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Scaramucci Ousted From White House Communications Role


The revolving door at the White House is spinning faster. Anthony Scaramucci is out of a job only 10 days after being named White House communications director. This happened hours after John Kelly was sworn in as the new chief of staff. Scaramucci had an eventful 10 days. On his first day, he made a splash in the White House briefing room.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: I love the president. I obviously love the country. Look at my life experience here in the country. And so it's an honor to be here. It's an honor to stand here.

SHAPIRO: A few days later, there was a profanity-filled rant to The New Yorker magazine, and that's part of what ultimately cost Scaramucci his job. Here's White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders this afternoon.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: Look; the president certainly felt that Anthony's comments were inappropriate for a person in that position.

SHAPIRO: To talk about all this, NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro is with us in the studio. Hi, Domenico.


SHAPIRO: This is a surprise. What happened?

MONTANARO: Well, what a 10 days it has been - I mean my goodness. You know, Scaramucci had been lobbying President Trump for months to get back - to get into the White House. He had sold his hedge fund earlier this year. But he had been blocked by White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and senior adviser Steve Bannon. Trump, though, ignored them later and named Scaramucci communications director. It caused such a ruckus that the day he was named, Sean Spicer quit in protest. And Spicer had been doing sort of double duty as press secretary and as communications director.

Things seemed to start out pretty well. In his first briefing, as you played there, Scaramucci won plaudits for being somewhat of a smooth talker, took questions from everyone and even blew them a kiss.

SHAPIRO: And shortly after that, he called into CNN and really seemed to be shooting in all directions.

MONTANARO: Yeah. He was upset because his financial disclosure was made public, which was reported by Politico. But it was not a leak. He thought it was a leak, but the reporter had gotten it through a public information search. And he pledged to crack down on these leakers, threatened to fire everyone and seemed to point the finger even at White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.


SCARAMUCCI: 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. So if Reince wants to explain that he's not a leaker, let him do that.

MONTANARO: That would have been big in and of itself, but Scaramucci wasn't done. It was then revealed he called a New Yorker reporter, tore into Priebus and Bannon in what was really a not-safe-for-work tirade.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

MONTANARO: And after the firestorm that created, Scaramucci later tweeted that he would refrain from using such, quote, "colorful language going forward."

SHAPIRO: OK, so then on Friday, Reince Priebus steps down as chief of staff, and everyone thinks, looks like Scaramucci won.


SHAPIRO: There didn't seem to be any repercussions for the communications director. What changed between Friday and Monday?

MONTANARO: Well, John Kelly, the general, was named Priebus' replacement Friday night as well and apparently took the weekend to think about how he wanted things structure. And it looks like the Mucc (ph) was not part of that plan.

SHAPIRO: And so today on a day when Real Donald Trump tweeted, no White House chaos...

MONTANARO: Right, of course.

SHAPIRO: ...We (laughter) have this turnover. What does it tell us about how Kelly might act as chief of staff?

MONTANARO: Well, Trump does like to give people at least a first round of being able to control their staff. And Kelly's a general. He likes hierarchy. He likes order. So it wouldn't be necessarily surprising that he'd want to exert some control over what had been really a chaotic scene over the last several months in the White House. Remember; Scaramucci said in his first outing in the White House briefing room that he reported directly to the president and not to Reince Priebus. That looked like it was in conflict with what Kelly wanted and the traditional role as a gatekeeper for the White House chief of staff.

SHAPIRO: I feel like every two weeks there's this question of, whoa, is this the moment President Trump will begin acting, quote, unquote, "presidential"? Is there any hope of Chief of Staff Kelly imposing the kind of order on the White House that has been so elusive up until now?

MONTANARO: Well, that's the goal for Kelly. He - what he did today certainly looks like him trying to exert authority and power, which is something that when somebody is in a chaotic situation, they want to show that they are really in charge. He was able to take out one of the big players in the White House.

You know, the thing is whether or not this will last because we know that Trump likes chaos. He's sort of like the middle of a bike wheel. You know, everybody else is sort of the spokes that feed out of that. A White House chief of staff is supposed to be something of a gatekeeper where everything goes through them. That's at odds with Trump's instincts. We'll see if that changes under Kelly.

SHAPIRO: And now the parlor game begins of who will be the new communications director.

MONTANARO: Right. There is that.

SHAPIRO: NPR's political editor Domenico Montanaro, thanks a lot.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

SHAPIRO: And tune into MORNING EDITION tomorrow morning for more on this story. 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.