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Former Trump aide Nunberg plays a risky game in Russia probe

Sam Nunberg, a former Trump aide, vowed to defy a special counsel subpoena, saying, "Let him arrest me." Then reality started to set in.

The drama began yesterday afternoon, when the Washington Post  reported that Sam Nunberg, an on-again-off-again former aide to Donald Trump, had been subpoenaed to appear on Friday in front of a federal grand jury investigating the Russia scandal. Nunberg said at the time that he intended to defy the subpoena.

"Let him arrest me," Nunberg said. "Mr. Mueller should understand I am not going in on Friday."

In the hours that followed, the former Trump aide participated in a series of amazing interviews, including appearances with MSNBC's Katy Tur and Ari Melber, in which he defended his posture and made a series of provocative claims, all while making clear he had no intention of honoring the subpoena he received from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team.

The likelihood of Nunberg going to jail seemed quite high -- right up until he signaled a change in direction.

After a day spent belligerently defying special counsel Robert Mueller, former Donald Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg appeared to reverse himself Monday night and said he likely will cooperate with a subpoena seeking campaign documents related to the Russia investigation. [...]Monday night, Nunberg, who said he still hadn't talked with his attorney, told NBC News that he would probably cooperate with Mueller in the end.

Just so we're all clear, Nunberg created quite a public spectacle yesterday, taking pride in his refusal to comply with a federal subpoena, only to end the day conceding that he'll likely end up complying after all.

He added that he doesn't "want to make it easy" on the special counsel's team, though I'm not at all sure what that means. There's an ongoing criminal investigation and there's nothing to suggest Nunberg is in a position to dictate the terms of his cooperation. He can show up and plead the Fifth, but he can't tell federal investigators to limit the scope of their inquiry.

And that leads to a few lines of inquiry.

First, a lot can happen between now and Friday, and it's hard to say with confidence whether Nunberg will change his mind again about cooperating with a grand jury subpoena. As Rachel noted on the show last night, if he refuses to comply, it's entirely possible he'll be arrested. ("I think it would be funny if they arrested me," Nunberg said yesterday during one of his MSNBC interviews.)

Second, Nunberg said all kinds of interesting things during his cable-news tour yesterday, including raising the possibility that Mueller "may" have something on the president. I'd recommend caution before embracing those claims at face value.

And third, it's not altogether clear why, exactly, Nunberg has expressed such vigorous reluctance about complying with the subpoena. He raised complaints about the time it would take to pull the relevant materials together for the special counsel's team, but if the former Trump aide has several hours to chat with journalists about his plans, it's hardly a stretch to think he has also several hours to prepare subpoenaed documents.

The drama continues. Watch this space.