White House infighting explodes into open after Scaramucci's expletive-laden rant

Open warfare erupts within the White House, as Donald Trump's new communications director Anthony Scaramucci attacks senior Washington officials in a scathing rant published in The New Yorker.
US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan defended White House chief of staff Reince Priebus on Thursday after President Donald Trump's new communications director appeared to link Priebus to media leaks in a tweet.
Anthony Scaramucci speaks during an on air interview at the White House on July 26, 2017.
Anthony Scaramucci speaks during an on air interview at the White House on July 26, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON - Tension among senior White House staff has burst into the open after newly-installed White House communications chief Anthony Scaramucci was angered by an apparent leak of who he had dinner with and let fly a profanity-laced rant at his colleagues .

Mr Scaramucci, brought into the role of communications director on July 21, had dinner with President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, Fox News host Sean Hannity and former Fox News director Bill Shine on Wednesday (July 26). The New Yorker journalist Ryan Lizza learnt about it and tweeted it.

Mr Scaramucci, who has vowed to find and fire people in the White House who leak information to the media, called Mr Lizza and demanded to know who was his source. When the reporter refused to tell him, Mr Scaramucci, a former hedge fund manager from New York, said: "I'm going to fire every one of them, and then you haven't protected anybody, so the entire place will be fired over the next two weeks."

He added: "I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I'll fire tomorrow. I'll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus - if you want to leak something - he'll be asked to resign very shortly."

He called Mr Trump's chief of staff "a (expletive) paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac". He also insulted the President's chief strategist Steve Bannon.

As the report of what he said began making waves, Mr Scaramucci tweeted: "I sometimes use colourful language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for @realDonaldTrump's agenda. #MAGA". He did not retract his remarks about the two men, who have been reported to have opposed his appointment. 

#MAGA is the President's campaign slogan, short for "Make America Great Again".

Speaking on Fox News, the conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer said: "None of us have ever seen this. The reason is that it is not to be done. That kind of language is not be used, particularly when it's infighting in the White House."

There has been speculation in the media for some weeks that Mr Priebus may be replaced, and it is well known in Washington political circles that the White House chief of staff had blocked Mr Scaramucci from joining the President's staff. The day Mr Scaramucci - whose nickname is "The Mooch" - was appointed, press secretary Sean Spicer resigned.

Reince Priebus in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Feb 1, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

The blow-up comes as President Trump publicly harangues Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Twitter for recusing himself from the inquiry into Russian meddling in the US presidential election and for his failure to investigate Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail server when she was Secretary of State. 

His hounding of Mr Sessions has drawn rebukes from several Republicans, however. Senator Lindsey Graham, who often criticises Mr Trump, warned on Thursday: "This effort to basically marginalise and humiliate the Attorney General is not going over well in the Senate."

He told reporters: "I don't think it's going over well in the conservative world... If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay."

Mr Sessions has admitted that the President's criticism was "kind of hurtful", but then said: "The President of the United States is a strong leader. He has had a lot of criticisms and he's steadfastly determined to get his job done, and he wants all of us to do our jobs and that's what I intend to do."

Responding to the outburst from Mr Scaramucci, New York Congressman Pete King told CNN: "Something's going on at the White House. Obviously there's dissension down there."

But he added: "That's the Scaramucci style. He takes no prisoners. We are talking of two worlds here. People said it wouldn't work for Donald Trump and now he's President of the United States. This is an unorthodox administration."

Mr Trump has been touting the strength of the economy and, on Wednesday, had a special event to mark Taiwanese company Foxconn's US$10 billion (S$13.5 billion) investment in Wisconsin. The Apple supplier is said to be taking advantage of a US$3 billion tax break over 15 years and would eventually employ up to 13,000 people..

The President also presented medals of valour on Thursday to five of the first responders who were injured when they tried to stop a lone gunman who opened fire at Republican Congressmen at a baseball practice in Virginia last month.

But the news has been overshadowed by the infighting emerging from the White House.

Mr Evan Siegfried, a Republican political strategist and commentator, told The Straits Times: "Anthony Scaramucci came in to try and calm and solidify the White House's messaging. Instead he's created chaos. This needs to stop immediately because it is overshadowing the President's successes."