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.
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.