Well, that was fast.
As I wrote in last week’s column, “Requiem for ‘Spicey,’” White House press secretary Sean Spicer resigned July 21 over the hiring of communications director Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who had been Spicer’s deputy, was given her former boss’ job. It was a wild week-and-a-half from there on out.
I’m not even going to get into the flabbergasting details of Scaramucci’s personal life. What’s in the public sphere is gob-smacking enough.
On his first day, Scaramucci started selectively deleting old tweets on his Twitter account.
“Full transparency: I’m deleting old tweets. Past views evolved & shouldn’t be a distraction. I serve [the president’s] agenda & that’s all that matters,” he wrote July 22.
This doesn’t really count as full transparency, but one can see why he panicked. Here’s a sample of the deleted messages:
• “[Donald Trump is an] odd guy. So smart with no judgment.” — Feb. 1, 2012.
• “I hope [Hillary Clinton] runs, she is incredibly competent.” — April 16, 2012.
• “Praise for [Mitt Romney’s] decision to stay out of the Trump spectacle.” — Dec. 6, 2012.
Thursday, The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza published an astonishing article about a phone call he received the previous day. “Anthony Scaramucci called to unload about White House leakers, [chief of staff] Reince Priebus, and [chief strategist] Steve Bannon,” read the headline. “He started by threatening to fire the entire White House Communications staff. It escalated from there.”
Indeed it did. July 26, Politico’s Lorraine Woellert obtained Scaramucci’s financial disclosure filed with the Office of Government Ethics. Convinced this was a felonious leak and not the publicly available document it was, Scaramucci promised to Lizza he would fire Priebus. I can’t print in a family newspaper what Scaramucci said of Bannon. It didn’t take long for Trump to act. Or, rather, tweet.
“Trump abruptly announced late Friday he was appointing Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to be his chief of staff, ending the tumultuous six-month tenure of Reince Priebus,” reported The Associated Press’ Jonathan Lemire and Jill Colvin.
Scaramucci received a healthy dose of his own medicine in short order.
“Kelly moved in Monday as Trump’s new chief of staff and immediately made sure that Trump’s profanity-spouting new communications director was shown the door, ignominiously ousted,” reported The AP’s Lemire and Catherine Lucey.
There’s a number of reasons I’m glad a walking disaster area like Scaramucci has been thrown on his ear, not the least of which are his foreign business conflicts.
“Scaramucci ... discussed possible joint investments in a meeting in Davos with the head of a Russian sovereign wealth fund that the U.S. sanctioned in 2015, the fund’s press service said,” reported Bloomberg’s Ilya Arkhipov and Patrick Donahue on Jan. 17. “The meeting with Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, a $10 billion state-run investment vehicle, is the first public contact between the incoming administration and Kremlin-backed business.”
At the same meeting, Scaramucci announced the sale of his hedge fund.
“SkyBridge Capital, [was sold] to HNA Capital, a subsidiary of Chinese conglomerate HNA Group,” reported CNBC’s Nyshka Chandran on Monday. “The acquisition, which was finalized in January and reportedly values SkyBridge at around $200 million, is currently pending approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a government panel that reviews foreign purchases of American companies for national security risks.”
Now that Scaramucci has been cut, the only question is who will be next to feel the steel.
When Trump was presented with a ceremonial saber May 17 at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy commencement in New London, Connecticut, Kelly was captured on a hot microphone joking with the president. “You can use that on the press,” Kelly said. “Yeah, that’s right,” said Trump, both laughing.
The knives are out inside the White House.
Rob Burgess, Tribune city editor, may be reached at email@example.com.
HEAR PARTS OF SCARAMUCCI'S CALL TO LIZZA ON THE AUG. 3 EPISODE OF THE NEW YORKER RADIO HOUR: