President Donald Trump’s incoming communications director and “friend” Anthony Scaramucci took his war with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus public Thursday, revealing a West Wing in chaos over leaks to the media.
Scaramucci, the Wall Street investment banker hired by Trump less than a week ago to enhance his communications shop, fired a warning shot at Priebus in a tweet posted late Wednesday night.
“In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the @TheJusticeDept,” Scaramucci wrote. He added “#swamp,” echoing Trump’s disparaging moniker for Washington, D.C. But then he ended the tweet with “@Reince45,” the chief of staff’s official Twitter handle.
The tweet no longer appears on Scaramucci’s Twitter timeline, but some instantly took it as a call for the FBI to investigate his West Wing rival. Appearing to respond to the reactions, the incoming communications director fired off another tweet walking it back.
But during an impromptu call Thursday morning to CNN’s “New Day,” Scaramucci again appeared to point the finger at Priebus.
“When I put out a tweet and I put Reince’s name in a tweet, they’re all making the assumption that it’s him because journalists know who the leakers are,” the flamboyant New Yorker said.
“So if Reince wants to explain he’s not a leaker, let him do that. But let me tell you about myself,” Scaramucci said. “I’m a straight-shooter and I’ll go right to the heart of the matter.”
That was a much different tone from Friday at the White House briefing room podium, when Scaramucci said, “Reince and I have been personal friends for six years. We are a little bit like brothers where we rough each other up once in a while. But he’s a dear friend.”
The man known to Trump as “The Mooch” took umbrage with a Politico report about his financial disclosure forms. Though he acknowledged on Thursday that senior White House officials are obligated to release those documents, Scaramucci is objecting to the way they landed in the article.
Scaramucci, who has been interviewing junior communications shop staffers in a dual effort to weed out those deemed nonessential and find out who has been leaking information, also put more senior-level West Wing aides on notice during his CNN appearance.
“The president and I would like to tell everybody: We have a very, very good idea of who the leakers are, who the senior leakers are in the White House,” he said.
The remarkable interview, conducted by CNN’s Chris Cuomo, also featured what sounded like a threat from Scaramucci: He implied that leaks from the White House about foreign policy matters such as “Syria or North Korea or Iraq” rise to the level of some of the country’s worst crimes.
“Those are the types of leaks that are so treasonous that 150 years ago, people would have actually been hung for those types of leaks,” Scaramucci said.
Trump reportedly has questioned whether Priebus and other White House aides brought into the White House by the former Republican National Committee chairman are loyal to him rather than the Republican Party or the chief of staff. One of those aides is former Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who resigned Friday after telling Trump he believed bringing in Scaramucci was a major mistake.
Scaramucci appears, at the president’s behest, to be trying to purge not just the communications shop, but other offices Trump is skeptical of inside the West Wing. To be sure, “The Mooch,” now apparently at the center of Trump’s inner circle, clearly holds much more power than his title suggests — and he made that clear Thursday morning.
“I’m his friend first. I’m from New York, you’re from New York,” Scaramucci told Cuomo. “We started out as friends.”