Anthony Scaramucci is a near-constant presence on television and Twitter
New communications director has done little to settle choppy West Wing waters
WARNING: This story contains graphic language.
Ten days ago, new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci sealed his debut performance with a kiss.
But his affection for the news media – “The Mooch” is a near constant presence on television and Twitter – did little to settle choppy West Wing waters. If anything, the chaos that has defined President Donald Trump’s first six months in office was escalated during Scaramucci’s short run.
The latest uproar follows a nearly 30-minute interview Thursday morning on CNN’s “New Day” – an exchange that began with Scaramucci directly addressing New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza, the previous guest, perhaps unaware he was live on the air, before going on to yield, by Chris Cillizza’s count, no fewer than “35 eye-popping quotes” on everything from “the senior leakers” in the White House to a brief thesis on the roots of intra-organizational “paranoia and backstabbing.”
In other words, a morning like any other. So while Republicans on Capitol Hill are hashing out “skinny repeal” of Obamacare, the White House was gorging itself on yet another serving of presidential drama. Here are eight weird and wild storylines, all from Scaramucci’s first week on the job – which also turned out to be his only full week on the job.
1. Scaramucci in, Sean Spicer out
Spicer was treated to his share of indignities during his time at the podium, but The Mooch’s hiring was a bridge too far.
Multiple sources told CNN that Spicer desperately opposed Trump’s decision to bring on the New York financier. His subsequent departure, he said, was meant “to give the President and the new team a clean slate.” But for all the rumblings of major staff shake-ups, the core personnel group that arrived in Washington with Trump remains in place. That includes chief of staff Reince Priebus, who welcomed Scaramucci with an alternative take on their personal history.
“We go back a long way and are very good friends,” Priebus said. “All good here.”
Scaramucci embraced the narrative. “We are a little bit like brothers where we rough each other up once in a while,” he said. “But he’s a dear friend.”
2. Scaramucci cites anonymous source, then reveals it is Trump
And it all happened over the course of a single exchange with Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“Somebody said to me yesterday – I won’t tell you who – that if the Russians actually hacked this situation and spilled out those e-mails, you would have never seen it,” Scaramucci said, seeking to cast doubt on Moscow’s 2016 election meddling.
At that, Tapper cut him off and began to ask about the swirl of claims – and their mysterious provenance.
“How about it was the president (who said it), Jake?” Scaramucci offered without missing a beat. “I talked to him yesterday. He called me from Air Force One and he basically said to me, ‘Hey, you know, this is – maybe they did it. Maybe they didn’t do it’.”
3. The Scaramucci back catalog goes viral…
Turns out Scaramucci’s “love” of Trump was not always so pure.
During the 2016 campaign he called his fellow New Yorker “another hack politician” with a “big mouth.” He also mocked Trump’s business acumen, calling him “an inherited money dude from Queens County.”
But that’s all changed now, Scaramucci said, repenting repeatedly during his first question-and-answer session at the White House last week.
“I should have never said that about him,” he told reporters, adding (at least twice), “I love the President.”
4. …so he deleted (parts of) it
With his past criticism, often articulated via tweet, of Trump and other conservative causes continuing to fuel headlines, Scaramucci began deleting potentially embarrassing posts.
Praise for Hillary Clinton and doubt over the efficacy of politically driven wall-building disappeared. When people began to notice, Scaramucci explained.
“Full transparency,” he tweeted, “I’m deleting old tweets. Past views evolved & shouldn’t be a distraction. I serve @POTUS agenda & that’s all that matters.”
Perhaps, but the “full transparency” line – given he was attempting to prevent just that – set off another round of angst and mockery. Except, of course, from Trump himself, who weighed in to bless his new employee’s penance in a tweet of his own.
“In all fairness to Anthony Scaramucci,” Trump wrote, “he wanted to endorse me 1st, before the Republican Primaries started, but didn’t think I was running!”
5. Scaramucci invites the media to power up the cameras
“TV cameras are back on,” he declared on Monday morning, signaling that White House press briefings would again be televised after weeks of dead air. (Audio of the sessions would typically be made public after they concluded.)
The decision was a much a return to protocol as a departure from the Spicer era. The outgoing press secretary, who had been criticized by Trump for his on-camera performance, established the now-discarded policy.
Not that things are returning to some kind of recognizable reality. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the new press secretary, kicked off Wednesday’s briefing by reading a letter written to Trump by a 9-year-old, answering the boy’s questions – like “How old are you?” – in real time.
6. The not-so-secret plans to fire a White House staffer
On Tuesday morning, Scaramucci confirmed to Politico that he planned to fire assistant press secretary Michael Short. Small problem: He never told Short.
After the Politico story ran, CNN contacted the surprised staffer, who said, “No one has told me anything.”
By the afternoon, Short had resigned – before Scaramucci could get around to actually firing him.
“This is the problem with the leaking,” the communications director said after the fact – hours after he himself told Politico what was happening. “This is actually a terrible thing. Let’s say I’m firing Michael Short today. The fact that you guys know about it before he does really upsets me as a human being and as a Roman Catholic.”
7. A biblical feud with Reince Priebus
Scaramucci tweeted, then deleted, on Wednesday night what read like an accusation that Priebus had been behind “the leak of my financial disclosure info.” The now former chief of staff’s Twitter handle, @Reince45, was copied on the post.
While he would later tell CNN that he was not calling for Priebus to be investigated (there was a mention of “contacting the @FBI” in the tweet), Scaramucci on “New Day” Thursday did lay this remarkable challenge: “If Reince wants to explain he’s not a leaker, let him do that.”
Priebus has not, as yet, taken him up on the offer.