White House chaos

Departure of Spicer caps tough week for Trump

White House press secretary Sean Spicer resigned on Friday after news broke that President Donald Trump had hired financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer resigned on Friday after news broke that President Donald Trump had hired financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

President struggles to regain footing in wake of key staff resignations, widening Russia probe

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump sought to impose order in his White House in the face of a widening Russia probe on Friday, ending a tumultuous week by appointing a new lead lawyer, sidelining his old one and hiring a new communications director as two top spokesmen quit in protest.

The changes leave Mr Trump with new leaders on his legal and communications teams heading into a week when the highest-ranking White House official so far will appear before a congressional committee. Mr Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner will be interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee tomorrow.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer resigned on Friday after news broke that Mr Trump had hired financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director. A day earlier, the spokesman for the President's legal team, Mr Mark Corallo, resigned after Mr Trump appointed attorney John Dowd his lead lawyer. Mr Marc Kasowitz, the previous leader of Mr Trump's legal team, will play a diminished role, Mr Dowd said.

Fractures in the White House emerged immediately. Mr Dowd said in an interview on Friday that Mr Trump would not seek to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller, almost at the same time Mr Trump's adviser Kellyanne Conway did just that, describing his investigation on Fox News as "a hoax" and criticising his deputies as Democratic partisans.

Mr Spicer and Mr Corallo both left out of frustration with Mr Trump's political and legal strategy, according to a person familiar with their decisions. Mr Corallo declined to discuss his departure and Mr Spicer did not respond to attempts to contact him.

Mr Spicer said on Fox News' Hannity show on Friday that Mr Trump did not want him to resign. "He wanted to bring some new folks in to help rev up the communications operation, and after reflection, my decision was to recommend to the President that I give Anthony and Sarah a clean slate to start from."

  • Spicer's slip-ups

  • Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer was infamous for his live televised briefings that inspired social media memes, drew large TV audiences and often baffled the media. Here are some of his more notable moments:

    Inauguration crowd: In his first appearance, he scolded the media for underestimating the crowd size at President Donald Trump's inauguration in January, insisting that the ceremony had the biggest audience in history. Faced with evidence that proved otherwise, he said: "Sometimes we can disagree with the facts."

    Shaking head: On March 29, he told radio reporter April D. Ryan to "stop shaking your head", after she asked about the administration's links to Russia.

    Assad v Hitler: On April 12, he compared Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Germany's Hitler, but added that the Nazi leader did not use gas to kill people during the Holocaust, "the same way that Assad is doing".

    In the bushes: On May 9, he vanished from the podium after FBI director James Comey was fired by Mr Trump, supposedly because he had to report for Navy Reserve duty. He was later spotted hiding behind bushes at the White House.

In his first televised appearance in his new job, Mr Scaramucci said that Mrs Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Mr Spicer's principal deputy, would become press secretary.

Mr Scaramucci lived up to his reputation as a polished performer at the briefing room podium. He deftly wished Mr Spicer well - "I hope he goes on to make a tremendous amount of money" - and brushed away his own old criticisms of the President, while mixing ample charm and self-deprecation into his remarks.

Mr Scaramucci, 53, is expected to appear frequently on television speaking on Mr Trump's behalf. He was a campaign fundraiser for Mr Trump and regular adviser during the presidential transition.

He faces an especially difficult test as communications director, a position he described as responsible for restoring Mr Trump's credibility and respect with the press and the public. Mr Trump's job approval was 36 per cent in the most recent Gallup poll conducted from July 17 to 19. No president has been less popular in his first six months in office since the advent of modern polling.

"There has been an arbitrage spread between how well we are doing and how well some of you guys think we are doing, and we are going to work hard to close that spread," Mr Scaramucci said.

"I don't think this is a traditional communications director job," Mr Ari Fleischer, president George W. Bush's former press secretary, said in an interview. "I think Anthony is going to be a very powerful and effective presence for the White House on TV."

Mr Spicer and Mr Corallo both left out of frustration with Mr Trump's political and legal strategy, according to a person familiar with their decisions. Mr Corallo declined to discuss his departure and Mr Spicer did not respond to attempts to contact him.

In a statement read by Mrs Sanders, Mr Trump said: "I am grateful for Sean's work on behalf of my administration and the American people. I wish him continued success as he moves on to pursue new opportunities. Just look at his great television ratings."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 23, 2017, with the headline 'Departure of Spicer caps tough week for Trump'. Print Edition | Subscribe