Trump's communications chief goes on expletive-filled tirade against White House rivals
WARNING: This story contains explicit language and graphic references
U.S. President Donald Trump's new communications director exploded the smoldering tensions at the White House into a full-fledged conflagration Thursday, angrily daring Trump's chief of staff to deny he's a "leaker" and exposing West Wing backstabbing in language more suitable to a mobster movie than a seat of presidential stability.
In a pull-no-punches, impromptu CNN interview that he said was authorized by the president, Anthony Scaramucci went after chief of staff Reince Priebus in graphic terms. "The fish stinks from the head down," he said. "I can tell you two fish that don't stink, and that's me and the president."
Not even a week into his new job, Scaramucci accused unidentified senior officials of trying to sabotage him and committing a felony by leaking information. But the personal financial information that he said someone had "leaked" about him had simply been obtained through a public records request.
Then in a jawdropping interview published by The New Yorker late Thursday, an angry Scaramucci accused Priebus of being a "f------ paranoid schizophrenic."
He also made reference to White House chief strategist Steve Bannon performing oral sex on himself in a crude attempt to imply that Bannon is too concerned with burnishing his own reputation.
- Scaramucci appears to finger Priebus for 'leak' of financial info
- White House comms chief once called Trump a 'hack politician'
He again threatened to fire White House staffers who leaked about a dinner he had with the president and Fox News television host Sean Hannity.
"They'll all be fired by me," Scaramucci told the magazine. "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."
By day's end Scaramucci sounded calmer, though not regretful.
"I sometimes use colorful [sic] language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for @realDonaldTrump's agenda. #MAGA," he tweeted.
I sometimes use colorful language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump">@realDonaldTrump</a>'s agenda. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MAGA?src=hash">#MAGA</a>—@Scaramucci
He also blamed the reporter, Ryan Lizza. "I made a mistake in trusting in a reporter," he added later. "It won't happen again."
I made a mistake in trusting in a reporter. It won't happen again.—@Scaramucci
The White House or Bada Bing?
The president's senior counsellor, Kellyanne Conway, had earlier speculated in a Fox News interview that unnamed forces were out to get Scaramucci, saying: "Somebody is trying to get in his way and scare him off."
"There are leaks and then there are people using the press to shiv each other in the ribs," she said.
Meanwhile, no one in the White House took up for Priebus — including Priebus himself. Deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders avoided giving a direct answer when asked whether Trump has confidence in Priebus.
The past 24 hours provided the clearest evidence yet that Scaramucci and Trump, both brash New Yorkers, are cut from the same cloth. One of their shared techniques: publicly shaming members of their own team.
Tension of biblical proportion
Yet after Scaramucci's call-in CNN performance — a move lifted from his boss' playbook — it was difficult to see how he and Priebus could mend fences.
"I don't know if this is repairable or not — that will be up to the president," Scaramucci said on air. He compared their relationship to that of brothers who are "rough on each other," invoking Cain and Abel. One of those biblical brothers murdered the other.
The bad blood stems from Scaramucci's view that Priebus was insufficiently supportive of Trump at the end of the election campaign and his belief that Priebus persuaded the president to keep him out of the White House in January. Six months later, Scaramucci's close relationship with the president trumped the opposition of Priebus and Bannon.
Scaramucci tweeted out yesterday that someone had illegally leaked financial information about him, conspicuously mentioning Priebus' Twitter handle. Scaramucci later deleted that tweet and said he had only mentioned Priebus to show that all senior leaders are taking leaks seriously.