Com­mu­ni­ca­tions chief on leaks: “This fish stinks from the head down”

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Julie Bykowicz and Jonathan Lemire

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s new com­mu­ni­ca­tions chief shoves the be­hind-thescenes drama at the White House onto cen­ter stage, dar­ing Trump’s chief of staff to pub­licly deny he’s a “leaker.”

WASH­ING­TON» Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s new com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor ex­ploded the smol­der­ing ten­sions at the White House into a full-fledged con­fla­gra­tion Thurs­day, an­grily dar­ing Trump’s chief of staff to deny he’s a “leaker” and ex­pos­ing West Wing back­stab­bing in lan­guage more suit­able to a mob­ster movie than a seat of pres­i­den­tial sta­bil­ity.

In a pull-no-punches, im­promptu CNN in­ter­view that he said was au­tho­rized by the pres­i­dent, An­thony Scara­mucci went af­ter Chief of Staff Reince Priebus in graphic terms. “The fish stinks from the head down,” he said. “I can tell you two fish that don’t stink, and that’s me and the pres­i­dent.”

Not even a week into his new job, Scara­mucci ac­cused uniden­ti­fied se­nior of­fi­cials of try­ing to sab­o­tage him and com­mit­ting a felony by leak­ing in­for­ma­tion. But the per­sonal fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion that he said some­one had “leaked” about him had been ob­tained sim­ply through a pub­lic-records re­quest.

Then in an in­ter­view pub­lished by The New Yorker late Thurs­day, an an­gry Scara­mucci used an ex­ple­tive to ac­cuse Priebus of be­ing a “para­noid schiz­o­phrenic” and White House chief strate­gist Steve Ban­non of try­ing to bur­nish his own rep­u­ta­tion.

He also threat­ened to fire White House staffers who leaked about a din­ner he had with the pres­i­dent.

“They’ll all be fired by me,” Scara­mucci told the mag­a­zine. “I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four peo­ple I’ll fire to­mor­row. I’ll get to the per­son who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus — if you want to leak some­thing — he’ll be asked to re­sign very shortly.”

By day’s end Scara­mucci sounded calmer, though not re­gret­ful.

“I some­times use col­or­ful lan­guage. I will re­frain in this arena but not give up the pas­sion­ate fight for @re­alDon­aldTrump’s agenda. #MAGA,” he tweeted. The tag at the end stands for Trump’s “Make Amer­ica Great Again.”

He also blamed the re­porter, Ryan Lizza. “I made a mis­take in trust­ing in a re­porter,” he added later. “It won’t hap­pen again.”

White House spokes­woman Sarah Huck­abee San­ders re­ferred re­porters to the first tweet.

The pres­i­dent’s se­nior coun­selor, Kellyanne Con­way, had ear­lier spec­u­lated in a Fox News in­ter­view that un­named forces

were out to get Scara­mucci, say­ing: “Some­body is try­ing to get in his way and scare him off.”

“There are leaks, and then there are peo­ple us­ing the press to shiv each other in the ribs,” she said.

Mean­while, no one in the White House took up for Priebus — in­clud­ing Priebus him­self. San­ders avoided giv­ing a di­rect an­swer when asked whether Trump has con­fi­dence in Priebus.

The past 24 hours pro­vided the clear­est ev­i­dence yet that Scara­mucci and Trump, both brash New York­ers, are cut from the same cloth. One of their shared tech­niques: pub­licly sham­ing mem­bers of their own team.

Newt Gin­grich, a for­mer House speaker and fre­quent out­side ad­viser to Trump, said in an in­ter­view that Scara­mucci’s at­tacks on Priebus are prob­lem­atic.

“They’ve got to get this sorted out be­tween the two of them, and it would be nice if they didn’t do it in pub­lic,” he said.

Yet af­ter Scara­mucci’s call-in CNN per­for­mance — a move lifted from his boss’ play­book — it was dif­fi­cult to see how the two could mend fences.

“I don’t know if this is re­pairable or not — that will be up to the pres­i­dent,” Scara­mucci said on air. He com­pared their re­la­tion­ship to that of broth­ers who are “rough on each other,” in­vok­ing Cain and Abel. One of those bib­li­cal broth­ers mur­dered the other.

The bad blood stems from Scara­mucci’s view that Priebus was in­suf­fi­ciently sup­port­ive of Trump at the end of the elec­tion cam­paign and his be­lief that Priebus per­suaded the pres­i­dent to keep him out of the White House in Jan­uary.

Six months later, Scara­mucci’s close re­la­tion­ship with the pres­i­dent trumped the op­po­si­tion of Priebus and Ban­non.

Scara­mucci’s ar­rival in the West Wing last Fri­day marked the first in a se­ries of fall­ing domi­noes that seemed to be lead­ing to­ward Priebus. Press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer, a close ally of Priebus, re­signed last week. Scara­mucci then forced out an­other com­mu­ni­ca­tions aide close to Priebus.

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