If yesterday morning is any indication about what the Anthony Scaramucci Era will look like, it will make the first six months of the Donald Trump administration look tranquil.
The new White House communications director called into a morning show and suggested that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, who would be his boss in any normal West Wing, may be behind the leaks that are plaguing the administration. He also mused openly about their strained relationship and suggested the president may have to decide between them.
What’s more, he did it all in response to a story written by a reporter who says nobody leaked anything to her, as Scaramucci had alleged in a tweet.
There’s a lot to unpack here, but here are the basics: Scaramucci phoned in to CNN’s “New Day” program to respond to the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, who had reported that Scaramucci was fingering Priebus for the leaks.
“In case there’s any ambiguity in his tweet I can confirm that Scaramucci wants the FBI to investigate Reince for leaking,” Lizza tweeted yesterday.
Scaramucci had seemed to suggest as much himself in a Wednesday night tweet about his personal financial disclosure supposedly being leaked to Politico — something he labeled a “felony.” The tweet, which has since been deleted, tagged Priebus.
On CNN, Scaramucci, of Manhasset, said he tagged Priebus because Priebus, as chief of staff, is responsible for rooting out leakers. But he also said Priebus would have to prove that he is not a leaker himself.
“If Reince wants to explain that he’s not a leaker, let him do that,” Scaramucci said.
He added: “I can speak for my own actions. He’s going to need to speak for his own actions.”
Scaramucci also admitted he and Priebus are at something of a crossroads — just six days, mind you, after saying they were “brothers” and assuring that “I don’t have any friction with Reince.” Priebus had also assured The Associated Press that they were “very good friends.”
“I don’t know if the relationship with Reince is reparable,” Scaramucci said. “That’s up to the president.”
The kicker here is that Scaramucci’s outburst wasn’t even about an actual leak; the Politico reporter who got his financial disclosure said it was obtained from the Export-Import Bank, which had it publicly on file. In other words, there was no leak, no “felony” and really no reason for Scaramucci to lash out at Priebus in this manner.
“My source for @Scaramucci financials was Ex-Im Bank. Period,’ Lorraine Woellert of Politico tweeted.
This is the kind of reality-TV drama that the president thrives on: Having two of his closest advisers battle it out for loyalty, including one of them doing it in an impromptu appearance on Trump’s obsession, cable news. To the extent Scaramucci is now running the show in the West Wing — and Priebus’s stock certainly seems to be declining — we can apparently expect plenty more of this.
But even if Trump approves of all this — and it seems likely he does particularly given Scaramucci said he had been talking to Trump just before calling in — this is still his top advisers engaging in a very public battle, live on cable TV.
It’s really difficult to see what benefit all of that has.
Aaron Blake writes for The Fix blog at The Washington Post.