WASHINGTON - On Thursday evening, The New Yorker published an incredible interview with Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House chief of communications, who began his job as President Donald Trump's top media adviser just last weekend. Technically, it wasn't exactly an interview, since Scaramucci simply called the magazine's reporter, Ryan Lizza, and began making threats over the phone - but since he did not classify the conversation as "background" or "off-the-record," the magazine decided to publish its transcript - which sent shockwaves through Washington.
Scaramucci called Lizza on Wednesday night to comment on a tweet Lizza had published, which included information about a dinner President Trump was having together with Fox News host Sean Hannitty and Bill Shine, a former Fox executive. Lizza's tweet was attributed to a "senior White House official," and Scaramucci was eager to find out who that official was.
When Lizza said he could not disclose his source, Scaramucci replied by saying - "what I’m going to do is, I will eliminate everyone in the comms team and we’ll start over," basically threatening to fire the entire White House communications staff over the leak. "I ask these guys not to leak anything and they can’t help themselves,” he added. “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.”
From that point on, the conversation got extremely tense - and bizarre. Scaramucci went on a rant against other White House officials, especially Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who back in January, used his influence to stop Scaramucci from being hired to a senior position in the White House. The two men have been clashing ever since the 2016 election campaign. Scaramucci told Lizza that the leak about the meeting was an attempt by Priebus to hurt his standing as the new communications director.
“Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” Scaramucci said. Lizza adds that Scaramucci then "channeled Priebus as he spoke: ‘Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months.’” In a wry manner, the magazine added that "Priebus did not respond to a request for comment."
Scaramucci also used the opportunity to voice his opinion on Steven Bannon, President Trump's senior White House strategist, by telling Lizza that "I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock. I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country.” Bannon, just like Priebus, declined to comment.
Responding to the fallout from his interview, Scaramucci tweeted late Thursday that he sometimes uses "colorful language" and vowed to "refrain" from doing so in the future.
After trashing Bannon and Priebus, still interested in discovering who leaked the information about the dinner, Scaramucci then told Lizza that he will contact the FBI to investigate the manner, stating once again that he believed Priebus was responsible. "O.K., the Mooch showed up a week ago,” he said, referring to himself by his own nickname. “This is going to get cleaned up very shortly, O.K.? Because I nailed these guys. I’ve got digital fingerprints on everything they’ve done through the F.B.I. and the fucking Department of Justice.”
He ended the conversation with Lizza by saying "Yeah, let me go, though, because I’ve gotta start tweeting some shit to make this guy crazy.” A few minutes later, according to Lizza, Scaramucci published a tweet in which he said he will contact the FBI and Justice Department about leaks, including some of his financial disclosure documents (which in fact weren't leaked, but published as part of the government's official obligation to make such information public). At the end of the tweet, Scaramucci mentioned Priebus' twitter username, hinting that the responsibility was on the chief of staff.
But then, as Lizza wrote in his article, "Scaramucci seemed to have second thoughts. Within two hours he deleted the original tweet and posted a new one denying that he was targeting the chief of staff." Later that night, Scaramucci also denied in an interview with CNN that he was trying to blame Pribues for the leaks, and explained that, in fact, he mentioned Priebus because he wanted the two of them to work together against the leaks.
His version of events sounded weak and confusing, but by Thursday morning, most media outlets came to accept it. Then came the New Yorker piece, and allowed the entire world to peek into the internal fights of the Trump White House.
Scaramucci, it should be noted, has only been working for the White House for six days. Priebus, on the other hand, has only been chief of staff for six months. One of them - it's not clear who - will probably not stay in his job much longer.