President Trump on Monday removed Anthony Scaramucci from his role as White House communications director just days after the New York financier was named to the job — a move made at the request of new White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, according to two people with knowledge of the decision.
Scaramucci’s brief tenure in the role had been marked by turmoil as he feuded publicly with then-White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Scaramucci’s arrival at the White House prompted press secretary Sean Spicer to resign in protest.
The abrupt decision signals that Kelly is moving quickly to assert control over the West Wing, which has been characterized by interpersonal disputes and power struggles during Trump’s six months in office.
The retired Marine general, who was sworn in Monday morning, was brought into the White House in the hope that he will bring military-style discipline to Trump’s staff. He has been fully empowered by the president to make significant changes to the organization, White House officials and outside advisers said.
The White House confirmed Scaramucci’s departure in a statement on Monday afternoon.
“Anthony Scaramucci will be leaving his role as White House Communications Director,” said a statement attributed to the White House press secretary, though it was unclear whether it was from Spicer or the incoming press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “Mr. Scaramucci felt it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team. We wish him all the best.”
White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci talks with reporters and members of the media outside the White House on July 25. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Scaramucci was hired to the communications director role by Trump, over the objections of Priebus and other aides. Within days of arriving in the West Wing, Scaramucci publicly accused Priebus of leaking damaging information about him in the media and disparaged him in a profanity-laced interview with the New Yorker.
Priebus, who had long ago lost the confidence of the president, was replaced by Kelly days later.
People in the White House who supported Scaramucci’s hiring had viewed his presence in the West Wing, in part, as a tool to hasten the departure of Priebus, according to White House officials. His usefulness had declined significantly in their eyes once that goal was accomplished and in light of his rocky first week on the job.
Over the weekend, Kelly told associates that he was dismayed by Scaramucci’s interview and found it abhorrent and embarrassing for the president. Removing him from the communications post was not intended to be personal, but rather an effort to change the culture of the White House and to signal to staff that their comments always reflect on the president.
The abrupt removal of Scaramucci, a wealthy financier who had backed Trump during the campaign, punctuated a day that began with a Trump tweet declaring that despite the upheaval of the past two weeks, there was “no WH chaos!” in his administration.
No other post in the White House has experienced as much upheaval as the communications director job. It was first given to Jason Miller, a Trump campaign aide who stepped down from the post during the transition before even being sworn in. It was then given to Republican operative Michael Dubke, who resigned in May. In the intervening weeks, Spicer had taken on those responsibilities in addition to his role as press secretary until Scaramucci was named to the position on July 21 over his objections.
Scaramucci, a sharply dressed, fast-talking New Yorker who touted his ability to channel the president’s own brash personality, quickly sought to establish himself as a rising power center in Trump’s circle. He held forth from the press room lectern on the day he was named to the post, answering questions for over 45 minutes from reporters. Within days of entering the White House, he also threatened to end White House leaks by firing “everyone” in the press office until the unauthorized disclosures ended.
Quickly, however, his feud with Priebus became the main focus of his energy and his accusations of leaking. Scaramucci had at one point described their relationship as that of “brothers.” Later, he clarified that they were like Cain and Abel, two biblical brothers whose tumultuous relationship ended in tragedy. Cain murdered Abel before he was punished by God and condemned to a life of wandering.
Scaramucci was at the White House on Monday and was seen by reporters in the back of the room after Kelly was sworn in. There had been plans for a significant shake-up of the communications office, but it’s unclear if that will take place now.
The move comes as the White House is trying to make a hard pivot away from the turmoil last week and focus lawmakers and supporters on passing a huge tax cut package. Earlier Monday, three top White House officials, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and legislative director Marc Short, each said they planned to press aggressively for the tax plan, which Trump sees as a centerpiece of his domestic agenda.
Robert Costa and Philip Rucker contributed to this report.
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