The shocking comments of new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci on Thursday has left the Trump Administration staggering around Washington with no one clearly in control of the staff and, ironically, an increase in leaks about Scaramucci and fears of the President’s staff. In the meantime, the crude comments of Scaramucci have undermined any effort of the White House to convey strength after the stinging defeat of the “skinny” health care bill. With Republicans in open revolt, the Scaramucci controversy conveys a team in disarray and division. This was the worst possible time to go full Jerry Springer.
Scaramucci went nuclear in a telephone call to New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza. He was calling after Lizza printed another leak. “Who leaked that to you?” Scaramucci demanded. He seemed to want something that would have been deeply unethical for Lizza to give: his source. Scaramucci reportedly said
“I ask these guys not to leak anything, and they can’t help themselves. 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.”
If that bizarre request was not enough, the conversation appears on the record. Usually such calls are off the record, but for whatever reason (inexperience or indifference) it does not appear that Scaramucci made the common reservation. Scaramucci later said “I made a mistake in trusting in a reporter. It won’t happen again.” Really? It appears he missed the Truman advice of, if you need a friend in Washington, get a dog. On the list of possible soulmates, reporters (whose job it is to report) are near the very bottom.
Scaramucci later said that he would try to be more restrained in the future: “I sometimes use colorful language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for
@realDonaldTrump‘s agenda. #MAGA”
Scaramucci threatened a scorched earth police to find the leaker: “What I’m going to do is, I will eliminate everyone in the comms team and we’ll start over.” He ended up torching himself.
Scaramucci made clear that his scorched earth policy had no limits: “They’ll all be fired by me. I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I’ll fire tomorrow. I’ll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus – if you want to leak something – he’ll be asked to resign very shortly.”
The irony is that the leak that set off Scaramucci was relatively minor. There was going to be a dinner with top people. He clearly blamed and parodied Priebus: “‘Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months.’”
What makes this call particularly weird is that it seems like Scaramucci needed a cathartic release but why pick Lizza rather than someone like Sanders or a close cousin back in New York?
That catharsis also turned to Bannon. He reportedly told Lizza: “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock. I’m not trying to build my own brand off the f***ing strength of the president. I’m here to serve the country.”
The result was that a smoldering White House burst into full flames. Staffers told reporters that they were fearful of going into the office after Scaramucci pledged to “kill’ them. That fears seems a tad overblown. Many have called Scaramucci politically suicidal but there is no evidence that he is actually homicidal.
In the end, the episode shows just how untethered this Administration has become. When you have Republican Senators threatening that suggested actions like the firing of Mueller would be the beginning of the end of the Trump Administration and others bolting on key health care votes after personal contacts from the President, this latest self-inflicted wound could not be more serious. In a town where a President must represent a clear and present threat to those who oppose him in his own party, you have Republicans trying to get a safe blast distance away from Trump and his staff.