Is Reince Priebus next for getting the Jeff Sessions treatment? A deleted tweet last night hinted that new White House comms director Anthony Scaramucci blamed chief of staff Reince Priebus for leaking his financial disclosures to the press and demanded an FBI probe into it:
— Anthony Scaramucci (@Scaramucci) July 27, 2017
Scaramucci initially denied that any tension existed between he and Priebus at all, calling them “wrong.” This morning, however, Scaramucci all but accused Priebus of being one of the “senior leakers” that Scaramucci plans to expose shortly, and challenged Priebus to publicly deny it. “If Reince wants to explain that he’s not a leaker,” Scaramucci told Chris Cuomo on CNN’s New Day, “let him do that.”
The Trump Thunderdome is the best, most luxurious Thunderdome ever. It’s yuuuuuge, believe me.
— CNN (@CNN) July 27, 2017
— CNN (@CNN) July 27, 2017
At one point, Scaramucci accuses some in the White House of “treasonous” behavior. “One hundred and fifty years ago,” he intones, “people would have been hung for those kinds of leaks.” Nothing like the calm voice of reason and perspective, eh? And lest anyone think that Scaramucci is going off the reservation here …
I just asked Scaramucci whether Trump authorized him going on CNN to talk leaks and Preibus. "He did, yes," Scaramucci replied.
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) July 27, 2017
Where to begin with this nonsense? The public accusation and the demand to have the accused deny publicly an allegation made with no evidence at all presented sounds … familiar. In fact, it sounds exactly like what Harry Reid did to Mitt Romney when accusing him of tax evasion on the Senate floor. That episode recalled the darker days of McCarthyism, but Reid thought it was just fine even when framed in that context:
DANA BASH: So no regrets about Mitt Romney, about the Koch Brothers. Some people have even called it McCarthyite.
REID: Well… [shrug] … they can call it whatever they want. Um … Romney didn’t win, did he?
Republicans and those on the Right got pretty outraged when Reid engaged in those tactics. Will they get similarly exercised by the Trump administration deploying them? We’ll have to wait and see, but this is as despicable as it was then when the shoe was on the other party foot.
At this point, though, it’s become clear that the content of the accusations doesn’t matter. This is becoming a pattern with the Trump White House when Trump wants to get rid of someone without actually firing someone. Just as with Sessions, the strategy is to publicly humiliate a Trump subordinate into quitting, and making them the center of attention until they do. One might see the need to do that with a Senate-confirmed Cabinet member, but deploying this strategy on Priebus is especially craven. A president can change chiefs of staff at any time, without going to the Senate. If Scaramucci is doing the president’s bidding and trying to hound Priebus out of a job, why go to all the trouble? Why doesn’t Trump just fire him and move Scaramucci into that position?
The Hill reports that “Trump world” sees that as the next inevitable step:
The Scaramucci era has begun at the White House, and Trump World is buzzing about the Priebus era coming to an end.
New White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci has fast become one of the most powerful people in the West Wing, putting allies of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus on edge. …
To many observers, Scaramucci is already acting as a chief of staff and working to effectively end Priebus’s tenure.
“This is bad for Priebus,” said one GOP operative with close ties to the RNC. “This is not how it’s supposed to work. The communications guy doesn’t come in and fire staff. Those moves are supposed to be vetted through the chief of staff.”
“It’s unheard of, the amount of power Scaramucci has,” the operative said. “He reports to the president, not the chief of staff. It debases whatever power Priebus had. He’s chief of staff in name only and will never get that power back. He doesn’t even have enough power to protect his own people and is losing more power by the day.”
Prediction #1: Priebus leaves before Sessions does. It’s tough to fight inside Thunderdome when the game is already rigged against you. Prediction #2: The answer is … no:
Mooch on his relationship with Priebus: "I don't know if this is repairable or not, that will be up to the president." Whoa.
— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) July 27, 2017
Update: Oh, and about the “leak” that has Scaramucci so hot and bothered — the reporter tweeted out this morning that the data is part of the public record:
— Lorraine (@Woellert) July 27, 2017
Things @Scaramucci has called leaks so far this week. 1.) His own quotes to a reporter. 2.) Information in public disclosures.
— Lisa Tozzi (@lisatozzi) July 27, 2017
It’s not about leaks. It’s about getting rid of Priebus and his team. Which, of course, Trump could do at any time.