WASHINGTON — Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director who was brought in to bring order to a press shop in turmoil, called into CNN’s “New Day” on Thursday and all but blamed chief of staff Reince Priebus for leaking information.
In the remarkable interview, which lasted for more than a half hour, the developing power struggle inside the West Wing was on full display, with Scaramucci at one point warning that “the fish stinks from the head down.” Scaramucci, whose relationship with Priebus has been fraught since he was initially unable to secure a White House job after President Donald Trump’s election, did little to show his relationship with Priebus was changing and said it was up to the chief of staff to show he was not leaking.
Hours earlier, the White House communications director — who notably announced last week that he reports to Trump, not Priebus — copied the chief of staff in a tweet about leaks before deleting it. He later told CNN the message was not a call for the FBI to investigate the chief of staff.
“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,” Scaramucci said on “New Day.” “So if Reince wants to explain he’s not a leaker, let him do that. But let me tell you about myself. I’m a straight shooter and I’ll go right to the heart of the matter.”
Scaramucci — who wasn’t originally booked to appear on “New Day” but called in to explain his version of events surrounding the tweet — also blasted leakers in the administration, saying, “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.”
Scaramucci, who regularly appeared on cable news before entering the White House, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that he can’t have dinner with “a couple of friends up from ‘Fox & Friends’ and Sean Hannity, who is one of my closest friends” without it getting leaked to the media.
“It’s absolutely, completely and totally reprehensible,” he said. “And as you know from the Italian expression: The fish stinks from the head down. But I can tell you two fish that don’t stink, and that’s me and the President.”
“I don’t like the activity going on in the White House,” Scaramucci added. “I don’t like what they’re doing to my friend. I don’t like what they’re doing to the President of the United States or their fellow colleagues in the West Wing.”
In his first appearance in the White House briefing room last week, Scaramucci said he and Priebus were like brothers who fought at times. In Thursday’s interview with CNN, he compared the relationship to that of Cain and Abel, the biblical sons of Adam and Eve. According to the Book of Genesis, Cain murdered Abel and later lied about his actions.
“Now, if you want to talk about the chief of staff, we have had odds, we have had differences,” he said. “When I said we were brothers from the podium, that’s because we’re rough on each other. Some brothers are like Cain and Abel. Other brothers can fight with each other and get along. I don’t know if this is repairable or not. That will be up to the President.”
Then, referring to leaks about US foreign policy, Scaramucci said, “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 synthesized his issues with the Trump administration by arguing there are people inside “that think it is their job to save America from this President, OK?”
This latest kerfuffle developed after Politico published a story about how Scaramucci continues to profit from the sale of his hedge fund SkyBridge Capital. Scaramucci slammed the leak of his Office of Government Ethics forms.
“In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the @TheJusticeDept, he tweeted Wednesday night, adding, “#swamp @Reince45.”
The inclusion of Reince in the tweet was seen by some as an accusation.
However, the financial disclosure form is publicly available. It was filed due to Scaramucci’s role at the Export-Import Bank and Politico obtained it by request. CNN has not independently obtained the disclosure form.
Asked if he was accusing Priebus of leaking before his interview on “New Day,” Scaramucci told CNN, “I am not. I am saying senior officials are working on this together.”
This echoes a tweet he sent overnight as well.
“Wrong! Tweet was public notice to leakers that all Sr Adm officials are helping to end illegal leaks.@Reince45,” he tweeted in response to an Axios article’s headline that read, “Scaramucci appears to want Priebus investigated by FBI.”
Scaramucci and Priebus have long had a strained relationship, but Thursday’s interview is the most public airing of that relationship yet. Sources have told CNN that both Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon fiercely opposed Scaramucci’s hiring as communications director.
When he joined the administration late last week, Scaramucci pushed back on reports of any discord inside the West Wing, especially about the reports of a tense relationship with Priebus.
“Reince and I have been personal friends for six years,” Scaramucci said Friday. “We are a little bit like brothers where we rough each other up once in a while. But he’s a dear friend.”
Still, Scaramucci said he would report “directly” to the President, and that he and Priebus would work together.