The Scaramucci era has begun at the White House, and Trump World is buzzing about the Priebus era coming to an end.
New White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci has fast become one of the most powerful people in the West Wing, putting allies of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus on edge.
Priebus and press secretary Sean Spicer, both veterans of the Republican National Committee (RNC), vehemently opposed adding Scaramucci to the White House staff, leading Spicer to abruptly announce his resignation on Friday.
Spicer’s impending departure leaves Priebus without his key ally, sparking more speculation about his future as President Trump’s top aide.
In an interview with The Hill, Scaramucci played down the idea that he is taking power at Priebus’s expense.
“No. I don’t see how it would be usurping the power of the chief of staff when I’m reporting directly to the president,” Scaramucci said. “There’s other assistants to the president that report directly to the president, so I don’t see that as an issue. Reince and I have no problem getting along.”
Five hours later, Scaramucci appeared to accuse Priebus of leaking his financial information.
He tagged Priebus in a now-deleted tweet that said he would contact the FBI and Department of Justice.
Scaramucci later said reports that he was going after Priebus were “wrong.”
Priebus has sought to downplay the notion of friction between him and Scaramucci, telling The Associated Press last Friday that he supported his hiring “100 percent.”
Priebus did not comment for this article.
Scaramucci has appeared to put the RNC contingent on notice, telling reporters on Air Force One on Tuesday night that New Yorkers have their own way of doing things that is different from the methods of the Washington establishment.
“What I don’t like about Washington is people do not let you know how they feel,” he said Tuesday on Fox News. “They’re very nice to your face and then they take a shiv or a machete, and they stab it in your back.”
To many observers, Scaramucci is already acting as a chief of staff and working to effectively end Priebus’s tenure.
“This is bad for Priebus,” said one GOP operative with close ties to the RNC. “This is not how it’s supposed to work. The communications guy doesn’t come in and fire staff. Those moves are supposed to be vetted through the chief of staff.”
“It’s unheard of, the amount of power Scaramucci has,” the operative said. “He reports to the president, not the chief of staff. It debases whatever power Priebus had. He’s chief of staff in name only and will never get that power back. He doesn’t even have enough power to protect his own people and is losing more power by the day.”
In his interview on Fox News, Scaramucci talked like someone who had been given broad authority by the president that extends well beyond his title of communications director.
“If there are senior people inside the administration who are trying to get [the communications team] to leak information on each other, we’re getting that to stop right now because that does not serve the president,” he said, apparently addressing persistent rumors among some in Trump World that Priebus plants stories about himself meant to make him look good.
“We’re going to try and hit a cultural reset on these leaks not only here in the White House, but I’m going to be working with the agencies and the departments to do that.”
But one day after he threatened to fire the entire communications shop — which is manned by many former RNC aides — and bungled the firing of the press aide, Michael Short, Scaramucci sought to cool down talk of imminent dismissals.
“There are rumors that I’m firing more people,” he said, “[but] I’m not firing any more people — at least for now.”
Some familiar with the situation are taking a wait-and-see approach with Scaramucci, skeptical that he will execute a sweeping purge of the press operation. Scaramucci is still learning the ropes of running a communications operation and might not want to force out a large portion of the staff.
There’s also speculation that Scaramucci could be rattling his saber in an effort to encourage Priebus allies to resign.
Scaramucci’s brash moves and aggressive style have reopened old wounds from the presidential race, pitting campaign hands against former RNC officials, who are generally viewed by longtime Trump allies as interlopers who never sufficiently backed the president.
One story that is constantly retold is how the campaign worked through the night on Oct. 7, the day the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape was released, while RNC officials went home, assuming the election was over. Senior counselor Kellyanne Conway has referred to those who stood by the president in the wake of that controversy as “The Oct. 8 Coalition,” in reference to those who refused to abandon Trump at the low moment of the campaign.
RNC allies have forcefully disputed the notion that they quit the campaign, saying that research and press staffers worked on behalf of Trump all the way through Election Day. The RNC was critical in providing the bare-bones Trump campaign with the infrastructure and manpower it lacked, and Priebus got behind Trump even before the primary officially ended.
Still, longtime Trump backers are thrilled that Scaramucci is shaking things up and targeting the RNC, believing that the president has been ill-served by Priebus and Spicer, who they say were always a bad fit to defend and implement Trump’s agenda.
“He’s leading by example,” said one former transition team adviser. “Priebus doesn’t know the president. The president respects Anthony for his success in life. He’s high energy. He knows the theatrics. He gets what Trump wants more than Priebus and Spicer combined.”
Scaramucci’s aggressive first few days have provoked chatter among Trump allies that a broader senior staff shakeup could be in the works.
Republican Wayne Berman, a businessman who works for the Blackstone Group, was at the White House on Tuesday. He has been rumored in the past as a potential chief of staff candidate or for some other role, although it’s unclear what business he had there this week.
Meanwhile, Trump has mulled tapping his national economic adviser, Gary Cohn, as the next Federal Reserve chief. And two outside advisers who are constantly rumored to be up for White House jobs, Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, traveled with the president to a rally in Ohio Tuesday.
In the five days since his hiring, Scaramucci has flooded the television airwaves to heap praise on the president and defend him.
After his debut Friday in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, he appeared on three Sunday shows: CBS News’s “Face the Nation,” “Fox News Sunday” and CNN’s “State of the Union.”
During an interview Tuesday with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, he made no apologies for Trump’s rough treatment of Attorney General Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsScaramucci fast accruing power in White House The Memo: Justice Department veterans reeling over Sessions drama Trump’s attacks stun Republican senators MORE, saying that Cabinet members need to have “very tough skin to work for and deal with the president.”
And he dodged when pressed if Trump ordered Short’s firing. “I’m straightly, straightly not answering your question,” he told Cuomo.
“Scaramucci definitely fits the Trump profile better than a traditional political operative,” said former Mitt Romney spokesman Ryan Williams. “The president has a higher probability of listening to someone who’s been successful in business, and he brings a flare to the role that should serve him well in Trump’s eyes.”
Outsiders warned that the president’s advisers thus far have been unable to impose message discipline on the White House, curb his Twitter habits or contain his flashes of anger, and that for all of his bluster, Scaramucci might be no different.
But the former hedge fund manager has indicated he wants to let the president be himself, rather than try to rein him in.
“It’s early and would be difficult for anyone to deal with the president’s Twitter outbursts, but there’s an obvious abundance of self-confidence, and he looks the part, which the president will like,” said Williams.