Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg, who threatened earlier this week to defy a subpoena from special counsel Robert Mueller, showed up Friday morning at the federal courthouse in Washington, where he appeared set to answer prosecutors' questions in the ongoing probe of alleged collusion between Trump aides and Russia.
Nunberg faced a throng of cameras as he arrived just after 9 a.m. along with his attorney, Patrick Brackley.
Other grand jury witnesses have managed to get into the courthouse in recent months without using the building's public entrances, but Nunberg walked in with the the usual collection of visitors and stood patiently in a security line. He braved a gauntlet of reporters inside as he and his attorney headed up to the third floor, where the grand juries meet behind closed doors.
Asked if he planned to speak after his appearance, Nunberg said, "No."
Mueller's prosecutors were not seen in the courthouse Friday morning, but they, too, have taken to entering through an underground garage.
Nunberg’s arrival at the courthouse 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.
The conservative activist, who was fired from the Trump campaign, then 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 prominent Trump adviser Roger Stone.
Despite Nunberg's initial talk of ignoring the subpoena and potentially risking arrest for contempt of court, he soon backed down and agreed to comply. But the story took yet another twist Tuesday, when Fox Business Network reporter Charles Gasparino said he’d spoken with Nunberg, who reportedly said he was planning to enter substance abuse treatment after his grand jury testimony Friday.
“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 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 flirtation with 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.”