Trump press chief quits

Scaramucci hir­ing said to prompt Spicer exit

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Ken Thomas, Jill Colvin, Jonathan Lemire, Julie Pace, Darlene Su­perville, Vi­vian Salama and David Bauder of The Associated Press; by Glenn Thrush and Mag­gie Haber­man of The New York Times; and by Kevin Ciril

WASH­ING­TON — White House press secretary Sean Spicer resigned Fri­day af­ter a six-month ten­ure, say­ing Pres­i­dent Donald Trump’s communications team “could ben­e­fit from a clean slate” as the White House seeks to steady op­er­a­tions dur­ing the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tions and ahead of a health care show­down.

Spicer quit in protest over the hir­ing of a new White House communications di­rec­tor, New York fi­nancier Anthony Scaramucci, ob­ject­ing to what Spicer con­sid­ered his lack of qual­i­fi­ca­tions, as well as the di­rec­tion of the press op­er­a­tion, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion.

Scaramucci, a television com­men­ta­tor and Har­vard Law grad­u­ate, quickly took cen­ter stage at a 37-minute brief­ing, par­ry­ing ques­tions from re­porters and com­mend­ing Trump.

As his first act on the job, Scaramucci an­nounced that Sarah Huck­abee San­ders would be the new press secretary.

She had been Spicer’s deputy.

Trump, who watches the press brief­ings closely, in a state­ment saluted Spicer’s “great rat­ings” on TV and said he was “grate­ful for Sean’s work on be­half of my ad­min­is­tra­tion and the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

Scaramucci’s ap­point­ment Fri­day came two months af­ter the pre­vi­ous communications di­rec­tor, Mike Dubke, stepped down af­ter three months on the job. Trump was frus­trated with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus over the slow pace of find­ing a re­place­ment, ac­cord­ing to a half-dozen peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion.

Scaramucci, in an ap­pear­ance af­ter his ap­point­ment was made of­fi­cial, praised Trump’s po­lit­i­cal in­stincts and com­pet­i­tive­ness, cracked a few self-dep­re­cat­ing jokes and bat­tled with re­porters who cat­e­go­rized the West Wing as dys­func­tional, say­ing “there is a dis­con­nect” be­tween the me­dia and the way the pub­lic sees the pres­i­dent.

“The pres­i­dent has re­ally good karma, and the world turns back to him,” Scaramucci said.

He also said he had great re­spect for Spicer, adding, “I hope he goes on to make a tremen­dous amount of money.” But he ac­knowl­edged the awk­ward­ness of Spicer’s res­ig­na­tion. “This is ob­vi­ously a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion to be in,” Scaramucci said.

Spicer said dur­ing a brief phone con­ver­sa­tion that he felt it would be best for Scaramucci to build his own op­er­a­tion “and chart a new way for­ward.” He tweeted that it had been an “honor” and “priv­i­lege” to serve Trump and that he would re­main in his post through Au­gust.

His de­ci­sion to quit took ad­vis­ers in­side and out­side the White House by sur­prise, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple with knowl­edge of the de­ci­sion. They spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the per­son­nel mat­ter pub­licly.

Spicer’s daily brief­ings had be­come must-watch television un­til re­cent weeks when he took on a more be­hind-the-scenes role. San­ders has largely taken over the brief­ings, turn­ing them into off-cam­era events.

On Fri­day night, Trump tweeted, “Sean Spicer is a won­der­ful per­son who took tremen­dous abuse from the Fake News Me­dia — but his fu­ture is bright!”

A per­son with knowl­edge of the de­ci­sion said Trump has been im­pressed by Scaramucci’s de­fense of the White House on television and his han­dling of a re­cent in­ci­dent with CNN. The ca­ble chan­nel re­tracted a story about Scaramucci and fired three jour­nal­ists.

A shift in tone and style was im­me­di­ate. Un­like Spicer, who had an at-times com­bat­ive re­la­tion­ship with the news me­dia, Scaramucci was warm and more mea­sured as he took ques­tions.

He did not com­mit to putting the brief­ings back on cam­era full time. He also of­fered a level of sup­port to some of Trump’s more con­tentious state­ments, in­clud­ing his claim that mil­lions of votes were il­le­gally cast in the 2016 elec­tion.

“If the pres­i­dent says it … there’s prob­a­bly some level of truth to that,” he said.

He also made clear that he would con­tinue the West Wing’s plan to push back against me­dia re­ports it doesn’t like — and would do a bet­ter job of sell­ing its vic­to­ries.

“The pres­i­dent is a win­ner. And we’re go­ing to do a lot of win­ning,” said Scaramucci, who blew a kiss to the press corps be­fore de­part­ing.

Spicer had long sought the strate­gic communications job for him­self and had been man­ag­ing that role along with his press secretary du­ties for nearly two months.

Spicer had spent sev­eral years lead­ing communications at the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee be­fore help­ing Trump’s cam­paign in the gen­eral elec­tion. He is close to White House Priebus, the for­mer RNC chair­man, and sev­eral of the lower-rank­ing aides in the White House communications shop.

Priebus said he sup­ports Scaramucci “100 per­cent,” de­spite re­port­edly try­ing to pre­vent the fi­nancier from get­ting mul­ti­ple ad­min­is­tra­tion po­si­tions. Ivanka Trump, the pres­i­dent’s daugh­ter, and her hus­band, se­nior aide Jared Kush­ner, had known Scaramucci for years in New York and pushed for his hire.

But Spicer and other of­fi­cials ques­tioned his hir­ing as communications di­rec­tor ahead of the pres­i­dent’s push to over­haul the tax sys­tem and other pol­icy mat­ters.

Spicer and other staff had been feel­ing that they fi­nally had the press shop op­er­at­ing ef­fec­tively, aside from mat­ters re­lated to the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, said one of the peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion.

Scaramucci no­tably said he re­ports di­rectly to the pres­i­dent, not to the chief of staff — an un­usual ar­range­ment for a communications di­rec­tor.

Scaramucci, 53, a cam­paign fundraiser for Trump and reg­u­lar ad­viser dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion, has been men­tioned for mul­ti­ple jobs in the ad­min­is­tra­tion, most re­cently as am­bas­sador to the Paris-based Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment. He’s also been con­sid­ered as head of the White House Of­fice of Pub­lic En­gage­ment.

He agreed in Jan­uary to sell his ap­prox­i­mately 45 per­cent stake in SkyBridge Cap­i­tal, which he founded. The buyer group in­cluded a sub­sidiary of HNA Group, the Chi­nese con­glom­er­ate, as well as a firm called RON Transat­lantic.

Spicer’s ten­ure got off to a rocky start. On Trump’s first full day in of­fice, he lam­basted jour­nal­ists over cov­er­age of the crowd size at the in­au­gu­ra­tion and stormed out of the brief­ing room with­out an­swer­ing ques­tions.

Spicer, who of­ten dis­played a fiery de­meanor in tense on-cam­era ex­changes with re­porters, be­came widely known, par­tic­u­larly through an im­per­son­ation by Melissa McCarthy on NBC’s Satur­day Night Live.

She por­trayed Spicer as a hos­tile fig­ure who tore through the brief­ing room on a mo­tor­ized lectern, will­ing to at­tack the press.

Spicer re­mained loyal to Trump but fre­quently bat­tled per­cep­tions that he was not plugged into what the pres­i­dent was think­ing.

The res­ig­na­tion oc­curred a day af­ter Mark Co­rallo, the spokesman for the pres­i­dent’s out­side le­gal team, left his post. And in a sep­a­rate move, for­mer White House aide Katie Walsh is re­turn­ing to the RNC, spokesman Ryan Ma­honey said. Walsh will serve as an ad­viser on data and dig­i­tal is­sues, and the ap­point­ment is un­re­lated to the White House per­son­nel changes, he said.

AP/ALEX BRAN­DON

Anthony Scaramucci, in­com­ing White House communications di­rec­tor, fol­lows new White House press secretary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders into the brief­ing room Fri­day at the White House.

AP/ALEX BRAN­DON

For­mer White House press secretary Sean Spicer walks down the steps of the Eisen­hower Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fice Build­ing to­ward the White House on Fri­day in Wash­ing­ton. Spicer resigned his po­si­tion Fri­day, say­ing the White House “could ben­e­fit from a clean slate.”

AP/AN­DREW HARNIK

Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications di­rec­tor, takes a ques­tion Fri­day dur­ing the daily press brief­ing at the White House.

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