Sam Nunberg, the conservative activist and former political adviser to Donald Trump, spent more than six hours on Friday answering questions before a grand jury investigating allegations of collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia.
Nunberg, who threatened earlier this week to defy a subpoena from special counsel Robert Mueller, ignored a throng of reporters and did not comment as he left the federal courthouse building in Washington.
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His attorney, Patrick Brackley, also did not comment.
Nunberg offered the Mueller grand jury a window into multiple areas of Trump’s political career. He worked for Trump starting in 2014 when he was still mulling a New York gubernatorial bid and then into the earliest days of his presidential campaign. He was fired once and then, after being rehired, was fired again in August 2015 over racially insensitive Facebook posts.
Despite being on the outs with Trump, Nunberg has nonetheless remained in close contact with staffers who have also circulated inside the president’s orbit, including Roger Stone and Steve Bannon.
Nunberg’s grand jury appearance capped a whirlwind week that started with his anonymous leaking to the media of a Mueller subpoena for his communications with Trump and other members of the president’s inner circle.
He embarked on a series of erratic, manic interviews — many on live television — in which he vowed to defy the subpoena, speculated that prosecutors had “something” on Trump, made disparaging remarks about several Trump aides, and suggested that prosecutors were seeking to indict Roger Stone, a prominent Trump adviser.
Despite his initial comments about ignoring the subpoena and potentially risking arrest for contempt of court, Nunberg quickly backed down and agreed to comply.
By midweek, he told reporters he was turning over materials Mueller had requested, including emails with Stone and former Trump aides Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Keith Schiller, Corey Lewandowski and Carter Page.
Nunberg’s participation had another twist: Fox Business Network reporter Charles Gasparino said Tuesday that he’d spoken with Nunberg, who reportedly said he was planning to enter substance abuse treatment after his grand jury testimony.
“There’s something, and drinking I believe is a big part of it, and that’s what happened yesterday,” Gasparino said. “That’s where the story actually goes from here.”
Nunberg’s initial defiance prompted all manner of analysis over whether the Mueller grand jury should even be talking with a witness who was headed in for mental health or substance abuse treatment.
“The team may be debating that very question as we speak,” Melinda Haag, a former federal prosecutor who worked with Mueller when he was a U.S. attorney in San Francisco in the late 1990s, said in an interview on Wednesday.
But a defense attorney working with another senior Trump aide predicted that Mueller’s team would bring Nunberg in for the grand jury appearance and begin by peppering him with questions to determine his sobriety, credibility and fitness to answer questions.
The former Trump aide’s public suggestions about skipping the grand jury appearance, the lawyer added, may have been a strong indication to Mueller that he was still worth talking to.
“Honestly, if I’m Mueller, one of the things I’m thinking is, this guy probably does have something to say and he’s making a big stink to spook me into withdrawing the subpoena so there’s no sideshow at the grand jury on Friday,” the lawyer said, adding that Mueller may decide: “‘I’m going to call the guy’s bluff.’”
Nunberg earlier this week said he was hardly a fan of Trump, who had sued his former staffer at one point for $10 million for breaching a confidentiality agreement. They settled the case a month later.
In a January interview, Nunberg said he didn’t expect to be contacted by Mueller. But that may have changed with the mid-January publication of Michael Wolff’s tell-all book, “Fire and Fury.”
The book quotes Nunberg describing everything from his allegiance with Bannon to Trump’s decision to run for president and attempts to explain the Constitution to the rookie political candidate.