Priebus pushed out after rocky tenure
to be on the edge of ouster, Priebus saw his fate finally sealed a week ago when Trump hired Scaramucci, an edgy Wall Street financier, over the chief of staff’s objections. Priebus’ ally, Sean Spicer, the press secretary, resigned in protest.
More than just a personnel dispute, the disagreement suggested a broader cleavage that would lead to Priebus’ resignation. In tapping Scaramucci, Trump was turning to a wealthy New Yorker who had become part of his inner circle, and who compensated in charisma and rapport with Trump and his family for what he lacked in governing experience.
Priebus represented a more conventional breed of senior White House figure, chosen by the president despite a career defined by the calculations of traditional Republican Party politics, which Trump regards as part of “the swamp” he was elected to drain.
Priebus and Spicer had told the president they believed Scaramucci, a gregarious hedge fund manager and fundraiser, lacked the political experience and organizational skills required to serve in the role of communications director. In the end, however, those warnings fell on deaf ears and further soured Trump, who almost from the start suggested both publicly and privately that the job of his chief of staff was not safe.
Scaramucci made clear when he was hired that he reported not to Priebus but directly to the president and by Wednesday night was publicly suggesting that the chief of staff was a leaker and even threatened to seek an FBI investigation. On Thursday, he went on television and dared Priebus to deny leaking and described the two of them as Cain and Abel, the biblical brothers whose rivalry results in one killing the other.
On Thursday evening, the New Yorker posted an interview with Scaramucci that included a vulgarity-laced tirade against Priebus. He called Priebus a “paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” who leaked information against him and vowed to get him fired. “He’ll be asked to resign very shortly,” Scaramucci said.
As party chairman last year, Priebus was slow to embrace Trump’s candidacy, and the president, who sometimes called him “Reincey” in private, never let his chief of staff forget it. Trump had often joked about his chief of staff’s long-term loyalty and liked reminding the people around him that Priebus suggested that he consider dropping out after the “Access Hollywood” tape of Trump’s crude remarks about women was made public in October.
A native of Kenosha, Wisconsin, Priebus rose through the ranks of the Republican Party to be his state’s chairman, amassing power by establishing relationships with party donors and becoming an effective operator within the national party, which he was chosen to lead in 2011. One of his top allies was a fellow Republican from Wisconsin, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who publicly defended Priebus on Thursday when no one in the White House would.
With many former members of President George W. Bush’s administration unwilling to work for a president they regard as unqualified or blackballed because of their opposition to Trump’s candidacy last year, Priebus staffed the West Wing with an assortment of Republican veterans and some of his core staff at the RNC, including his former deputy, Katie Walsh. But the assimilation of the RNC into the West Wing was fraught and Walsh and others departed.
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, soured on Priebus, partly because of what he viewed as Spicer’s shortcomings. Other senior advisers bristled at his demeanor or suspected he was undermining him. An alliance of convenience with Stephen K. Bannon, the nationalist and decidedly anti-establishment chief strategist, seemed to fade in recent weeks.
The jockeying to replace Priebus got underway even before his demise was official. Many of Scaramucci’s colleagues assumed he wanted the job, but he would have been controversial not just because of his foul-mouthed rant that included a vulgar attack on Bannon.
Originally a sharp critic of Trump as a candidate, he donated to and voted for Democrats like President Barack Obama and supported gun control, abortion rights and same-sex marriage, opposed the death penalty and criticized those who call climate change a hoax.
Some of Trump’s longtime supporters also publicly questioned his interest in Kelly. “The president needs someone who understands the Trump constituency as his chief of staff, someone who has both administrative skills and political savvy,” said Roger Stone, Trump’s off and on adviser.