Updated on March 6 at 11:45 a.m. ET
A former campaign aide to Donald Trump appears to have changed his mind and will not fight a subpoena he says he has received in the Russia investigation — after daring special counsel Robert Mueller to arrest him in multiple media appearances.
Sam Nunberg called reporters and TV news programs on Monday and said live that he'd gotten a grand jury subpoena as part of Mueller's investigation asking for communications with other people in the Trump orbit — but that he would not comply.
"Let him arrest me," Nunberg told The Washington Post. "Mr. Mueller should understand I am not going in."
Nunberg then went on multiple MSNBC and CNN shows to publicize his refusal to comply with the Mueller probe. He said he had been summoned to appear before a grand jury on Friday but would not, nor would he produce evidence.
What followed was a rambling, at-times incoherent series of exchanges as Nunberg asked for legal advice, opined about whether Trump colluded with Russia, and relitigated an internal Trump campaign power struggle from 2015 — all live, on the air, in real time.
"I think that [Trump] may have done something during the election," Nunberg told MSNBC's Katy Tur, adding later, "I don't know that for sure."
"I'm not cooperating," Nunberg said. "Arrest me."
Nunberg is a lawyer who has been admitted to the New York state bar after graduating from Touro Law Center on Long Island, N.Y. All the same, he asked for legal advice from various cable news show hosts: "What do you think Mueller's going to do to me?" he asked Tur.
"Do you think I should cooperate?" Nunberg asked CNN's Jake Tapper. "Why do I have to produce every email? I talk to [former Trump advisers] Steve Bannon and Roger Stone eight times a day."
"Sometimes life and special prosecutors are not fair," Tapper quipped.
Discussing the request from the Mueller team in an interview with the Associated Press later on Monday, Nunberg said he was "going to end up cooperating with them."
In the Whitewater investigation during the Clinton administration, an Arkansas business associate of Bill Clinton's, Susan McDougal, spent 18 months in prison for not complying with a grand jury subpoena. McDougal spoke about Nunberg to the Washington Post on Monday, advising him, "If you don't want to testify, don't go on television and do these teaser interviews."
Nunberg also accused former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page of having played a role in the foreign attack on the election.
"I believe Carter Page was colluding with the Russians," Nunberg said on CNN.
Page was a junior foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. He traveled to Moscow twice in 2016 and was the subject of surveillance by the U.S. intelligence community. Page stridently denies doing anything wrong.
He and Nunberg never overlapped on the Trump campaign. The campaign fired Nunberg in the summer of 2015, when Trump's candidacy was still in its infancy. Business Insider had written about Nunberg's racially charged Facebook posts from years prior, and the nascent political organization jettisoned him.
At the time, Nunberg's firing was viewed as part of a broader struggle between Trump aides Corey Lewandowski and Roger Stone. Nunberg decided to relitigate this on Monday.
"Corey wanted to push us out. That's the reality. Now Trump loves Corey. I don't know why he does," Nunberg said.
By December of that year, Nunberg was saying that Trump's campaign was being led in the wrong direction and predicted that Trump would not win the Republican nomination. By March 2016, Nunberg had endorsed Trump opponent Ted Cruz. The drama continued into the summer of 2016, when Trump sued his former aide for $10 million, alleging Nunberg broke his nondisclosure agreement. After a time, that lawsuit was settled.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
One of President Trump's former campaign advisers says he won't comply with the Russia investigation. Sam Nunberg worked for the president in the very early stages. He said today he has received a subpoena from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. And he says he is not going to do what it orders him to do. In fact, he said so in a few press and TV appearances today. Here he is on MSNBC.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
SAM NUNBERG: When I get a subpoena like this, the president's right, it's a witch hunt. And I'm not going to cooperate. What do I have to spend 80 hours going over my emails?
KELLY: NPR's Tim Mak has been covering this story today. He joins me now. Hey, Tim.
TIM MAK, BYLINE: Hey, there.
KELLY: First of all, who is Sam Nunberg? I confess I had never heard of him before today.
MAK: Well, he's an individual who worked with the Trump organization for four years, then later the Trump campaign in its very infancy. He was fired in the summer of 2015 when it emerged that he had written some racially charged Facebook posts years prior to that. He's been bouncing around as someone who speaks and gives commentary on what the Trump campaign was like and what it's, you know, what the organization was up to in the early stages.
And today he just had a total meltdown across several networks. On MSNBC, on two shows on CNN, he's asking for legal advice, even though he's a lawyer, admitted to the bar in the state...
KELLY: He's a lawyer?
MAK: He's a lawyer.
MAK: And he's asking people on television, hey, you know, should I comply with these subpoenas? And then on the other hand saying, I'm absolutely not going to comply with any subpoenas issued by the special counsel.
KELLY: Yeah, I was flicking back and forth between channels today and every channel I flicked to, he was all over it. What does he say the special counsel wants? Do we know what's in the subpoena?
MAK: Well, he's been very clear. And it appears that he sent the subpoena to numerous people in the news media. The subpoena's asking for communications between him and other folks in the Trump campaign, including Steve Bannon, the former White House aide to Donald Trump, and Roger Stone, who's been an adviser to Donald Trump for many years.
And Sam Nunberg also was asked to come and testify before a grand jury on Friday. And he's saying, I won't do it.
KELLY: Why not?
MAK: He's saying, why should I have to?
MAK: And he even taunted the special counsel in saying, come and arrest me. I don't care.
KELLY: He has been legally subpoenaed. What are the penalties if he just doesn't show up?
MAK: Well, there are a lot of penalties to include jail time. The last person to refuse a subpoena of this kind before a grand jury was an individual who was subpoenaed during the Whitewater investigation during the Clinton administration. And she spent 18 months in jail. So this is no small matter here when you're talking about a special counsel and a subpoena. And he's really rattling a cage here.
KELLY: Yeah. What might it tell us about what Mueller knows, what direction he's taking his investigation in that they are asking to speak to someone whose knowledge of the Trump campaign would have ended way back in 2015?
MAK: Well, it's really hard to kind of to guess what Mueller is getting at here. That whole office is so opaque. But what it does tell us is that the scope of his inquiry is pretty broad. It goes back to at least 2015, maybe prior to that. And Sam Nunberg has had a lot of communications with top Trump advisers. He said himself today, oh, I talked to Roger Stone and Steve Bannon eight times a day.
Why should I give up my communications with them?
KELLY: NPR's Tim Mak, thank you for that very interesting reporting.
MAK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.