Maybe you’ve heard, but the new White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, is a wild guy. He calls up New Yorker reporters and says things like, "I want to fucking kill all the leakers." He’s rogue.
Scaramucci serves at the pleasure of the president, but let’s be clear: He is his own man, not to be confused with the Trump administration’s many other senior advisers to the wildcard-in-chief. "I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock," Scaramucci told New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza in an interview given Wednesday night and published Thursday afternoon, just as three Republican senators announced their opposition to a "skinny repeal" of Obamacare. The interview is full of blockbuster quotes, including, "I’ve done nothing wrong on my financial disclosures, so they’re going to have to go fuck themselves," and, of course, the starring dig at Bannon.
Understandably, readers have been scandalized by these pull quotes, which The New Yorker has fashioned into stark, black-and-white title cards for easy dissemination on social media. The title cards, and their dignified font, make Scaramucci’s vulgarity seem profound. At the very least, it is captivating, and Scaramucci’s remarks have roiled political media into fits of laughter right as the GOP health care chessboard disintegrates in Congress. I’d tell you that "Scaramucci is just another distraction!," but I don’t want to be that guy.
A former New York finance type, Scaramucci is new to Washington, D.C. After being linked with Trump since serving on the president’s transition team late last year, Scaramucci officially arrived in American politics last week, on the same day that Sean Spicer, the press secretary who also served as interim White House communications chief, announced his resignation. Scaramucci’s arrival provoked Spicer’s departure, as he and other senior White House aides — including the president’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus — reportedly strenuously objected to Scaramucci’s appointment because of his inexperience in politics and communications, not to mention the hints of their various personal grudges against him. Scaramucci hasn’t denied those grudges. In fact, he used his drive-by interview with Lizza to begrudge Priebus and Bannon, in particular, right back. It’s not uncommon for White House aides to resent one another in private. But it is spectacularly rare, and ill advised, for a senior official to channel 2Pac while speaking on the record about his colleagues to a national magazine reporter.
Scaramucci called Lizza to interrogate him about his source for a couple of harmless tweets about a White House dinner; Lizza would not divulge. Then, as if Scaramucci were negotiating a hostage release with Lizza, the communications director quickly escalated his demands, threatening to fire the entire White House communications team unless Lizza revealed the source for his minor story about the president’s dinner plans. Scaramucci then moved on to disparaging Priebus, saying he asked the FBI to investigate Priebus for leaking a financial disclosure that was, in fact, a public record, and promised that Priebus would be "asked to resign very shortly." (Given similar reports this week about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom Trump has recently disparaged in the press, it seems the president is likely to fire the entire executive branch any minute now.) Scaramucci then went on to dis Bannon as an aside. Mercifully, Scaramucci didn’t mention Spicer.
Trump trades in dramatic, vulgar candor, and he has finally found a senior flack who broadcasts that language on his behalf. In this case, the result is an incredible interview that illustrates the standard of loyalty that Trump means to set for his aides. Lizza’s interview — which Scaramucci has since acknowledged, without apology — also suggests that Spicer and Priebus, who would never have given such an explosive and extensively demoralizing interview on the record, were right to fear Scaramucci’s employment. If he talks to The New Yorker like that, it’s hard not to wonder what he’s like behind closed doors. God willing, the leakers will spill it.