The White House became the political equivalent of a “New York-accented reality television show” last night, said the Washington Post, as Donald Trump’s new communications director — Anthony Scaramucci, attacked White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus.
In a foulmouthed rant, Scaramucci accused Priebus of leaking to the media about behind-the-scenes maneuverings and his own personal finances.
In an interview with the New Yorker published on Thursday, Scaramucci called Priebus a “fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac”.
He claimed that the former Republican Party chairman will “be asked to resign very shortly” in a sweep that he warned could eventually involve much of the staff.
The level of candor and raging frustration Scaramucci expressed yet again stunned a Washington political class that has become increasingly inured to the unorthodoxy of this White House, said the Post.
At one point in the interview, Scaramucci switched to speaking in the third person while trying to make his mission clear.
“O.K., the Mooch showed up a week ago,” he said. “This is going to get cleaned up very shortly, O.K.?”
Scaramucci’s anger toward Priebus was burning long before he joined the White House this week, claimed the paper.
After the election, he sold his company, investment fund SkyBridge Capital, in preparation for a job in the White House, only to be blocked by Priebus. Scaramucci was later shuffled into a position at the Export-Import Bank, where he plotted his next move.
Last week, Trump surprised Priebus, Bannon and others by announcing that Scaramucci would become the next White House communications director — news that prompted press secretary Sean Spicer, Priebus’s closest ally, to resign.
Scaramucci claims he has the president’s blessing to attack Priebus.
In the expletive-filled interview with the New Yorker, Scaramucci presented himself as someone who is fully dedicated to the president. He accused Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, of trying to build his “own brand off the fucking strength of the president.”
And Scaramucci angrily lashed out at Priebus for blocking him from the White House for six months and accused him of leaking the details of a Wednesday night dinner with Fox News personality Sean Hannity at the White House to a reporter.
“What I want to do is I want to fucking kill all the leakers, and I want to get the president’s agenda on track so we can succeed for the American people,” Scaramucci said.
After the article was published, Scaramucci sought to shrug off the controversy with a tweet: “I sometimes use colorful language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for @realDonaldTrump’s agenda. #MAGA.”
Later in the night he took to Twitter again, this time to lay blame at the feet of New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza for reporting on their phone call.
“I made a mistake in trusting in a reporter. It won’t happen again,” Scaramucci tweeted. Lizza said Scaramucci never set any rules for the conversation, such as his comments being off-the-record.
The White House at first seemed unsure of how to respond. Incoming press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders pointed reporters to Scaramucci’s tweet and said, “We’re working on health care.”
But by early Thursday evening, Sanders spoke to reporters outside the West Wing saying Scaramucci has “made pretty clear he’s a passionate guy. I think he might sometimes let that passion get the better of him. I think maybe that happened, and he used some colorful language that I don’t anticipate he’ll do again.”
Asked if Trump needed to step in to referee the infighting on his staff, she said, “I think he knows when he needs to play a role, and when he does, he will.”
Scaramucci took over the communications job on Wednesday, even though he was not supposed to start until August 15, a move that a White House official said was designed to thwart any attempt by Priebus to derail Scaramucci yet again.
“If Reince wants to explain that he’s not a leaker, let him do that,” Scaramucci said in an interview with CNN early Thursday morning.
On Fox News that same morning, Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to the president, described the leaks that Scaramucci was ranting about as “people using the press to shiv each other in the ribs.”
However, House Speaker Paul Ryan, a longtime friend of Priebus said at a news conference on Thursday that “Reince is doing a fantastic job at the White House, and I believe he has the president’s confidence.”
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich also came to Preibus’s defense.
“My advice to Reince is just do your job,” Gingrich said. “Ignore the noise. Assume it’s noise. He’s the chief of staff, and he’s the chief of staff until he isn’t.”
At the White House press briefing on Thursday afternoon, reporters asked Sanders three times if the president still has confidence in his chief of staff. She would not directly answer.
“We all serve at the pleasure of the president, and if he gets to a place where that isn’t the case, he’ll let you know,” Sanders said.
A Republican who is in close contact with those at the White House rated Priebus’s job security in this way: “On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 2.”
Scaramucci has taken a very Trumpian approach to the job said the Post, threatening to fire his entire staff, cursing and unexpectedly calling into a morning talk show.
The paper added, “While this might appear out of control, it creates the sort of must-watch drama that delights the president.”
On Wednesday night, Scaramucci had dinner at the White House with the president, first lady Melania Trump, Sean Hannity and former Fox News executive Bill Shine to discuss how best to overhaul the West Wing staff. Lizza tweeted about the dinner, prompting an angry call from Scaramucci, who wanted to know Lizza’s source.
“You’re an American citizen, this is a major catastrophe for the American country. So I’m asking you, as an American patriot, to give me a sense of who leaked it,” Scaramucci said to Lizza.
He said he does not know whether his relationship with Priebus, which last week he insisted was just fine, can ever be repaired.
“We have had differences. When I said we were brothers . . . that’s because we’re rough on each other. Some brothers are like Cain and Abel; other brothers can fight with each other and then get along."
Scaramucci did not mention that Cain killed Abel. “I don’t know if this is repairable or not — that will be up to the president."
Later The Washington Post asked Scaramucci if Trump had authorized him to call in to CNN to discuss Priebus and the leaks, and Scaramucci responded: “He did, yes.”