WASHINGTON – Is this war within the White House real or is it stagecraft?
Could it possibly be part of a complex, labyrinthian scheme cooked up by President Trump and his inner circle in which they feign chaotic infighting in a jujitsu-style effort to create a sense of imbalance among their real adversaries?
You have to ask questions like that after reading new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci’s interview with the New Yorker in which he blowtorches Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and senior strategist Steve Bannon with obscenity-laced invectives.
Could this be real?
The New Yorker’s Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza claims Scaramucci, whose name appropriately translates as “skirmish,” called him Wednesday night ostensibly to grill him about his sources for Lizza’s Tweet about a dinner meeting at the White House between President Trump, the first lady, Sean Hannity and former Fox News executive Bill Shine.
“Was Trump getting strategic advice from Hannity?” Lizza asked. “Was he considering hiring Shine?”
“Who leaked that to you?” Scaramucci asked. According to the New Yorker account, Lizza said he couldn’t give up that information. To which Scaramucci threatened to fire the entire communications staff.
“What I’m going to do is, I will eliminate everyone in the comms team and we’ll start over,” Scaramucci is quoted as saying. “I ask these guys not to leak anything and they can’t help themselves. You’re an American citizen, this is a major catastrophe for the American country. So, I’m asking you as an American patriot to give me a sense of who leaked it.”
Scaramucci is obsessed with leaks. And he makes no bones about resorting to a scorched-earth approach to outing leakers and firing them.
He’s quoted as calling Priebus a “paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac.” And those labels were underscored with a string of descriptive words beginning with the letter “F.” Scaramucci also allegedly announced to the magazine scribe that Priebus would be fired within days.
Never did Scaramucci suggest this conversation was off the record, says the New Yorker reporter.
What’s this all about?
Scaramucci is the self-appointed anti-leak czar, but, if this interview is to be believed, he’s leaking that the president is going to fire his chief of staff in days – and he’s doing it on the record! Even more interesting given the intensity of his anti-leaker passion reflected in this report: “What I want to do is I want to f—ing kill all the leakers and I want to get the president’s agenda on track so we can succeed for the American people.”
“I asked him why it was so important for the dinner to be kept a secret. Surely, I said, it would become public at some point,” reports Lizza.
Scaramucci’s reply: “I’ve asked people not to leak things for a period of time and give me a honeymoon period. They won’t do it. They’ll all be fired by me. 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.”
According to the report, Scaramucci was particularly incensed by a leak to Politico about his financial-disclosure form, “which he viewed as an illegal act of retaliation by Priebus.” That reporter said Thursday morning that the document was publicly available and she had obtained it from the Export-Import Bank. Scaramucci, who didn’t know this at the time of the confrontational interview, insisted it was Priebus who had committed “a felony” by leaking his personal financial background.
Scaramucci also took a swipe at Bannon, setting himself apart from the architect of Trump’s election victory by saying: “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the f—ing strength of the president. I’m here to serve the country.” The New Yorker says Bannon declined to comment.
But then it was back to enemy No. 1 – Priebus. He would be out soon.
“He didn’t get the hint that I was reporting directly to the president,” he said.
Is it war, or is it shadow boxing?
As President Trump would say, “Time will tell.”