Mooch, we hardly knew ye. A week after his arrival promised a new and more aggressive communications strategy, Anthony Scaramucci will has decided to “dramatically” lower his profile in the Trump White House. According to Axios’ Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen, his bizarre rant to New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza has convinced him to stick to briefings and occasional TV appearances … when the boss wants him to do so:
Incoming White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci has told associates he plans to dramatically pare back his interactions with journalists following his jaw-dropping comments to The New Yorker, sources with direct knowledge tell Axios.
Why it matters: Scaramucci’s aggressive entrance rattled West Wing staffers, and, like any aide representing President Trump on TV, he runs the risk of upstaging POTUS, who insists on being the star of his own show. …
He’ll keep doing TV when the President wants him to, and there’s no way he’ll stop engaging with all reporters; but he’s told associates he’ll be limiting his one-on-one interactions after feeling “burned.”
Scaramucci pulled out of an appearance at Politicon this weekend in Pasadena, California. Swan and Allen report that the decision to reverse his acceptance took place before Scaramucci’s comments, but the Washington Post’s Abby Philip hears otherwise from Politicon:
Confirmed that Scaramucci pulled out of Politicon in Pasadena this weekend. Organizers tell me it happened "overnight."
— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) July 28, 2017
If Scaramucci feels “burned,” it’s from self-immolation. Ryan Lizza has insisted that Scaramucci never asked him to go off the record from that part of the conversation, but that he did ask later on another topic, which Lizza honored. Lizza also recorded the conversations, which is likely why Scaramucci is complaining about being “burned” but not explicitly accusing Lizza of violating an agreement. Furthermore, as Hadas Gold reminds everyone today, Scaramucci’s ire over leaks that prompted his obscenity-filled outburst turned out to be misdirected, as his financial disclosure forms were already publicly available and not leaked at all:
— What is not a leak? A public disclosure form available to anyone who requests it, as my colleague Lorraine Woellert did on Tuesday, obtaining and publishing Scaramucci’s financial disclosure form which he was required to file when he joined the government last month. The information is publicly available to anyone who asks.
— Another thing that’s not a leak, you yourself telling reporters that someone is going to be fired. On Tuesday Scaramucci told my colleague Tara Palmeri that Assistant Press Secretary Michael Short was going to be let go. But then he told other reporters that “the fact that you guys know about it before [Short] does really upsets me as a human being and as a Roman Catholic.”
None of this would have kept Scaramucci from keeping up his high profile, though. Donald Trump likes aggressive media strategies, and even the foul-mouthed tirades wouldn’t put him off. So why is the man hired to get tough with the media suddenly lowering his media profile? Getting his first big attack painfully and clearly wrong might have had something to do with it, but as Allahpundit predicted last night, Icarus flew a little too close to the sun in TrumpWorld:
The President likes people with backbone. And at the moment, Scaramucci is empowered: We’re told the President loved the Mooch quotes. But President Trump doesn’t like being upstaged. “Mini-me” can’t forget the “Mini” part. Being more Trump than Trump, in Trump’s house, is a dangerous game.
It may be less personal than that. Trump probably expected the Breitbart crowd to go wild over an attack on Reince Priebus, but Scaramucci botched that by attacking Steve Bannon in the same breath — and with a weird and gratuitous sexual reference to boot. Combined with Trump’s attacks on Jeff Sessions, Brietbart’s editorial team punched back, and that may have been enough to get Trump to yank on Scaramucci’s leash.
So how low will Scaramucci’s profile go after this? Having antagonized both the establishment and populist advisers in the White House and having staffers worried about their safety, Scaramucci may find himself more in the traditional role filled by comms directors, which doesn’t include investigations of staffers. Or maybe not, just as long as Scaramucci doesn’t overshadow the boss.
Speaking of which, he may have prompted a new investigation on his own:
Discussing his anger about White House officials’ propensity to leak to reporters, Scaramucci told the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza that federal law enforcement officials have actually been leaking to him—about which White House staffers are leaking. Really.
“This is going to get cleaned up very shortly, O.K.?” Scaramucci said. “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.”
A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment on Scaramucci’s assertion. But former FBI agents and federal prosecutors who spoke with The Daily Beast said that if Scaramucci was being truthful, he disclosed that FBI agents had violated the agency’s protocols and maybe broken the law.
The bureau has strict rules that keep agents from sharing information they find in their investigations with people who aren’t authorized to see it. Agents that reveal information without authorization can be suspended or fired.
The Inspector General at the DoJ might take an interest in that question. That should make things even more fun for White House staff.
In any event, now that Senate Republicans executed a faceplant on ObamaCare, how long will it be before Priebus hits the exits? Axios’ Jonathan Swan puts it at a week; I’ll take the under.