Longtime Wall Street investment banker Anthony Scaramucci made his White House debut Friday, expressing his “love” for Donald Trump and promising a much more “aggressive” strategy of communicating the president’s message.
On a day of upheaval at the executive mansion, Sean Spicer resigned as press secretary and acting communications director amid reports he told Trump he believed Scaramucci’s hiring was a major mistake. What’s more, Scaramucci made his first major announcement as part of Trump’s team when he announced Spicer’s top deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, will be the new press secretary.
That means Huckabee Sanders, as she has been doing aside from a few Spicer briefings for the last few weeks, will be the one who briefs reporters most days. But Scaramucci’s hiring — he will start in a few weeks, once some financial issues are ironed out — signals Trump wanted fresh thinking in his communications office.
And the founder of SkyBridge Capital, a major global investment firm and the latest former Goldman Sachs veteran to join Trump’s White House team, signaled just that.
He opined that the president is doing a better job than his mid-30s percent approval rating and media coverage let on. Scaramucci vowed he would aim to get that message “out there more aggressively.”
One of his first tasks, even before his first day, was to tamp down talk of friction between him and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. If there has been any tension in the past, it’s just because they are like siblings, he said.
“Reince and I have been personal friends for six years,” Scaramucci said. “We are a little bit like brothers, where we rough each other up once in a while, which is totally normal for brothers. There’s a lot of people in here that have brothers. And so, you get that.
“But he’s a dear friend. He brought me into the political system,” the incoming communications chief said. “He brought me into the Republican National Committee network. He introduced me to Governor [Scott Walker]. We spent many times together socially.”
Still, the new comms director openly predicted more “friction” ahead among West Wing officials. But, as a “business person,” he told reporters to trust him that a little “friction is okay.”
“I’m used to friction,” he declared.
Scaramucci also openly expressed his “love” for Trump a handful of times. The same was true of his feelings about the president’s populist message and stated desire to help the American middle class, saying he grew up in the middle class and can, despite the wealth he since has amassed, “empathize” with the struggles of many Americans.
Appearing to echo the views of the president, to whom he will directly report, the embattled Trump White House has a communications problem more than anything else, Scarramucci said.
Scaramucci, citing his observations of Trump over many decades, said the “world turns back” to the president often. To that end, he predicted the more members of Congress “get to know” Trump, the more legislation they will pass and send him. Scaramucci predicted Trump will get wins on health care and taxes.
On health care, Huckabee Sanders later said Trump wants the Senate to vote on a motion to take up a repeal-and-replace bill next week. Sen. John McCain’s absence as the Arizona Republican deals with a brain cancer diagnosis could complicate the president’s wishes, however.
Meantime, Trump said he is “grateful” for Sean Spicer’s tenure at the White House. He wished his departing press secretary well. “Just look at his television ratings,” Trump said of Spicer’s future efforts in a statement read by Huckabee Sanders.
In one of the more memorable quotes from yet another chaotic day at Trump’s White House, Scaramucci added of Spicer: “I hope he goes on to make a tremendous amount of money.”
Spicer, who had been the acting communications director as well as press secretary, is just the latest senior official to leave.
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was fired after lying to Vice President Mike Pence. His deputy, K.T. McFarland essentially has been reassigned, nominated to be ambassador to Singapore. Michael Dubke was brought in as communications director, but lasted only a few months.
Spicer had a tumultuous six-month turn at the White House podium.
It all started on Jan. 21, the day after Trump was sworn in, when Spicer was dispatched to the briefing room for an “announcement.” He came out and yelled at reporters, saying they were not accurately reporting the size of the crowds at Trump’s Inauguration the day before.
From there, Spicer ushered in a combative style not just at the podium, but in his and the White House’s dealings with the media in general. He made factually incorrect statements, and defended statements from the president that even some Republicans disavowed. And Spicer rarely offered evidence of some of the shakiest claims he made at the podium and Trump made on Twitter and in verbal remarks.
Spicer will likely have a number of post-White House job opportunities. Scaramucci put Spicer in the large group of White House officials he “loves,” and told reporters he hopes Spicer makes “a lot” of money after he leaves his post for good.
Scaramucci joins other senior White House officials in taking a position for which he has no direct experience.
The former investment banker has appeared many times on television as a guest, recently defending Trump. He hosted Fox Business Network’s “Wall Street Week” program.
He has never been in charge of managing a communications or public affairs operation. Now, he inherits one of the most important such shops in the world.
Saramucci also has always been on the side of the various companies for which he has worked as an investment and financial expert — including SkyBridgeCapital, which he founded — on the business side. He has never been the person tasked with making strategic and tactical decisions about an entity’s messaging and press relations stance.
To that end, in a 2015 interview with Steve Forbes, he complained about “nasty articles” on investment firms. In the same interview, he credited the media with noting that, at that time, hedge funds were struggling.
During a lengthy question-and-answer session with reporters Friday, he was engaging, humorous and emotive. He did not describe clearly, however, his philosophy for how a White House should interact with the press corps.
Trump’s critics were quick to criticize Scaramucci’s hiring.
“Trump promised to ‘drain the swamp’ and railed against Wall Street on the campaign, but today the swamp grew even bigger as Wall Street continues to move into the White House,” Democratic National Committee deputy communications director Adrienne Watson said in a statement. “Anthony Scaramucci is a longtime Wall Street financier who called himself an ambassador for the hedge-fund industry and admitted he is a ‘out- of-touch Wall Street elitist.’ He’ll fit right in at Trump’s White House.”