that produced this kind of bizarre rant.
“Roger did not do anything! Roger was treated terribly by Donald Trump,” who is “the most disloyal person you’re ever going to meet.” His issue with the proceedings? “I don’t think this is fair.” But “I think Carter Page colluded with the Russians, and I’ve told you that before.”
“I’d have to sit there and save everything!” Nunberg exclaimed, on one of the channels that he was on, which for a while appeared to be every channel. I understand a reluctance to go through the contents of your emails. I am reluctant to share the contents of my emails with myself. The thought of having to go through your inbox, even for a situation that is not complying with the wishes of the special counsel, fills me with dread and alarm.
Like most things about the Trump administration, this would be hilariously funny if it were a performance, but instead it is a real thing that is happening, and it means that this human being was deemed A Guy Who Should Be Put In Charge Of Things By Donald Trump at some point. One of the key onboarding questions for the Trump campaign seems to have been: In moments of stress, do you think it is a good idea to go on cable? Is your tenuous grasp of how grand juries work only matched by your deep reverence for Roger Stone? Would we still hire you if we read through everything you had posted on social media? If yes to the first two and no to the third, the job is yours.
I understand that presidential campaigns, like other giant balls of hot gas, tend to find stray masses drawn into their orbit. But usually they have enough other things in their orbit, too, to prevent random bits of debris from disintegrating Russian satellites from proclaiming themselves your primary moons. This is literally why you try to have some kind of organization in place before you run for office: So that when someone like Page or Nunberg shows up and wants a position, you can politely decline. Not the Trump campaign! Its M.O. seems to be have been to find every man in a three-state radius whom no one else would hire because they sensed that they were just One Bad Day away from going full Tiger Blood Charlie Sheen, and then surround the candidate with them and put them in charge of things.
Having other people around whose response to moments of stress was to rush to telephone cable news and rant incoherently for hours at a time must, no doubt, have soothed Trump. The bad news is that the entire campaign seems to have been made up of folks like this, and now they are all on television. The bad news is that every conspiracy theorist who ever refused to stop talking to you and made you think, “Gee, I hope you have the support network that you need,” wandered off immediately and found jobs in the Trump campaign, on the Trump transition team, or in the Trump administration. The bad news is that this does not seem to have been the support network they needed.
This is a long, bad joke. This starts as a joke and then you think about what it means and you stop laughing.
The sad thing about this administration is that if someone said to you, “Hey, remember when that former Trump staffer went on that long, weird rant to a member of the media, and at first everyone was amused, and then they became increasingly concerned that something was Not Right with him?,” you would have to ask them to clarify which one.
“I am talking about the guy who did not have a lot of anatomical suggestions for Steve Bannon,” you would clarify. “Not Carter Page, though, the other one.” And even then you might get it wrong.