Sam Nunberg is known as the “reporter whisperer” for his eagerness to dish with the press and see his name in print. Now it seems his 15 minutes of fame will end quietly, under oath and behind closed doors.
Nunberg, a Republican fixer and former aide to Donald Trump during his presidential run, sent the media into a frenzy on Monday when, in a burst of bluster worthy of his boss, he said he was going to defy a subpoena to testify in Robert Mueller’s investigation of the campaign.
Those who know him from his early life on New York City’s Upper East Side say they are amused but not surprised by his headline-grabbing behavior. In Trump, Nunberg found a kindred spirit who was also a role model. The two share a lust for the spotlight and a lack of impulse control.
Nunberg’s parents are both lawyers, known for being committed Republicans. He attended the Ramaz School, a highly selective Modern Orthodox Jewish day school that is only a few blocks from his childhood home. At Ramaz, he seems to have developed a reputation for telling tall tales and stretching the truth on his social connections.
“Anything that came out of his mouth you’d have to take with a grain of salt,” a former classmate said, recalling the teenage Nunberg. The classmate, who asked not to be named, said, “That’s about what I would expect out of him,” of Nunberg’s on-air antics.
Nunberg’s media appearances began after The Washington Post reported that Mueller had subpoenaed Nunberg to testify before a grand jury this Friday.
In erratic statements for MSNBC and CNN, Nunberg both defended and derided Trump — a man who has hired and fired Nunberg three times. Speaking to MSNBC’s Katy Tur, he vowed to fight a subpoena to testify for Mueller’s investigation, and mused that Trump “might have done something during the election.”
Later, speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper, Nunberg dared Mueller to “arrest me.” That evening, CNN’s Erin Burnett told Nunberg she smelled alcohol on his breath. Nunberg has denied multiple times being intoxicated during the interviews.
Nunberg rounded out his day of incendiary comments by chatting with a New York magazine reporter. In the late-night interview, he suggested that Jared Kushner — whom he called Trump’s “stupid-ass son-in-law” — may have taken money from the Trump campaign.
By Tuesday afternoon, Nunberg had backtracked. “I am going to cooperate with whatever they want,” he told CNN in reference to Mueller’s subpoena. He told CNN he would cooperate with Mueller’s investigation fully and give testimony to the grand jury this Friday. He also told a Fox Business reporter that he intended to get treatment after his scheduled testimony.
just spoke w @NunbergSam he told me he’s fully cooperating now w Mueller’s team and he’s intending to go get treatment following his grand jury appearance on Friday— Charles Gasparino (@CGasparino) March 6, 2018
After Ramaz, Nunberg attended McGill University and received a law degree from the Touro Law Center on Long Island. He then held brief positions at Washington, D.C., think tanks, including the American Center for Law and Justice, which is run by Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow.
Nunberg eventually met Roger Stone, the political operative who played a large role in shaping Trump’s unapologetic and offensive campaign style. Nunberg latched on to both of them. He frequently refers to Stone, a legendary “dirty trickster”-style operative, as a mentor. He once told the Atlantic journalist McKay Coppins that he “loved Donald like an uncle.”
In an interview with the Forward last July, he seemed to revel in the president’s media obsession.
“He’s addicted to media, it’s his drug of choice,” Nunberg said. “He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t do drugs. This is his drug.”
Nunberg has demonstrated his Trumpian flare for vengeance by raging about former the Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who Nunberg believe played a large role in getting him fired the second time.
And the second time Trump fired him, he’d made a series of racist Facebook posts. In one of them, he referred to the Rev. Al Sharpton’s daughter as a “N- - -.” Nunberg has since apologized to Sharpton.
Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic political consultant, said that Nunberg “operates on instinct” and doesn’t have “anyone in his corner telling him anything.” He added that the young operative is a nice guy, and predicted that his role in the ongoing Trump-Russia saga has come to a close.
“Large drama, minor player,” Sheinkopf said. “Moment in the sun, goodbye Charlie.”
Jeffrey Boxer contributed reporting to this article.