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Ex-Trump aide Sam Nunberg changes tune, says he will cooperate with Mueller probe

Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the Russia investigation, leaves the Capitol in Washington, June 21, 2017. Sam Nunberg, a onetime campaign aide to Donald Trump who recently met with investigators for the special counsel, said on March 5, 2018, that he was subpoenaed to go before a grand jury that coming Friday, but that he was unlikely to appear. (Doug Mills/The New York Times/Copyright 2018/New York Times)

Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg said Tuesday that he plans to comply with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's subpoena, an abrupt turnabout from just 24 hours earlier, when Nunberg publicly defied the Justice Department in an extraordinary day-long media blitz.

In a brief interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday, Nunberg said he plans to comply with Mueller's subpoena - part of the special counsel's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election - and had changed his mind after receiving public and unsolicited advice from Maya Wiley, a lawyer with whom he appeared on Ari Melber's MSNBC show Monday evening.

"She's very, very smart," Nunberg said, referring to Wiley, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's former chief counsel. "She made a compelling case to me, and the case was that they have to do this for their investigation, and it was a fair point."

Nunberg began his media whirlwind Monday with The Washington Post, declaring, "Let him arrest me," as he explained why he did not plan to hand over emails and other documents related to President Donald Trump and nine current and former Trump advisers, which Mueller had requested.

But by the time Nunberg appeared on Melber's show Monday evening, his behavior had grown increasingly erratic - captivating everyone from West Wing aides to members of the media, and alarming some of his friends, who called him and begged him to stop.

Nunberg appeared on the show with Wiley as another panelist. Wiley several times spoke directly to him, seeming to offer free legal advice. Addressing a concern of his, she said he was not protecting his self-described mentor, Roger Stone, by refusing to cooperate, and urged him to "go testify."

When Nunberg said the subpoena was costing him 80 hours of time as he tried to sort through the documents and emails Mueller had requested, Wiley interjected, somewhat incredulously: "You'd rather spend possibly a year in jail than 80 hours going through documents?"

"I think your family wants you home for Thanksgiving and I think you should testify," she said at another point.

By Tuesday morning, Nunberg seemed to have come around to her viewpoint.

Told that Nunberg said Wiley was the reason he had changed his mind, the lawyer laughed, and said she was happy that he seemed to be following better legal advice now.

"If it encouraged him to go to speak to his attorney, I am happy we prevailed upon him a more rational path," Wiley said. "I did not think it was going to be a therapy session, but I think it became a therapy session."

Echoing a sentiment Nunberg expressed - that he was frustrated by what he viewed as Mueller's overly cumbersome request, which he said was causing him to fall behind on his other work - Wiley said that Nunberg "was in a difficult position and had not thought it through.

"I don't consider [it] as giving him legal advice," she said. "I was just pointing out some of the errors in his thinking."

But, she added, Nunberg could change his mind yet again: "With Sam, one needs to pay attention hour by hour," Wiley added.

Nunberg, a top political staffer for Trump in the run-up to the campaign, was fired in 2015 for racially insensitive Facebook posts and has since existed on the fringes of Trump's orbit as a consultant. White House officials attacked his credibility Monday and characterized his media appearances as unhinged.

On Tuesday, after explaining why he'd reversed himself, Nunberg then said he had to end the interview: He didn't have time to chat, he said, because he was busy working his way through Mueller's request.

Author information: Josh Dawsey is a White House reporter for The Washington Post. Ashley Parker is a White House reporter for The Washington Post. The Washington Post's Philip Rucker contributed to this report.