Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 June 2019

Trump's communications head calls chief of staff 'paranoid'

Anthony Scaramuccis was hired to fix the president's message but after only a week,Trump's White House is in even more disarray.

White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci  with the media outside the White House in Washington, DC on July 25, 2017.  Tasos Katopodis / AFP
White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci with the media outside the White House in Washington, DC on July 25, 2017. Tasos Katopodis / AFP

He was brought in to be the smooth-talking face of a troubled administration, refining the message and rebranding a chaotic White House beset by chaos and riven by infighting.

Instead, during a foul-mouthed tirade delivered to a magazine journalist, communications chief Anthony Scaramucci has turned a simmering feud into a public war and hurled deeply personal insults at Reince Priebus, White House chief of staff, and Steve Bannon, chief strategist.

In so doing, the man appointed to be a PR Mr Fixit has apparently fallen foul of the simplest rule: knowing what is and is not being said on the record.

Mr Scaramucci, a New York financier who was appointed last week, told a reporter from the New Yorker that Mr Priebus was a “paranoid schizophrenic” who would soon be asked to resign.

And he accused Mr Bannon of riding on the president’s coat-tails in an effort to build his own brand.

It all began when Mr Scaramucci telephoned the news channel CNN for an unscheduled interview on Thursday morning and all but accused Mr Priebus of leaking against him.

"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."

Hours later, Ryan Lizza, of the New Yorker, published an account of an expletive-laden telephone conversation with the man who had arrived at the White House as a smoot- talking TV pro.

His apparent reason for telephoning was to hunt for leakers in the administration. In particular, he was furious that Mr Lizza had obtained details of a private White House dinner.

"They'll all be fired by me," he said. "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.

The animosity between them is well-known. Earlier this year, Mr Scaramucci put his hedge fund up for sale in preparation for taking up a White House job. However, the move was blocked by Mr Priebus, and the Mooch – as he known to friends – was shifted into an alternative post at the Export-Import bank.

Mr Priebus reportedly tried to head off Mr Scaramucci's new appointment last week and it prompted the resignation of Sean Spicer as press secretary, who feared the arrival of the New Yorker’s would promote more chaos.

Judging by the first week, he could not have been more right. Rather than steadying the ship, Mr Scaramucci has provided more headlines about upheaval and made the cardinal sin of becoming the story.

However, some observers point out that his New York roots,his bombastic style, and non-stop Twitter presence make him a perfect fit for this administration.

“The Mooch is a New Yorker like me,” Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor and an adviser to Mr Trump, told the New York Times. “He’s a purebred New Yorker. He’s lit a firecracker in that place. What you’re seeing in Scaramucci is the president’s style.”

Mr Trump is also known for an approach to management that pits competing centres of power against each other.

To critics it is a recipe for exactly the sort of divisions that Mr Scaramucci exposed. To supporters it is a way of getting results.

“This is a White House that has lots of different perspectives because the president hires the very best people,” is how Sarah Huckerbee Sanders, White House press secretary put it in the hours between Mr Scaramucci’s spontaneous CNN interview and the New Yorker article appearing.

“With that competition, you usually get the best results. The president likes that kind of competition and encourages it.”

For his part, Mr Scaramucci blamed Mr Lizza for reporting their conversation.

“I made a mistake in trusting in a reporter. It won't happen again,” he said on Twitter.

With details of competing power centres jostling for influence making headlines once again, it emerged that Derek Harvey, a senior Middle East adviser, had been fired from the National Security Council.

He was appointed by Gen Michael Flynn, who was dismissed as National Security Adviser in February, and held hawkish views on Iran and global jihadism. Some observers said he had grown close to the Bannonite wing of the White House, making him vulnerable to the more establishment-focused national security team led by Gen HR McMaster.

“General McMaster greatly appreciates Derek Harvey's service to his country as a career Army officer, where he served his country bravely in the field and played a crucial role in the successful surge in Iraq, and also for his service on Capitol Hill and in the Trump administration,” said an NSC spokesman.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump’s continuing problems in pursuing his legislative agenda were dealt a further blow in the early hours of Friday when the latest version of a bill failed to win Senate approval. At least three Republicans voted against the plan, which needed a simple majority to pass.

President Donald Trump tweeted that along with the Democrats they had “let the American people down”.

The latest version of the bill, a so-called “skinny” repeal, leaving out many of the Republicans’ most controversial ideas, is the third failed attempt to repeal Obamacare.

Updated: July 28, 2017 05:23 PM