Me­dia di­rec­tor for Trump tags Priebus a leaker

Scara­mucci rips at Ban­non, too, in vul­gar­ity-laced call-in

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was contributed by Pe­ter Baker and Julie Hirschfeld Davis of The New York Times and by Jenna John­son of The Wash­ing­ton Post.

WASH­ING­TON — The in­ter­nal ri­val­ries of the White House spilled out into pub­lic view Thurs­day morn­ing as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s new com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor pub­licly called out the chief of staff, call­ing him a “para­noid schiz­o­phrenic” leaker and vow­ing to get him fired.

An­thony Scara­mucci, who was in­stalled as White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor last week over the ob­jec­tions of the chief of staff, Reince Priebus, called into CNN in the morn­ing to say that the two men were at odds and to dare Priebus to deny be­ing a leaker. By the evening, The New Yorker had posted an in­ter­view quot­ing Scara­mucci us­ing vul­gar lan­guage

to de­scribe Priebus.

“Reince Priebus — if you want to leak some­thing — he’ll be asked to re­sign very shortly,” Scara­mucci told The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza in a vul­gar­ity-laced tele­phone call Wed­nes­day night. Scara­mucci sug­gested that he be­lieved that Priebus was leak­ing in­for­ma­tion to dam­age him.

“Reince is a f***ing para­noid schiz­o­phrenic, a para­noiac,” he said.

In the same tele­phone call, Scara­mucci dis­par­aged Steve Ban­non, the pres­i­dent’s chief strate­gist, who also warned against hir­ing him as com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor.

“I’m not Steve Ban­non,” he said, adding: “I’m not try­ing to build my own brand off the f***king strength of the pres­i­dent. I’m here to serve the coun­try.”

Scara­mucci later re­leased a state­ment but did not apol­o­gize. “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.”

Sarah Huck­abee San­ders, the new White House press sec­re­tary, said she had noth­ing to add to the state­ment. Priebus and Ban­non had no im­me­di­ate com­ment.

The phone call un­der­scored the depth of di­vi­sions within the West Wing, which have only widened with Scara­mucci’s ar­rival. Not only did Priebus and Ban­non op­pose his ap­point­ment, but Sean Spicer re­signed as press sec­re­tary in protest.

Scara­mucci was an­gry about what he saw as leaks tar­get­ing him. Lizza had posted a mes­sage on Twit­ter on Wed­nes­day night re­port­ing that Trump and Scara­mucci were hav­ing din­ner at the White House with Sean Han­nity, a Fox News host and a strong sup­porter of the pres­i­dent, and Bill Shine, a for­mer Fox ex­ec­u­tive. Scara­mucci called Lizza un­so­licited to de­mand that he iden­tify his source.

When Lizza would not, Scara­mucci said, “OK, I’m go­ing to fire ev­ery one of them, and then you haven’t pro­tected any­body, so the en­tire place will be fired over the next two weeks.”

Sarah Is­gur Flores, a spokesman for the Depart­ment of Jus­tice, said in an un­usual state­ment late Wed­nes­day: “We have seen an as­ton­ish­ing in­crease in the num­ber of leaks of clas­si­fied na­tional se­cu­rity in­for­ma­tion in re­cent months. We agree with An­thony that [this] stag­ger­ing num­ber of leaks are un­der­min­ing the abil­ity of our gov­ern­ment to func­tion and to pro­tect this coun­try.”

Flores added that At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, whom the pres­i­dent has re­peat­edly at­tacked this week, “will ag­gres­sively pur­sue leak cases wher­ever they may lead.”

Scara­mucci was also up­set about a story on Politico re­port­ing his fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure form. In a Twit­ter post Wed­nes­day night shortly af­ter his con­ver­sa­tion with Lizza, Scara­mucci said the “leak” was “a felony” and that he would be con­tact­ing the FBI and the Jus­tice Depart­ment to seek an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. He then in­cluded Priebus’ Twit­ter han­dle, which sev­eral of­fi­cials in the White House in­ter­preted as mean­ing that he sus­pected the chief of staff.

On Thurs­day morn­ing, he tele­phoned into CNN and agreed that he was at log­ger­heads with Priebus, com­par­ing their re­la­tion­ship to that of Cain and Abel, the bib­li­cal sons of Adam and Eve whose con­flict led to Cain’s mur­der­ing Abel. He chal­lenged Priebus to deny be­ing a leaker.

“We have had odds. We have had dif­fer­ences,” Scara­mucci said. “When I said we were broth­ers from the podium, that’s be­cause we’re rough on each other. Some broth­ers are like Cain and Abel. Other broth­ers can fight with each other and get along. I don’t know if this is repara­ble or not. That will be up to the pres­i­dent.”

But the leak he was com­plain­ing about was no leak. Lor­raine Woellert, Politico’s re­porter on the story, ex­plained that she sim­ply re­quested the fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure form through nor­mal chan­nels and was pro­vided it by a gov­ern­ment agency as re­quired by fed­eral law. Scara­mucci deleted his Twit­ter mes­sage but posted a new one re­fer­ring to a story by the news out­let Ax­ios sug­gest­ing that he wanted Priebus in­ves­ti­gated.

As the hosts and guests of CNN’s New Day dis­cussed the mat­ter Thurs­day morn­ing, Scara­mucci called in to ad­dress the ques­tion of why Priebus’ Twit­ter han­dle was tagged in the tweet.

“He’s the chief of staff,” he said. “He’s re­spon­si­ble for un­der­stand­ing and un­cov­er­ing and help­ing me do that in­side the White House, which is why I put that tweet out last night.”

The fact that jour­nal­ists in­ter­preted it as an ac­cu­sa­tion against Priebus sug­gested that he might be a leaker be­cause the jour­nal­ists know who gives them in­for­ma­tion, Scara­mucci said.

“When I put out a tweet and I put Reince’s name in the 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 that he’s not a leaker, let him do that. Let me tell you some­thing about my­self. I am a straight shooter, and I’ll go right to the heart of the mat­ter.”

The dis­clo­sure form, filed with the Ex­port-Im­port Bank, where Scara­mucci worked briefly be­fore join­ing the White House, showed that he has as­sets worth as much as $85 mil­lion. He made $5 mil­lion in salary and an­other $4.9 mil­lion from his own­er­ship stake in his in­vest­ment firm Sky-Bridge Cap­i­tal in the first six months of this year, ac­cord­ing to the fil­ing.

Un­der fed­eral law, dis­clo­sure forms are pub­licly avail­able, and agen­cies that re­ceive them have 30 days to open them to the pub­lic. Scara­mucci’s re­port says it was filed June 23, which meant that it had to be avail­able for re­lease by the bank by July 23, last Sun­day.

Lizza, who is also a CNN con­trib­u­tor, was on the air Thurs­day when Scara­mucci called in.

“Yeah, so, when I was speak­ing to you last night, Ryan, I said it was un­pa­tri­otic that you weren’t telling me who the leak­ers were. I was on a plane land­ing in New York. I have to go visit my mom. And so you may have caught it the wrong way,” Scara­mucci said. “I was teas­ing you, and it was sar­cas­tic. It was one Ital­ian to an­other.”

Chris Cuomo, one of the hosts of CNN’s New Day, jumped in to re­set the in­ter­view, let Scara­mucci know that Lizza might not be able to hear him and tried to make it clear to view­ers what Scara­mucci was talk­ing about.

Scara­mucci then said he had just spent 15 min­utes on the phone with the pres­i­dent, “who has given me his full sup­port and his full bless­ing,” and an­nounced that he had a state­ment to read.

It was un­clear whether Scara­mucci ever read the state­ment, but he did talk non­stop for quite a while. He first said that no mat­ter what peo­ple think of Trump, “you have to love the in­sti­tu­tion of the pres­i­dency. You have to love the of­fice, and you have to love our coun­try.”

He added that he has done “a ma­jor amount of work over the last five days” and has in­ter­viewed most of the as­sis­tants to the pres­i­dent and mem­bers of the White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions team.

“What the pres­i­dent and I would like to tell every­body — we have a very, very good idea of who the leak­ers are, who the se­nior leak­ers are in the White House. We’ll get to that in a sec­ond,” Scara­mucci said. “What I also want to say is that we are work­ing to­gether, the pres­i­dent and my­self and other mem­bers of his team and law en­force­ment, to … out, if you will, the leak­ers in the en­tire coun­try.”

Scara­mucci said White House leaks are “small pota­toes” com­pared with leaks re­lated to sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion about Syria, North Korea and Iraq.

“Those are the types of leaks that are so trea­sonous that 150 years ago peo­ple would have ac­tu­ally been hung for those types of leaks,” Scara­mucci said.

He said he un­der­stands that pub­lic in­for­ma­tion laws al­low re­porters to re­quest copies of some gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments, in­clud­ing his fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure form that Politico re­quested, but he kept com­plain­ing about leaks.

“The leak­ing won’t stop. I can’t have a cou­ple of friends up from Fox & Friends and Sean Han­nity, who’s one of my clos­est friends, [at] din­ner with the pres­i­dent and his first lady with­out it be­ing leaked in seven min­utes,” Scara­mucci said. “It’s ab­so­lutely, com­pletely and to­tally rep­re­hen­si­ble. And the, as you know, from the Ital­ian ex­pres­sion: The fish stinks from the head down. Well, I can tell you two fish that don’t stink, OK? And that’s me and the pres­i­dent.”

AP/EVAN VUCCI

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus leaves the East Room of the White House on Thurs­day af­ter a cer­e­mony where Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump rec­og­nized the first re­spon­ders from the June 14 shoot­ing at con­gres­sional base­ball prac­tice. Priebus has yet to re­spond to ac­cu­sa­tions of be­ing a “leaker” by An­thony Scara­mucci.

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