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Shakeup Puts Different Face on White House Communications


New White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci speaks to members of the media in the Brady Press Briefing room of the White House in Washington, July 21, 2017.

The appointment of a new communications director at the White House on Friday led to the sudden resignation of its high-profile press secretary.

Anthony Scaramucci, an entrepreneur and former hedge fund manager, was offered the communications job by President Donald Trump. That led to Sean Spicer, the press secretary and acting communications director, to immediately hand in his resignation, which he said will become effective next month.

On Twitter, Spicer said, "It's been an honor & a privilege to serve @POTUS @realDonaldTrump & this amazing country. I will continue my service through August."

New press secretary

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the most frequently seen face at the briefing room lectern in recent weeks, was immediately named by Scaramucci as Spicer's successor as press secretary.

Spicer had also been acting as communications director before and after the relatively obscure Mike Dubke held the job for about two months.

Scaramucci is well-known in Republican fundraising circles and had been frequently seen on television during the 2016 election campaign energetically supporting two other Republican presidential candidates before backing Trump.

Those campaign comments included Scaramucci calling Trump a "hack politician."

Asked about the comment, the newly named communications director on Friday said the president "brings it up every 15 seconds."

Scaramucci expressed regret for making the remark, calling it a mistake due to his inexperience in politics.

"Mr. President, if you're listening, I personally apologize for the 50th time for saying that," Scaramucci said.

Some key West Wing staffers have expressed concerns that Scaramucci is not qualified for the communications director job. But his supporters in the White House praise him as an organizer who has built businesses.

Scaramucci, who had been tagged earlier for a high-level White House job, last month was named as senior vice president and chief strategy officer at the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

"He's a terrific guy," Trump said to reporters shortly after Scaramucci's new post was officially announced.

Asked what he intended to accomplish with the staff changes, Trump merely replied, "make America great again."

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks to members of the media in the Brady Press Briefing room of the White House in Washington, July 21, 2017. Sanders was named press secretary after Sean Spicer resigned earlier in the day.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks to members of the media in the Brady Press Briefing room of the White House in Washington, July 21, 2017. Sanders was named press secretary after Sean Spicer resigned earlier in the day.

Some confusion

There was immediate confusion about the chain of command for the new communications director.

Scaramucci said he would report directly to the president, but then said reporters should ask White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus to address that.

"He's the chief of staff. It would be foolish of me not to communicate with him," Scaramucci said.

Scaramucci "will report directly to the president," a White House statement issued Friday evening clarified.

Sources say Spicer was especially upset that while Scaramucci would hold the communications director title, he would have been stuck with many of his new boss's strategic and planning duties.

Watch: Spicer Quits as Trump Names New Communications Director

"I’d love to have Sean here," Scaramucci told reporters, but added Spicer wanted to "clear the slate" for him.

Spicer had become a celebrity after his televised briefings were parodied and mocked on newscasts, talk shows and comedy programs. But he also became a hero to Trump's base for his aggressive pushback to mainstream media reporters and for faithfully repeating the president's talking points.

"He probably should have resigned on day one" when he was sent out to the podium to tout inflated inauguration crowd numbers, Jennifer Palmieri, a White House communications director in the Obama administration, told CNN.

Jen Psaki, who succeed Palmieri in that job, on Twitter said Spicer "has had justification to resign for months, but explanation today doesn't sound right to me."

‘Untested’

Psaki added that Scaramucci being close to Trump is a key for his new job "but his ability to develop/oversee message strategy is untested."

Spicer's resignation comes less than a day after a spokesman for Trump's outside legal team, Mark Carallo, also quit.

The changes occur as the White House struggles to amplify its policy priorities amid the continuing drumbeat of revelations linking Trump's presidential campaign to Russia.

This has put additional stress on West Wing staffers in what are high-tension jobs in the best of times.

"I’m used to dealing with friction," Scaramucci, who previously worked for the notoriously high-pressure Goldman Sachs investment bank, told reporters.

Asked about the turmoil, Sanders said she did not see the changes, including her promotion, as causing chaos.

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