Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 28 January 2020

Anthony Scaramucci on his 'mad' 11-day stint as Donald Trump's press aide

'The Mooch' sits down with 'The National' as he brings the Salt investment conference to Abu Dhabi

The first time Anthony Scaramucci and General Mike Kelly met, it was at a wedding.

In their second encounter, Gen Kelly, then Donald Trump’s new chief of staff, fired Mr Scaramucci as the White House director of communications, a post he had held for just 11 days.

Mr Scaramucci publicly descried the retired Marine as "a bad dude" and "General Jackass".

But the pair will share a stage on Tuesday when the man became known across the world as ‘The Mooch’ during his ignominious stint in the Trump administration, brings his Salt conference to the Middle East for the first time.

I literally got an 11-day PhD in Washington scumbaggery

Anthony Scaramucci

In an interview with The National ahead of the event, Mr Scaramucci said he hoped others could learn lessons from their reconciliation, even as he embraced his new-found role as a Trump arch critic, openly questioning the President’s mental health and fitness for office, after years of outspoken support.

“I was a little bit sore about that,” he said of his feelings towards Gen Kelly in the aftermath of his humiliating dismissal in July 2017.

“But I called him after he had left the White House and said ‘hey, let’s get lunch’. We had a three hour lunch together.”

The pair, he said, found they had “a lot in common”. Gen Kelly agreed to appear at a Salt conference, which are organised by the SkyBridge Capital firm Mr Scaramucci founded, in Las Vegas in May and they had seen each other “several times” since.

“We have a shared wartime experience of working for President Trump,” Mr Scaramucci said. “It was not guns shooting, but could be sometimes traumatic.

“No grudges, politics is a rough sport but you can’t play rugby and not expect to get a concussion here or there. For me, I’m very happy with my friendship with him.”

Mr Scaramucci’s sacking came days after he phoned up a New Yorker journalist and launched an expletive-laden rant about other Trump staffers. Although he still maintains he believed he was speaking off the record, he did not make this explicit and his words soon made it into print, causing a sensation.

Reince Priebus, Gen Kelly’s predecessor, was a “paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac”, Mr Scaramucci had said.

He discussed firing the entire White House communications staff due to leaks and another insult about Steve Bannon, then chief strategist, is too explicit to repeat.

But while relations with Gen Kelly have improved over the years, Mr Scaramucci’s rapport with the President has not.

Although he continued to publicly express support for the President long after his firing, the 55-year-old turned on him spectacularly in the summer.

Mr Scaramucci said “four or five” of the President’s recent actions, which included an attack on four American, non-white left-wing congresswomen who he urged to return to “the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came”, had provoked his U-turn.

“That’s a racist trope, a 150-year-old nativist racist trope,” Mr Scaramucci said of Trump’s attack on the Democrat Congresswomen, known collectively as ‘The Squad’. “My grandparents who were Italian-American had to hear that 100 years ago.

“There were issues related to his personality which many of us [Republicans], through cognitive dissonance and moral equivocation, cast a blind eye towards. If you want to be critical of me for that, or suggest that was an inappropriate thing to do, I own that.”

Mr Scaramucci’s regular, bombastic attacks on the President, which have included openly raising questions over his mental state, have not gone unnoticed in the Oval Office.

In August, the President hit back on Twitter, calling Mr Scaramucci a “highly unstable nut job” and a “mental wreck”. Mr Trump claimed his 11 days in the White House were characterised by “gross incompetence” in which his former communications director “abused staff” and “made a fool of himself”.

Anthony ‘the Mooch’ Scaramucci, Donald Trump’s former communications director, blasted the President in an interview with The National. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) 
Anthony ‘the Mooch’ Scaramucci, Donald Trump’s former communications director, blasted the President in an interview with The National. Antonie Robertson / The National

In a move that enraged Mr Scaramucci, Mr Trump also discussed his wife. “Said his wife was driving him crazy,” Mr Trump told his tens of millions of Twitter followers. “Something big was happening with her. Getting Divorced.”

The attacks on US citizens through Twitter, which Mr Trump has also launched recently on witnesses in impeachment hearings, is a “form of fascism”, Mr Scaramucci said, with the intention to silence critics and deter others from speaking out.

“What he did in terms of going after my wife is a despicable act. I think it’s obviously a direct sign of some mental disease in his personality,” he said.

“I’m a public figure, I’m a big boy, I know how to handle myself. I don’t like bullies, I personally reject them but I know how to deal with bullies. But if you’re going after my wife, who’s a suburban house wife raising young children on Long Island, I think it’s very disrespectful.”

Elaborating on Mr Trump’s mental state, Mr Scaramucci again cited his behaviour on Twitter.

“If you’re watching an American football game and you’re watching a defensive tackle crush a quarterback, and you’re watching the quarterback’s leg move in a direction that it wouldn’t typically anatomically move in, you can assess that bone has been broken.

“I’m not a psychologist, or a psychiatrist, but go look at the guy’s tweeting. This past weekend he tweeted, in a 16-hour period, over 100 times a bunch of babbling, insane nonsense. It’s like the example in football — you can just look at the thing and say ‘OK, that is absolutely crazy’.

US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the four Congresswoman who President Trump attacked. / AFP / ANGELA WEISS
US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the four Congresswoman who President Trump attacked. Angela Weiss / AFP

“We have a group of American elected leaders that recognise the danger the person represents to American society, if not global society, but as a result of their need to stay in power are choosing the either ignore it or try to support it or rationalise it.

“That will be the travesty — when this period of American demagoguery is over, and that fever eventually breaks, it will be a lot like the McCarthy era … there were very few people who spoke out against Senator McCarthy at that time.”

Despite admitting he regrets his past support for Trump — both through donations and with his regular media appearances — he insists he does not regret his “humbling” 11 days in the White House, more than two years on.

His higher profile has opened doors to him, he said, something supported by the litany of A-list speakers he has persuaded to take part in his conference this week.

Politics is a rough sport but you can’t play rugby and not expect to get a concussion here or there

Anthony Scaramucci

In total, around 1,350 delegates have signed up, including Philip Hammond, the former UK chancellor, Prince Turki Al Faisal of Saudi Arabia and Kirstjen Neilsen, who resigned as Mr Trump’s secretary of Homeland Security in April.

His firing helped him reconcile with his wife, he said, with his “heavy defeat” in Washington also offering opportunities for character building.

“I’m reflective and philosophical about it,” Mr Scaramucci said. “I got fired because I did something fireable. But looking back on the last two years I’m very grateful that I was fired, because it’s been a level of turmoil and most people that are coming out of the White House, unfortunately, have some level of reputational damage.

“So whatever reputational damage I have garnered from being in the White House, I think has been more than offset by the interesting life experiences I’ve had as a direct result.

“I learnt a lot from the process, I literally got an 11-day PhD in Washington scumbaggery.”

Updated: December 12, 2019 03:05 PM

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