Incoming White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci told a New Yorker reporter Reince Priebus is a “paranoid schizophrenic” and said Donald Trump’s chief of staff would be asked to step down “very shortly.”
Scaramucci also blasted former Breitbart executive and White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon to New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza, accusing him of trying to build his personal brand “off the f------ strength of the president.” The former Wall Street financier also threatened to completely clean out the White House communications shop over leaks to the press.
According to a first-person essay Lizza published late Thursday afternoon, Scaramucci called him on Wednesday night to complain about a tweet, citing a White House official, about a dinner Scaramucci attended with the first couple, Fox News host Sean Hannity and former Fox executive Bill Shine.
There were fireworks aplenty as Scaramucci continued to assert his authority — and alienate colleagues — even before his first official day on the job. (Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders earlier in the day told reporters he has not been sworn in yet, but is working at the executive mansion.)
“Who leaked that to you?” Lizza recounts Scaramucci saying at the top of the call. Lizza declined to reveal his source.
“What I’m going to do is, I will eliminate everyone in the comms team and we’ll start over,” the incoming coms boss said.
But that was nothing compared to what he said about Priebus and Bannon — two senior aides with whom he already is competing for the president’s ear.
“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,” Scaramucci told Lizza, then alleged Priebus might have leaked him details about the dinner because he was not invited.
“Reince is a f------ paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” Scaramucci said.
The flamboyant New Yorker then mocked Priebus as he did an impression: “Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the f------ thing and see if I can c----block these people the way I c----blocked Scaramucci for six months.”
Priebus reportedly blocked Scaramucci from getting a senior White House post after the November election; Scaramucci even sold his company, SkyBridge Capital, in anticipation of moving to Washington.
Later during the conversation, Lizza says Scaramucci repeated his claim that Priebus soon would be asked to resign.
“He didn’t get the hint that I was reporting directly to the President,” Scaramucci told the reporter. “And I said to the President here are the four or five things that he will do to me.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan had a different story. Priebus has the confidence of the president the speaker said at his Thursday press conference.
Two White House spokeswomen had not responded when asked if Priebus has a response to the New Yorker piece.
The colorful Scaramucci saved some of his most descriptive imagery for Bannon when he accused the former conservative media mogul of craving the spotlight.
“I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own c---,” the soon-to-be Trump coms director said. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the f------ strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country.”
The same spokeswomen also had not responded when asked if Bannon has a response.
But Scaramucci was quick with a response, tweeting: “I sometimes use colorful language,” adding he will “refrain” in the government “arena” and vowing to keep fighting for Trump’s agenda.
He did not apologize to either Priebus or Bannon.
“Everybody's shooting at one another. It’s creating tremendous chaos,” former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta said on CNN. “It’s undermining the ability of the White House to respond to a number of important issues, whether it’s dealing with health care on the Hill whether it’s dealing with foreign policy issues.”
The former CIA director and defense secretary then called the situation tragic.
Lizza’s essay capped a wild 24 hours during which Scaramucci was the star in what feels increasingly like a surreal Trump-centric reality show at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
He implied in a Wednesday night tweet he since deleted that Priebus leaked his financial disclosure documents that a reporter later said she obtained from the Export-Import Bank. On Thursday morning, he had more critical words for Priebus on CNN’s “New Day” morning show.
“He may decide to veto the sanctions and be tougher on the Russians than the Congress,” Scaramucci said. “He may sign the sanctions exactly the way they are or he may veto the sanctions and negotiate a even tougher deal against the Russians.”