White House press secretary Sean Spicer resigned on Friday following his disagreement with President Donald Trump’s decision to appoint Anthony Scaramucci, a Wall Street financier, as the new communications director, according to multiple White House officials.
When Spicer found out about Trump’s interest in bringing Scaramucci on board on Thursday night, he vented to confidants that he did not think Scaramucci could handle a major media campaign and didn’t deserve the job, one of the confidants said. He also expressed concern about whether Scaramucci would technically be in a senior position to him, since in the Obama administration the communications director was senior to the press secretary, according to two people familiar with the conversations.
“He’s never done communications in his life,” said another person who spoke to Spicer about his thoughts on Scaramucci.
Scaramucci also appeared at the White House briefing on Friday, and downplayed tensions around his appointment, saying he had a strong relationship with chief of staff Reince Priebus, who also voiced opposition to Scaramucci’s appointment, according to multiple sources.
Despite the public professions of optimism, Scaramucci’s expected appointment has caused great upheaval in the West Wing, with Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon also expressing opposition to him getting the high-profile job.
“This was a murdering of Reince and Bannon. They said Anthony would get this job over their dead bodies,” said one top White House official.
The first official added that Scaramucci had the backing of Trump son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell.
But a source close to the White House press operation said there are serious doubts among some aides that Scaramucci will be able to handle the full scope of the job.
The source added, “Trump simply wants a high level White House surrogate on television and wanted Mooch to have something nice to do.”
The White House will try to project a unified front, with Spicer, Priebus and Scaramucci all due to appear on Fox News host Sean Hannity’s show on Friday night.
But Scaramuci does bring with him a natural ease with Trump, and he is seen as a natural schmoozer and fixture on the global financial scene from Davos to his own lavish hedge fund conference in Las Vegas, Scaramucci drew resistance from others in the White House, including Priebus, White House officials said.
One source with knowledge of the conversations between Trump and Scaramucci said the latter’s new post could be read as a message to Priebus, a former RNC chairman who has not built a strong relationship with Trump.
“Just hiring Anthony is telling Reince beat it, go find another job,” said the source, who cited the tense relationship between the two. Priebus’ role in previously blocking him from joining the administration has been a sore point between the two.
Trump has been enamored with Scaramucci since he managed to get a retraction from CNN on a story published in late June about his alleged Russia connections, according to a one senior administration official and one outside adviser.
“Talks about it all the time,” said the outside adviser.
Trump reconnected with Scaramucci in the Oval Office shortly after and mainly talked about Scaramucci’s “win” against CNN, according to a person familiar with the chat.
Two sources with direct knowledge of the situation said that Scaramucci is being primed to eventually take on the position of chief of staff.
One person close to White House said there is potential for mass exodus in press office.
Priebus has told people he is determined to stay with the job for one year, mainly to prove the naysayers wrong, but it looks increasingly difficult. That person said that Priebus has been concerned about his reputation and thinks leaving any time short of a year would be seen as a failure.
“The open question is Reince,” the person said.
♫ Beelzebub has a devil put aside for Anthony, Anthony, Anthonyyyyyyy ♪