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 other current and former Trump advisers.

Nunberg also called in to MSNBC and CNN to rant in a similar fashion. Asked by Katy Tur whether the prosecutor had something on the president, Nunberg replied: “I think they may. I think that he may have done something during the election. But I don’t know that for sure.” It was not clear — at all — what the “something” was. Later, on CNN, he asserted that Trump knew about the June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower with a Kremlin-linked lawyer. “He talked about it for a week before, and I don’t know why he did this,” Nunberg claimed. “All he had to say was, ‘Yeah, we met with the Russians. The Russians offered us something, and we thought they had something,’ and that was it. I don’t know why he went around trying to hide it when he shouldn’t have.” However, Nunberg had been fired from the campaign in the summer of 2015. It is not clear how he would have any way of knowing what Trump heard. Nunberg’s media cavalcade continued into the evening. More than one cable TV talking head wondered whether Nunberg was under the influence.

As Nunberg self-destructed on TV, he dared Mueller to put him in jail, insulted Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s appearance, called Trump an “idiot” whom he “hates” and said he’d never turn over correspondence with Roger Stone, whom he called his mentor.

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The folks at Lawfare blog pointed out that “federal prosecutors have robust powers to deal with recalcitrant witnesses, and special prosecutors in high-stakes matters involving the president of the United States have particular incentives not to tolerate contumacious conduct on the part of witnesses they subpoena. Nunberg may think it would be ‘funny if they arrested me.’ We suspect he’ll find it less so if and when ‘they’ actually do.”

Then to top it off — making clear that an afternoon and evening of media obsession was irrelevant — Nunberg took it all back. “In an interview Monday night 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.”

Let’s keep several things in mind.

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First, it is far from clear that Nunberg knows much of anything. He was twice fired by Trump, last in August 2015 when the campaign was barely underway. While it is “news” when someone refuses to cooperate with the special counsel, there was something vaguely exploitative about putting an apparently unhinged individual on air hour after hour. One cannot help but be reminded that by saying outrageous things and calling in to one cable TV show or another, Trump managed to soak up all the media oxygen in the presidential primary. Cable TV is not known for restraint. By giving an afternoon of airtime to someone whose credibility — and stability, for that matter — is highly questionable, the “news” becomes very much akin to a Trump reality TV show. What is freakish is not necessarily newsworthy — or worth turning over hours upon hours of cable TV time. Too often cable TV news allows itself to be hijacked by crackpots, liars and fools who have no concrete information to share; the thirst for ratings leads to embarrassing episodes that diminish the media’s credibility.

Second, Nunberg is a media gadfly, perhaps a personally troubled one, but the Russia investigation is deadly serious. With Nunberg’s lawyers making noise that he may not consent to an interview, Mueller has every reason to issue or enforce a subpoena. That means, if necessary, sending Nunberg to jail until he cooperates.

Finally, Nunberg reminds us that Trump’s circle includes a disproportionate number of unhinged, unschooled self-promoters. Whether it was Roger Stone or Stephen K. Bannon or Carter Page, Trump has always attracted characters whom no respectable politician would want around. (And why would that surprise anyone?) Unfortunately, the pattern of hiring outlandish and unqualified characters did not end when Trump took office. Hence, we witness a nonstop conveyor belt delivering one questionable character after another. One flaky aide is replaced by another, until the replacement falls out of favor and must himself be replaced. It is only a matter of time before they all prove to be unruly, incompetent and vengeful. After all, look who hired them.

Read more by Jennifer Rubin:

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