Mooch-ismo runs amok
Wall Street guy Anthony Scaramucci talked a lot about being a team player when he was introduced as the new communications director for Donald Trump’s White House last week. “I like the team. Let me rephrase that: I love the team,” he said.
Here’s what he has to say about teammate Reince Priebus, the chief of staff:
“Reince is a [expletive] ... paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac.”
How about chief strategist Steve Bannon? Using a crude sexual analogy to accuse him of undue self-promotion, Scaramucci said, “I’m not Steve Bannon. ... I’m not trying to build my own brand off the [expletive] ... strength of the president. I’m here to serve the country.”
Scaramucci’s uber-foul trash talk came in a recorded phone conversation Wednesday night with reporter Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker, a rant in which he swore — or more specifically, swore about — his mission to stamp out leaks.
“I want to [expletive] ... kill all the leakers and I want to get the president’s agenda on track,” Scaramucci said. Here’s a link to Lizza’s story. Warning: extreme profanity.
The wild one
Among the things that set Scaramucci off was a “leak” that wasn’t, reports Newsday’s Emily Ngo.
On Wednesday, Politico posted a story about his financial disclosure forms. Scaramucci figured Priebus had leaked them. After telling Lizza he would “start tweeting some [expletive] ... to make this guy crazy,” he sent this:
“In light of the leak of my financial info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the @TheJusticeDept #swamp @Reince45.”
News reports soon made clear there was neither a crime nor a leak. The disclosure forms are publicly available. Scaramucci tried to cover his tracks, deleting the first tweet and posting a new one denying he targeted Priebus.
But after sleeping on it (or not), Scaramucci phoned CNN’s morning show to rip Priebus.
Did anyone order fish?
CNN collected 35 standout quotes from Scaramucci’s epic phone-in. Here’s his reasoning on why he suspects Priebus is a leaker.
“When I put out a tweet and I put Reince’s name in a tweet, they’re all making the assumption that it’s him because journalists know who the leakers are,” he said. “So if Reince wants to explain he’s not a leaker, let him do that.”
He said his relationship with Priebus may mirror that between biblical brothers Cain and Abel. “I don’t know if this is reparable or not. That will be up to the president.”
And there was this:
“As you know from the Italian expression: The fish stinks from the head down. But I can tell you two fish that don’t stink, and that’s me and the president.”
The dust isn’t settled
As the shock from his comments to The New Yorker reverberated, Scaramucci tweeted in early evening: “I sometimes use colorful language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for @realDonaldTrump’s agenda.”
So no apologies for Priebus or Bannon. Later, he blamed the media for reporting what he had said: “I made a mistake in trusting in a reporter. It won’t happen again.”
At day’s end, Priebus’ future still looked more insecure. Scaramucci blamed him for blocking him from a White House job for six months and claimed to Lizza that Priebus will be “asked to resign very shortly.”
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who had deflected questioning on whether Trump still had confidence in his chief of staff, downplayed Scaramucci’s outbursts. “Sometimes he’s a passionate guy, sometimes he might let that passion get the better of him,” she said.
Trump on Long Island
For Republicans, Trump’s visit to Brentwood Friday is about signaling a strong federal government commitment to rooting out the violent street gang MS-13, reports Newsday’s Yancey Roy.
For some Democrats, it’s about dividing the community and demonizing immigrants to justify raids and deportations. For GOP political strategists, it’s a way to change the subject — “It’s the least Russian thing going on right now,” said one, Susan Del Percio.
Newsday’s Mark Morales and Rick Brand interviewed local leaders and advocates, who said Trump is unwelcome, and GOP supporters, who say the president deserves praise for his fight against drugs and gangs that plague Long Island communities.
Protesters are expected to be out in droves, and so will local, state and federal security forces, writes Newsday’s Nicole Fuller.
Sessions: Trump’s words hurt
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Trump’s public belittling and berating of him “kind of is hurtful. But the president of the United States is a strong leader.”
Speaking with Fox News and The Associated Press, he said this hasn’t been the “best week” in his relationship with Trump. But Sessions said he and Trump have a “harmony of values and beliefs.” The AG was in El Salvador seeking stronger cooperation against MS-13.
Sessions said he’ll stay in the job as long as Trump wants him to. His former Senate GOP colleagues have rallied around him and signaled they would resist a move to replace him. “If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
Graham also warned that if Trump tries to fire special counsel Robert Mueller to stop the Russia investigation, it “could be the beginning of the end” of his presidency.
No salute for transgender tweet
Pentagon leaders said they’ll allow transgender troops to remain in uniform until Defense Secretary Jim Mattis receives an authoritative directive to remove them. That tweet from Trump on Wednesday doesn’t qualify.
“We don’t have guidance. We have a tweet. We don’t execute policy based on a tweet,” said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.
Gay rights claim opposed
A Long Island sky diving company’s decision to fire a gay instructor is the focus of a brief by Sessions’ Justice Department, arguing that federal law doesn’t protect against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, Newsday’s John Riley reports.
The suit was filed on behalf of Donald Zarda, who was fired in 2010 by Altitude Express, also known as Skydive Long Island, and its owner, Ray Maynard, of Southampton. Justice’s position is contrary to a stance taken by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2015.
What else is happening
- Trump tweeted, “Come on Republican Senators, you can do it on Healthcare” as GOP senators struggled to find a version of an Obamacare repeal that 50 of them could support. See Tom Brune’s story for Newsday.
- The White House and GOP leaders on Capitol Hill have given up on a proposal for a border tax on imports as part of a tax-overhaul package.
- A leader of the Boy Scouts of America distanced the organization Thursday from Trump’s jamboree speech. “I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric,” wrote Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh.
- Alaska’s two senators received calls from Trump’s Interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, threatening to retaliate against the state on a variety of federal policies because of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s “no” votes on Obamacare repeal, Alaska Dispatch News reported.
- Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Trump shouldn’t even think about vetoing a new package of stiff financial sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea that passed the Senate in a 98-2 vote Thursday. It bars Trump from easing or waiving the additional penalties on Russia unless Congress agrees.
- Upstate New Yorkers were upset by Trump’s remarks to The Wall Street Journal that they should pick up and move to states like Wisconsin, which have better job prospects, the Times-Union of Albany reported. “It’s OK. Don’t worry about your house,” Trump said.
- When Scaramucci was introduced at the White House last week, he offered paeans to Trump’s athletic prowess, including “he sinks three-foot putts.” Someone may have had doubts that sounds impressive enough. The official transcript changed it to “he sinks 30-foot putts.”