Scaramucci rails against rivals in the West Wing
another layer of drama and dissent to a White House suffused in it — and revived the perpetual questions about Priebus’ fate. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary and an ally of Priebus, resigned in protest when Scaramucci was hired last week because, he predicted, it would only add more chaos to the team. On that, at least, he seems to have been proved right.
But President Donald Trump not only tolerates feuds within his team, he fuels them, playing one courtier off another and leaving them all unsteady. He chooses favorites and casts others aside, but even those decisions seem subject to change at any moody moment. And by several accounts, he personally encouraged Scaramucci’s jihad against Priebus, once again subjecting his chief of staff to a ritualistic public lashing even as he considered pushing him out.
Left to explain all this was Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the new White House press secretary. “This is a White House that has lots of different perspectives because the president hires the very best people,” she said gamely, before the New Yorker article posted, asserting that a “healthy competition” benefits Trump. “With that competition, you usually get the best results. The president likes that kind of competition and encourages it.”
That kind of competition has exhausted even some of Trump’s most loyal defenders. But Trump has openly told people that he has lost faith in Priebus. He has said he wants “a general” as chief of staff, and has focused on John F. Kelly, the retired fourstar Marine now serving as homeland security secretary. Many of his advisers, however, consider that a bad idea.
Scaramucci, who has so emulated Trump’s style that colleagues privately call him “Mini-Me,” made clear in his conversation with The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza that he is trying to push Priebus out. “Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” he said. Scaramucci complained that Priebus had prevented him from getting a job in the White House until now, saying he “blocked Scaramucci for six months.”
In the same telephone call, Scaramucci disparaged Bannon. “I’m not Steve Bannon. I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” he said. “I’m not trying to build my own brand” on the president’s coattails.
“I’m here to serve the country,” he added.
Lately Trump has resumed subjecting Priebus to frequent indignities in front of White House staff. According to one aide, the president, who had ceased for a time, has regularly mentioned how Priebus suggested that Trump consider dropping out of the presidential race last October after a tape of him boasting about grabbing women by the genitals emerged. “Do you remember when Reince did that?” the president has asked associates.
Priebus endured the hazing in silence, as he generally has, and the White House did nothing to defend him against Scaramucci’s tirade. Scaramucci released a statement after the New Yorker article was published that fell well short of an apology.
“I sometimes use colorful language,” he said on Twitter. “I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for @RealDonaldTrump’s agenda.”
The clash between Scaramucci and Priebus offers a case study in how the Trump White House operates, a conflict divorced from facts, untethered from the basics of how government works, enabled by the lack of any organizational structure and driven by ambition, fear, animosity and envy.
The genesis was a dinner hosted Wednesday night by Trump at the White House that included Scaramucci, Sean Hannity and Kimberly Guilfoyle, the Fox News hosts, and Bill Shine, a former Fox executive.
Guilfoyle told the president that Priebus was a problem and a leaker, someone who was not serving his agenda, according to a person briefed on the conversation. (A Fox spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.)
Scaramucci grew angry that Lizza had learned that the dinner was taking place and that Politico had obtained his government financial disclosure form. At that point, he called Lizza, demanding to know his source, whom the reporter refused to divulge.