OK, I’ll admit it, Sam Nunberg is a guilty pleasure of mine, much like the absurdity of the Jerry Springer Show can be addictive. Nunberg has recently appeared multiple times not only on MSNBC, but on CNN as well, and he’s always entertaining to watch. He’s entertaining for the exact same reason that Carter Page is always entertaining to watch. It’s like listening to a five year old tell you about his day over dinner, you know half of it is bullshit, but the unvarnished passion of the story is charming. Besides, some of the stuff that’s true can be pretty interesting and provocative.
To be honest, I didn’t see anything very much different in Sam’s appearance on The Beat yesterday from his other recent media appearances. He didn’t appear uncoordinated, he grasped and understood the questions he was being asked, and answered appropriately, in coherent sentences.I don’t have smellavision, so I wasn’t able to conduct a sniff field sobriety test the way Erin Burnett did, but I didn’t notice any stumbling or slurring, and his consistency in having the same answer to the same question on multiple occasions led me to believe that he was focused and cogent. In other words, Sam was Sam, telling his stories over dinner.
But don’t make the mistake of getting all caught up in the technicolor extravaganza of the Nunberg spectacle yesterday, because there was something more fundamentally important about it. Forget for a moment what Sam Nunberg said, and how he said it, and just focus for the moment on the fact that he said it at all, much less multiple times.
Look at Nunberg’s overall situation more closely. Sam Nunberg is at the same time both a peripheral character in the Trump Russia investigation, as well as possibly a central character in same. Nunberg is a protege of Roger Stone, much the way Rick Gates was a protege of Paul Manafort,. He was only with the Trump campaign for a short period of time, and left with Stone under less than satisfactory circumstances. He was not involved in the campaign for most of the major events, but he was eyes and ears in the early stages of the campaign, and he is still on close personal terms with both Stone and Steve Bannon, and his personal history with Trump dates back to at least 2011.
We know from his own mouth that Nunberg recently voluntarily submitted to an FBI interview with Mueller’s team, and that he was impressed with both their professionalism, as well as the scope of their knowledge. As of yesterday we also know that Sam Nunberg received a subpoena for a substantial amount of documentation, as well as a subpoena to appear in front of the grand jury on Friday. This was the source of his meltdown.
Forget for a minute about the spectacle and content of the meltdown, and focus on the reality of the meltdown itself. Nunberg has told us repeatedly that the FBI has informed him that he is neither a target, nor a subject of the investigation, he is a witness. And as long as he does not try to lie to, or mislead the FBI investigation, he will remain nothing more than a witness. As long as he is truthful, Nunberg has no personal liability stemming from his conduct.
This is the critical takeaway from yesterday’s spectacle. Sam Nunberg isn’t even a bloody target, he’s just a witness, and he’s under such pressure from this investigation that he blew a mental gasket on multiple national media outlets. Forget the veracity of what he said, what’s important is that he isn’t even a target, and yet felt compelled to publicly defend both himself and his actions. Like Carter Page, Nunberg is a publicity seeker, and he chose a public venue.
But, if a simple subject like Nunberg is under that much FBI pressure, what does that say about the pressure being faced by more central figures such as Hope Hicks, Corey Lewandowski, Steve Bannon, Rick Gates, and especially Donald Trump jr, and Jared Kushner? As either likely subjects, or even targets of the investigation, what kind of pressure do you think that they are feeling on a 24/7/365 basis as we speak?
If Donald Trump was not such a delusional, self contained moon child, this is what should be scaring him shitless, and certainly is scaring his legal team shitless. If a second tier “witness” like Nunberg can become publicly unhinged by the pressure of the investigation, what are people with far more damaging information, a much greater personal and legal risk, and absolutely no personal interest in drawing media attention to themselves, thinking behind the scenes, and possibly saying to Mueller and his minions of doom? Think Paul Manafort. And more importantly, think Jared Kushner, who already knows what the inside of a federal prison looks like, from visiting his father in one, with the noose tightening not only around his possible abuse of power in the White House, but on his entire family’s business empire. Their legal teams are too disciplined, there won’t be any circus like media splashes, only the mushroom cloud of the announcement of indictments or guilty pleas. Don’t touch that dial.