THE MEMO: Scaramucci shocker roils Washington

Another day, another bombshell.

Anthony Scaramucci’s abrupt ouster on Monday capped an extraordinary stretch of turmoil at the White House. Yet some within the president’s orbit argued that it was one of those rare Washington events that was simultaneously shocking but unsurprising.

Scaramucci lasted only 10 days in a job he had long coveted, that of White House communications director.  

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His brief tenure included a profanity-strewn interview with The New Yorker in which he lambasted prominent colleagues and the resignations of two of his biggest internal foes, White House press secretary Sean Spicer and chief of staff Reince Priebus. 

But it was the arrival of John Kelly as Priebus’s replacement that sounded the death knell for Scaramucci. The retired general is eager to put some order on a White House plagued with infighting. That meant there was no place for such a loose cannon as Scaramucci.  

Kelly levered Scaramucci out just as expertly as “The Mooch” outmaneuvered Priebus less than two weeks ago. 

Even as the news reverberated around Washington Monday, it was hard to find anyone on Team Trump who argued that Scaramucci’s de facto firing was a mistake.

“This was a demand of Kelly and a smart one at that,” said Barry Bennett, who served as a senior campaign adviser to Trump’s 2016 presidential bid. He added that the firing sent a “good message to D.C. New sheriff in town.”

A source close to the White House was even more scathing. 

“Scaramucci quickly became an embarrassing distraction who did not know anything about the job,” this source said. “The only reason Trump wanted him to have the job was to go on TV, but not outshine him with negative publicity.”

The negativity around Scaramucci was not limited to his instantly infamous New Yorker interview, in which he called Priebus a “f—— paranoid schizophrenic” and referred to chief strategist Stephen Bannon in even cruder terms. 

Adding a tabloid twist, it also emerged that Scaramucci’s wife had recently filed for divorce, shortly before the birth of the couple’s second son.

Even Trump — who is known to sometimes enjoy staff intrigue — may have concluded that the Long Island financier was more trouble than he was worth.

At a packed White House media briefing on Monday afternoon, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump had found Scaramucci’s comments in the New Yorker interview “inappropriate.”

An earlier White House statement half-heartedly cast the decision to leave as Scaramucci’s, asserting that he “felt it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team.”

But no one buys that. During the briefing, Sanders avoided giving a direct answer to the question of whether Scaramucci was fired. 

CNN reported Monday afternoon that Scaramucci had been escorted off the White House grounds, though the network’s Jeff Zeleny emphasized that was “not necessarily unusual” for someone no longer employed within the administration.

The hope among some Trump loyalists — and Republicans more broadly — is that Kelly’s first day will set a new tone.

There is a deafening consensus that the White House needs to run more smoothly after a volatile first six months that has seen the president’s approval ratings slide downward, a prolonged but futile attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act and no significant legislative achievements. 

GOP strategist Kevin Madden asserted that Scaramucci’s departure “could be an encouraging sign that John Kelly’s no-nonsense approach has made headway on Day 1 at least.”

Ever since Trump began his long-shot bid for the White House in June 2015, however, there have been periodic suggestions that he would curb his transgressive style in favor of a more orthodox approach.

Such a shift was predicted when Paul Manafort ousted Corey Lewandowski as the head of Trump’s campaign during the Republican primary; when he officially became the GOP nominee; when he was inaugurated; and when he notched his one big win with the relatively conventional process that confirmed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

On every one of those occasions, Trump reverted to his rambunctious and unpredictable self before long.

It is unclear how Kelly would curb those tendencies or whether he would even try.

“I keep saying there is no better Trump, there’s never a pivot,” said GOP strategist Rick Wilson, a vigorous critic of the president. “No one is smart or strong enough to change him.”

The president himself does not necessarily accept the need for change, at least publicly. In a tweet on Monday morning, Trump ran through a list of positive economic indicators and ended with the assertion: “No WH chaos!”

Republicans who are critical of Trump see no realistic hope for change, in the president’s demeanor or in his managerial style.  

Others who are more supportive reacted with a shrug of the shoulders to news of Scaramucci’s departure.  

Charlie Black, a veteran GOP strategist, asked for his thoughts on the unfolding drama, replied, “No thoughts, other than this was perfectly predictable.”

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHow Polish populism explains Trump and the rebirth of nationalism Lewandowski: Priebus ‘ultimately responsible’ for White House leaks Ex-Cruz aide: Now Bannon is establishment voice in Trump White House MORE’s presidency. 

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Los Angeles reaches deal to host 2028 Olympics

 Eric Garcetti is pictured.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti looks on beneath the Olympic Rings during a press conference July 11, 2017, in Lausanne, Switzerland. | Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

The announcement follows weeks of negotiations that pitted the city against Paris for the 2024 Games.

The International Olympic Committee announced Monday that Los Angeles would host the 2028 Summer Games, in a deal resulting from weeks of negotiations that pitted the city against Paris for the 2024 Olympics.

It will be the first Olympics in the United States since 2002, and the third time that Los Angeles has hosted the Summer Games, after 1932 and 1984.

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The committee also cited the role President Donald Trump played in the city’s pursuit.

“Since his election, President Trump has been personally involved in helping to make L.A.’s bid a truly American bid and the White House Office of American Innovation and the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have been true partners throughout,” the statement said. “The USOC and Los Angeles bid team greatly appreciate their strong commitment to bringing the Olympic and Paralympic Games back to the United States.”

The Los Angeles Bid Committee estimated that staging the event could cost more than $5 billion, with the IOC contributing as much as $2 billion. The bid committee said it would be able pay for the entire cost through ticket sales, sponsorships and other revenues.

Infrastructure spending and waste have been a focus of several previous Olympics, with host countries no longer having a purpose for newly built structures.

Brazil, for example, owes creditors $40 million nearly a year after hosting the 2016 Games, and a new stadium in the capital, Brasilia, now serves as a bus parking lot instead of hosting soccer teams, The Associated Press reported in early July.

Los Angeles may be able to reduce such costs by using existing sites, sports business experts have said. The Coliseum, for example, was built in 1923 and used in both the 1932 and 1984 Olympics.

If the Los Angeles City Council approves, and state and federal official sign off, the IOC will vote in September to ratify the deal.

Authors:
Jake Lahut
Diamond Naga Siu

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White House insists: No chaos here

President Donald Trump is pictured. | Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump predicted Monday that new White House chief of staff John Kelly “will do a spectacular job” and will outperform his time as secretary of Homeland Security, a run Trump said had “been nothing short of miraculous.” | Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

The White House on Monday installed its second chief of staff and dumped its recently hired communications director, capping a 10-day period in which the press secretary, a communications aide and the original chief of staff all took their leave.

In the White House’s telling, everything is fine.

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President Donald Trump kicked off Monday morning with a series of tweets, one of which pointed to economic and jobs data as he claimed: “No WH chaos!”

Hours later, after the White House revealed Anthony Scaramucci was out as communications director just 10 days after announcing he was taking the job, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders hit the same message.

“I’ve said it before: If you want to see chaos, come to my house with three preschoolers,” Sanders, smiling, told reporters at a briefing. “This doesn’t hold a candle to that.”

Scaramucci’s ascent to the White House prompted the July 21 resignation of Trump’s first press secretary, Sean Spicer, who opposed his hiring as communications director. Days later, Scaramucci publicly debated firing press aide Michael Short, leading him to quit, and delivered a profane rant that helped push out the president’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus.

In two public appearances Monday morning, the president appeared intent on showing his new chief of staff, former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, that he wasn’t entering a chaotic White House. Kelly was sworn in Monday morning, and Trump’s message was, in short, that everything was going well — “and I think the general will just add to it,” he told reporters.

Scaramucci’s exit, announced later in the day Monday, came after other high-profile White House departures, including national security adviser Michael Flynn and communications director Mike Dubke.

The administration said in a statement that “Mr. Scaramucci felt it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team.” The language mirrored Spicer’s reason for resigning after Scaramucci’s hire.

Sanders said at Monday afternoon’s news briefing that Scaramucci, who promoted her to replace Spicer as press secretary, has no role in the administration “at this time.” Asked whether Scaramucci’s departure will change Spicer’s status in the White House, Sanders said she wasn’t “aware of any changes that have been made on that front.”

She added that Trump found Scaramucci’s rhetoric in a profanity-laced phone call last week with a reporter from The New Yorker to be “inappropriate for a person in that position,” and the president “didn’t want to burden” Kelly with “that line of succession.” Scaramucci had blasted Priebus and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon in the interview, and stressed that he reported directly to the president.

“Gen. Kelly has the full authority to operate within the White House, and all staff will report to him,” Sanders said. “Gen. Kelly, I think, will bring a new structure to the White House and discipline and strength, and we’re all really excited to work with him.”

Trump, who has repeatedly heaped praise on Kelly since announcing Friday that he would serve as chief of staff, predicted Monday that Kelly “will do a spectacular job” and will outperform his role as DHS secretary, a run Trump said had “been nothing short of miraculous.”

“I have no doubt that he will be an absolutely superb chief of staff,” Trump said. “I predict that Gen. Kelly will go down in terms of the position of chief of staff one of the great[est] ever.”

Voters aren’t convinced, though. In a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, a majority of respondents said the administration is running somewhat or very chaotically.

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Kelly seizes control of the chaotic West Wing

Almost the first thing White House chief of staff John Kelly did after being sworn in Monday was dismiss communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who he believed had become a distraction in the aftermath of a profanity laced-tirade to a reporter.

The decision made clear that Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, is serious about taking control of President Donald Trump’s notoriously unregimented West Wing. During his first meetings at the White House Monday, Kelly informed aides that they all report to him, said one senior White House official. “No doubt who is in charge,” the official said.

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Kelly’s first day established a sharp contrast with his predecessor Reince Priebus, who was frequently undermined by colleagues with direct access to the president. In interviews, a half-dozen White House officials described Kelly’s quick moves to assert and consolidate control, even as the president himself tweeted, “No WH chaos!”

“Kelly is already changing the culture here,” one WH aide said.

White House officials said Kelly is planning to lock down the Oval Office, restricting the number of aides and outside visitors who can wander in. One aide said Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner have agreed to follow Kelly’s rules when it comes to visiting the Oval and sharing information with the president. “They actually report to him,” the aide said.

“Old habits die hard, but I’m confident he can kill them,” one person close to Kelly said of the uphill battle he faces in monitoring access to the president.

Kelly has told associates that he believes it’s his responsibility to “straighten this out” — and that he wouldn’t have taken the chief of staff job if he wasn’t given the authority to make tough decisions, according to an outside adviser to the White House who has spoken directly to Kelly.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said told reporters Monday that all White House staff would report to Kelly.

Those who know Kelly say his decision to oust Scaramucci fits with his track record of removing subordinates that he believes are standing in the way of his mission.

“It’s not surprising to me that he would can someone,” said Mieke Eoyang, the vice president at Third Way’s National Security Program, who has known Kelly for about 20 years.

Scaramucci was named to the role just 10 days ago, a move that prompted the resignation of Sanders’ predecessor, Sean Spicer.

“Mr. Scaramucci felt it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team,” Sanders said in a statement. “We wish him all the best.”

Aides said Kelly has already accepted that he will have little control over one of the biggest impediments to order in the White House: Trump’s tweeting.

“He, within 24 hours, can pull them back into the same quagmire,” said former Nixon White House general counsel John Dean.

“The whole question is how Trump treats this. If he sees this as a reset, it’s a reset. If it’s a new crew to put blame on then we’ll know that soon too,” Dean added.

Kelly, who previously served as Trump’s secretary of Homeland Security, inherits a West Wing engulfed by a series of federal and congressional probes into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Trump had repeatedly complained on Twitter that the FBI probe overseen by special counsel Robert Mueller is a “witch hunt” that has engulfed his administration and put his own family members into the direct line of the investigation.

The president has also publicly slammed his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, over his recusal from the Russia case, calling him “beleaguered.”

Former White House aides said other big chief of staff shakeups have been potent shots in the arm to propel a presidency forward. President Barack Obama’s final chief of staff, Denis McDonough, lasted the entire second term and was seen as helping advance a series of major policy initiatives without suffering a major scandal, all while working the entire time with a Republican-controlled Congress.

Leon Panetta helped bring discipline to an unruly opening year of the Clinton administration and guided the Democrat through his reelection bid. Howard Baker’s arrival in early 1987 was widely seen as giving Ronald Reagan a big boost after more than a year mired in the Iran-Contra scandal.

But the staff turnover at the Trump White House won’t stop the drip-drip of media coverage surrounding the Russia investigation, said former George W. Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer.

“What hurts the White House more is the feeding frenzy,” he said.

Trump made it clear Monday that he has high expectations for Kelly, who has emerged as a favorite member of his administration.

The president used a string of choreographed appearances before the press on Monday to lavish praise on Kelly, marveling at his brief but “miraculous” tenure as Homeland Security secretary, a role he performed with “very little controversy.”

“He will do a spectacular job, I have no doubt, as chief of staff,” Trump gushed. “What he’s done in terms of Homeland Security is record-shattering.”

Even before he was sworn in, Kelly had emerged as a prized member of Trump’s team. Aides said the president, long enamored with generals, believes Kelly was his most effective Cabinet secretary.

Kelly was thrust into the spotlight early in the administration by Trump’s January executive order banning travel from multiple Muslim-majority countries, an order that created temporary chaos at airports across the country.

People close to Kelly said he’ll likely take a keen interest in foreign policy issues. And while some White House aides have raised concerns about his relative lack of experience on the Hill, others noted that he has built strong relationships with members of Congress of both parties when he served as the Marine’s liaison to Capitol Hill.

Kelly has spoken twice with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell since Sunday, according to a McConnell spokesman. He’s also connected with House Speaker Paul Ryan, a close friend and ally of Priebus, whose ouster was announced Friday by Trump via Twitter alongside Kelly’s appointment.

“I think it’s an amazingly good thing the president has turned to the general,” said Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch. He added that Kelly’s presence might cut down on “a lot of the screaming and shouting down there.”

It remains unclear how involved Kelly will be in shaping Trump’s communications strategy. But the decision to remove Scaramucci leaves a gaping hole at the top of the White House press office – and it sends a message that Kelly has little tolerance for showboats.

Trump has suggested that he wants to have more off-the-record time with journalists. There’s a feeling among some West Wing aides that if the press engaged with Trump more they would see his point of view. But off-the-record chats could further complicate Kelly’s job, especially if the president’s off-color comments go public.

While chief White House strategist Steve Bannon became an ally of Priebus, he’s made it known that he’s happy to see Kelly elevated to chief of staff rather than Gary Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council.

Bannon feared Cohn could be primed for the post if Priebus was ousted, according to a White House aide and a Bannon ally. The ally said Bannon believes that installing Kelly was a loss for the “White House Democrats” meaning Cohn, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, because it meant that Cohn was not lined up for the job.

Still, Kushner and Ivanka Trump are said to be supportive of hiring Kelly as chief of staff. “Looking forward to serving alongside John Kelly as we work for the American people,” Ivanka Trump wrote on Twitter Monday afternoon. “General Kelly is a true American hero.”

John Bresnahan, Burgess Everett and Jennifer Haberkorn contributed to this story.

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My Party Is in Denial About Donald Trump

Who could blame the people who felt abandoned and ignored by the major parties for reaching in despair for a candidate who offered oversimplified answers to infinitely complex questions and managed to entertain them in the process. With hindsight, it is clear that we all but ensured the rise of Donald Trump.

I will let the liberals answer for their own sins in this regard. (There are many.) But we conservatives mocked Barack Obama’s failure to deliver on his pledge to change the tone in Washington even as we worked to assist with that failure. It was we conservatives who, upon Obama’s election, stated that our number-one priority was not advancing a conservative policy agenda but making Obama a one-term president—the corollary to this binary thinking being that his failure would be our success and the fortunes of the citizenry would presumably be sorted out in the meantime. It was we conservatives who were largely silent when the most egregious and sustained attacks on Obama’s legitimacy were leveled by marginal figures who would later be embraced and legitimized by far too many of us. It was we conservatives who rightly and robustly asserted our constitutional prerogatives as a coequal branch of government when a Democrat was in the White House but who, despite solemn vows to do the same in the event of a Trump presidency, have maintained an unnerving silence as instability has ensued. To carry on in the spring of 2017 as if what was happening was anything approaching normalcy required a determined suspension of critical faculties. And tremendous powers of denial.

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I’ve been sympathetic to this impulse to denial, as one doesn’t ever want to believe that the government of the United States has been made dysfunctional at the highest levels, especially by the actions of one’s own party. Michael Gerson, a con­servative columnist and former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, wrote, four months into the new presidency, “The conservative mind, in some very visible cases, has become diseased,” and conservative institutions “with the blessings of a president … have abandoned the normal constraints of reason and compassion.”

For a conservative, that’s an awfully bitter pill to swallow. So as I layered in my defense mechanisms, I even found myself saying things like, “If I took the time to respond to every presiden­tial tweet, there would be little time for anything else.” Given the volume and velocity of tweets from both the Trump campaign and then the White House, this was certainly true. But it was also a monumental dodge. It would be like Noah saying, “If I spent all my time obsessing about the coming flood, there would be little time for anything else.” At a certain point, if one is being honest, the flood becomes the thing that is most worthy of attention. At a certain point, it might be time to build an ark.

Under our constitution, there simply are not that many people who are in a position to do something about an executive branch in chaos. As the first branch of government (Article I), the Congress was designed expressly to assert itself at just such moments. It is what we talk about when we talk about “checks and balances.” Too often we observe the unfolding drama along with the rest of the country, passively, all but saying, “Someone should do something!” without seeming to realize that that someone is us. And so, that unnerving silence in the face of an erratic executive branch is an abdication, and those in positions of leadership bear particular responsibility.

There was a time when the leadership of the Congress from both parties felt an institutional loyalty that would frequently create bonds across party lines in defense of congressional prerogatives in a unified front against the White House, regardless of the president’s party. We do not have to go very far back to identify these exemplars—the Bob Doles and Howard Bakers and Richard Lugars of the Senate. Vigorous partisans, yes, but even more importantly, principled constitutional conservatives whose primary interest was in governing and making America truly great.

But then the period of collapse and dysfunction set in, amplified by the Internet and our growing sense of alienation from each other, and we lost our way and began to rationalize away our principles in the process. But where does such capitulation take us? If by 2017 the conservative bargain was to go along for the very bumpy ride because with congressional hegemony and the White House we had the numbers to achieve some long-held policy goals—even as we put at risk our institutions and our values—then it was a very real question whether any such policy victories wouldn’t be pyrrhic ones. If this was our Faus­tian bargain, then it was not worth it. If ultimately our principles were so malleable as to no longer be principles, then what was the point of political victories in the first place?

Meanwhile, the strange specter of an American president’s seeming affection for strongmen and authoritarians created such a cognitive dissonance among my generation of conservatives—who had come of age under existential threat from the Soviet Union—that it was almost impossible to believe. Even as our own government was documenting a con­certed attack against our democratic processes by an enemy foreign power, our own White House was rejecting the authority of its own intelligence agencies, disclaiming their findings as a Democratic ruse and a hoax. Conduct that would have had conservatives up in arms had it been exhibited by our political opponents now had us dumbstruck.

It was then that I was compelled back to Senator Goldwater’s book, to a chapter entitled “The Soviet Menace.” Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, this part of Goldwater’s critique had seemed particularly anachronistic. The lesson here is that nothing is gone forever, especially when it comes to the devouring ambition of despotic men. As Goldwater wrote in that chapter:

Our forebears knew that “keeping a Republic” meant, above all, keeping it safe from foreign transgressors; they knew that a people cannot live and work freely, and develop national institutions conducive to freedom, except in peace and with independence.

So, where should Republicans go from here? First, we shouldn’t hesitate to speak out if the president “plays to the base” in ways that damage the Republican Party’s ability to grow and speak to a larger audience. Second, Republicans need to take the long view when it comes to issues like free trade: Populist and protectionist policies might play well in the short term, put they handicap the country in the long term. Third, Republicans need to stand up for institutions and prerogatives, like the Senate filibuster, that have served us well for more than two centuries.

We have taken our “institutions conducive to freedom,” as Goldwater put it, for granted as we have engaged in one of the more reckless periods of politics in our history. In 2017, we seem to have lost our appreciation for just how hard-won and vulnerable those institutions are.

Jeff Flake is a Republican senator from Arizona. This article has been excerpted from his new book, Conscience of a Conservative. Excerpted by permission of Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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