Spicer out, Scaramucci, San­ders rise in Trump shakeup

Press secretary abruptly re­signs in protest over shake-up

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

WASH­ING­TON: White House press secretary Sean Spicer abruptly resigned Fri­day in protest at a ma­jor shake-up of Donald Trump’s scan­dal-tainted ad­min­is­tra­tion, as pres­sure mounted from a broad­en­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Trump cam­paign’s ties to Rus­sia. Spicer quit af­ter Trump named Anthony Scaramucci, a Wall Street fi­nancier and one-time critic, as the new White House communications di­rec­tor-a role Spicer had hoped to play. “It’s been an honor & a priv­i­lege to serve @POTUS @re­alDon­aldTrump & this amaz­ing coun­try. I will con­tinue my ser­vice through Au­gust,” Spicer tweeted.

In a writ­ten state­ment, Trump said he was “grate­ful” for Spicer’s work and praised his “great television rat­ings”-a ref­er­ence to Spicer’s keenly watched, com­bat­ive and of­ten­sat­i­rized news brief­ings. “Spicer is a won­der­ful per­son who took tremen­dous abuse from the Fake News Me­dia - but his fu­ture is bright!” Trump tweeted. Spicer was re­placed by deputy press secretary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders. In an in­ter­view with Fox News, Spicer said he stepped aside to “not have too many cooks in the kitchen” to con­vey Trump’s mes­sage. Spicer’s res­ig­na­tion marked an es­ca­la­tion of ten­sions within an ad­min­is­tra­tion that has seen its leg­isla­tive agenda fal­ter at the same time it has been buf­feted by an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged col­lu­sion with Rus­sia.

The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported late Fri­day that At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, con­trary to his prior testimony, dis­cussed cam­paign­re­lated and pol­icy mat­ters with Rus­sia’s am­bas­sador to Wash­ing­ton, cit­ing in­tel­li­gence in­ter­cepts. The re­port will heap pres­sure on Ses­sions, who al­ready was on the re­ceiv­ing end of a tongue-lash­ing by Trump over the Rus­sia probe. The pres­i­dent sug­gested Ses­sions had be­trayed him in step­ping away from the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

And in an­other blow, Mark Co­rallo-who was co­or­di­nat­ing the Trump le­gal team’s pub­lic re­sponse to the Rus­sia cri­sis-told AFP that he, too, had stepped down. Af­ter months of de­nials, the White House was re­cently rocked by emails show­ing Donald Trump’s el­dest son and two top aides met with a Rus­sian lawyer in the be­lief they would get dirt on the Repub­li­can bil­lion­aire’s 2016 elec­tion ri­val, Hil­lary Clin­ton. In re­sponse, Trump aides have floated the idea of pre-emp­tive pres­i­den­tial par­dons and Trump him­self has warned in­ves­ti­ga­tors not to look into his fam­ily fi­nances. Spicer’s de­ci­sion ap­pears to have hap­pened quickly, with nei­ther he nor San­ders giv­ing any in­di­ca­tion of changes afoot when they had drinks with a group of jour­nal­ists on Thurs­day evening. Spicer had “no re­grets” on his way out the door, he said on Fox late Fri­day.

Yet he an­grily lashed out at US me­dia, claim­ing they were “ob­sessed” with Rus­sia af­ter US in­tel­li­gence agen­cies said that Moscow was in­volved in med­dling with the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion Trump won. “I was in­creas­ingly dis­ap­pointed in how so many mem­bers of the mem­bers here in the me­dia do their job, or rather, don’t do their job. The bias which they come from it at,” Spicer said. And it is no ex­cep­tion, he stressed.

‘On track’

“The ma­jor­ity of folks that are now in this-in the brief­ing room, that are go­ing into jour­nal­ism. They’re not there for the facts and the pur­suit of the truth. Rather, they’re try­ing to fig­ure out, how do I get on TV, how do I be­come a YouTube star. And that’s dis­ap­point­ing.” In ad­di­tion, in terms of staffing, Spicer ex­plained: “I thought it would be a bit con­fus­ing hav­ing ad­di­tional peo­ple at the top. And so I wanted to move on to give both Anthony and Sarah that clear lane in each of their re­spec­tive ar­eas.”

Scaramucci dis­missed re­ports of in­fight­ing when he took ques­tions from the press for the first time. “I think the White House is on track,” he told re­porters. Spicer had been a close ally of chief of staff Reince Priebus, and his de­par­ture will likely weaken both Priebus and the bridge be­tween the White House and the Repub­li­can Party es­tab­lish­ment.

In an ex­pan­sive in­ter­view with The New York Times ear­lier this week, Trump plunged his White House into fresh cri­sis when he at­tacked spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller, and warned him against look­ing at Trump fam­ily fi­nances. Mueller is ex­am­in­ing whether Trump or his aides col­luded with Rus­sia’s ap­par­ent ef­forts to help tilt the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in Trump’s fa­vor.

With the probe ap­par­ently ex­tend­ing to fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions, US me­dia re­ported that Trump al­lies were look­ing for ways to dis­credit Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Trump him­self has sug­gested that Mueller - a widely re­spected for­mer FBI di­rec­tor - may have a con­flict of in­ter­est. The White House has point­edly re­fused to rule out the pos­si­bil­ity that Trump would fire Mueller-an act that would prompt a po­lit­i­cal firestorm and per­haps a con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis.

‘Cross­ing a line’

Repub­li­can House Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee chair­man Michael McCaul warned Trump would face a “tremen­dous back­lash re­sponse from both Democrats but also House Repub­li­cans” if he were to sack Mueller. “Trump can­not de­fine or con­strain Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion. If he tries to do so this cre­ates is­sues of con­sti­tu­tional and crim­i­nal di­men­sion,” said for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral Eric Holder. Trump has al­ready fired his FBI di­rec­tor James Comey over the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The top Demo­crat on the Se­nate’s in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, Mark Warner, warned that par­don­ing any­body who may have been in­volved in po­ten­tial col­lu­sion “would be cross­ing a fun­da­men­tal line.” — AFP

— AP

WASH­ING­TON: In this Jan 21, 2017, file photo, White House press secretary Sean Spicer, flanked by im­ages of then Pres­i­dent-elect Donald Trump ar­riv­ing dur­ing the 58th Pres­i­den­tial In­au­gu­ra­tion at the US Capi­tol, speaks in the White House brief­ing room.

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