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Sarah Huckabee Sanders Announced As New Press Secretary After Spicer Resigns


The word of the day in Washington is shakeup. Some of this shakeup is surprising. Some of it was perhaps a long time coming. White House Spokesman Sean Spicer is out. And a Wall Street financier is in as the new communications director, a job that had been vacant all summer. The new guy is Anthony Scaramucci, and he wished Spicer well.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: I love the guy, and I wish him well. And I hope he goes on to make a tremendous amount of money.

SIEGEL: NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro is here. Hello, Domenico.


SIEGEL: Spicer had been rumored to be leaving the White House for months. What do you know about why he leaves now?

MONTANARO: Well, you know, he's taken a step back in the last couple of months. And certainly it was no secret that this was something of an awkward fit. I mean from the beginning, Trump was watching these press briefings pretty closely and was critical of Spicer on everything from the way he presented himself to the clothes he wore.

This was the straw that apparently broke Spicer's back - the news that Trump had appointed Scaramucci as the new communications director. And that's a job that Spicer had been doing in addition to his duties as press secretary although we hadn't seen him on the podium for quite some time. And apparently Spicer was upset about this appointment. Scaramucci was at the podium today in his new role and announced Sarah Huckabee Sanders as the new press secretary.

SIEGEL: She'll be doing the briefings routinely, not Scaramucci.

MONTANARO: As she has been.

SIEGEL: Who is Anthony Scaramucci?

MONTANARO: So he's a hedge fund manager from New York. He used to run a hedge fund called SkyBridge Capital. He sold it earlier this year in hopes of getting into the Trump administration. But his appointment was actually held up because his hedge fund was sold to a group with ties to the Chinese government. And at the briefing today, he said he was vetted and cleared by the ethics team in the White House.

He also had hosted a show on Fox Business - so lots of experience talking on camera. Interestingly, he's also a trained lawyer, went to Harvard Law School, which could come in handy with the legal swirl that's going on right now as it relates to Russia in the White House.

SIEGEL: Scaramucci has been a very strong defender of Donald Trump. We've seen a lot of him on cable news. Has he always been such a strong Trump supporter?

MONTANARO: Actually he was pretty reluctant. He was - he supported different candidates than Donald Trump during the presidential election. Just listen to this clip of Scaramucci on Fox Business Network in 2015.


SCARAMUCCI: That's another hack politician. He's probably...

CHARLIE GASPARINO: You called Donald Trump a hack?

SCARAMUCCI: He's a hack politician.

MARIA BARTIROMO: Wow, you're in trouble now.

SCARAMUCCI: He's probably going to make Elizabeth...

MONTANARO: You know, he went on to say that he was more - he was nothing more than a, quote, "inherited-money dude from Queens County." I don't know, Robert. Them's fighting words in my parish.


MONTANARO: In the briefing today, Scaramucci was asked about those remarks, and you wouldn't be surprised that he apologized.


SCARAMUCCI: He brings it up every 15 seconds, OK - one of the biggest mistakes that I made 'cause I was an unexperienced person in the world of politics. I was supporting another candidate. I should have never said that about him. So Mr. President, if you're listening, I personally apologize for the fiftieth time for saying that.

MONTANARO: I have to step out of this fight a little bit because of my origins. But let's just say...

SIEGEL: (Laughter).

MONTANARO: ....Manhattan versus the outer borough is a longstanding feud, Robert.

SIEGEL: Now, Domenico, one thing that Scaramucci made very clear today is that he loves the president. He said that over and over in the briefing.


SCARAMUCCI: I love the president, and I think a lot of you - I love the president. I obviously love - the president is really well-loved, and how much we love the president - I love the president. And the president...

SIEGEL: He loves the president.

MONTANARO: Yeah, I think that's pretty clear. And at the end of the briefing, he tried to note that he wanted to de-escalate the relationship with the media that had gotten so heated with this White House.


MONTANARO: In fact he even blew everyone a kiss as he left the podium.

SIEGEL: (Laughter) Do you think that this is a positive moment at the end of a very tumultuous week for the White House?

MONTANARO: Well, look. Unquestionably, Trump has been seeking a reset here. It hasn't been the most positive six months in office for this president. He's polling lower than any president in the past 70 years at the same time. He's not getting anything done on policy. The Russia drip, drip, drip continues. And there's an overall negative narrative that he really does hope that Scaramucci can try to turn around.

SIEGEL: NPR's Domenico Montanaro, thanks. We love you.

MONTANARO: Oh, (laughter) love you, too. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.