Last night, Politico published a wonky story based on financial disclosure statements filed by Anthony Scaramucci, showing that the new White House communications director stands to continue making profits from his investment firm SkyBridge Capital while he’s working in government. It’s newsworthy, but not particularly sexy–the kind of story that might not have hit your radar if you’re not a hardcore day-to-day follower of the news out of D.C. You might not have heard about it, that is, if it weren’t for the fact that Scaramucci entered total meltdown mode almost immediately after the story hit.
To better understand why the man called Mooch made an unscheduled insane and rambling 30-minute call into Chris Cuomo’s CNN show New Day this morning, some context of his relationship to the current axis of power in the West Wing might be helpful. Scaramucci has been angling for a job in the White House for a while, but chief of staff Reince Priebus and dearly departed former press secretary Sean Spicer vehemently opposed his appointment–so much so that Spicer resigned from his post when the president made Scaramucci communications director. On his way in, Scaramucci made a show of wanting to clean house of leakers–he told reporters on Tuesday that his plan to do that was to “fire everybody“–though if Spicer’s futile efforts to do the same in the past are any indication, that’s a basically impossible task. In any case, it’s not altogether surprising that he would freak out when he himself became the subject of the latest White House leak, or that Priebus would be the target of his ire.
Except that there wasn’t a leak at all. Federal government documents like Scaramucci’s disclosure forms are part of the public record, subject to release to journalists and other citizens. This morning, Politico’s Lorraine Woellert explained that she’d simply made a routine request for the document, not received them from some anonymous Deep Throat.
But by the time she made that clarification, Scaramucci was already deep into his tantrum. It began with a tweet last night that has since been deleted, in which he called the “leak” a “felony,” said that he would be contacting the Justice Department and FBI about it, and tagged Priebus’s Twitter handle. It was easy to interpret that outburst as an accusation that Scaramucci’s colleague had committed a crime. New Yorker political writer wrote that he could confirm that interpretation was correct, based apparently on his own reporting.
In case there's any ambiguity in his tweet I can confirm that Scaramucci wants the FBI to investigate Reince for leaking.
— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) July 27, 2017
Lizza was a guest on New Day this morning, and Scaramucci called into the show as the reporter’s interview was wrapping up. Over the next half-hour, he compared himself and Priebus to Cain and Abel–referencing a Biblical saga that, lest you forget, ends in murder–challenged the chief-of-staff to publicly prove he isn’t a leaker, held up disgraced Penn State football coach Joe Paterno as a paragon of honor, and made multiple tough-guy appeals to his and Cuomo’s shared Italian heritage and background in New York, much to the amusement of the anchor. He stopped short of asserting that he isn’t in the White House to make friends, but he might as well have. The Washington Post has a detailed written account of what down, but if you have the time, you might as well watch it for yourself.
“You know why I like bringing up the Department of Justice and the FBI? Because people who have done something wrong, it makes them nervous, Chris,” he said toward the end of the rant.
It’s unclear whether Scaramucci really believed there had been a leak, or whether he simply saw this as an opportunity to publicly shit-talk Priebus (and make himself look like an idiot in the process). But by his behavior over the last 12 hours, you’d almost think he’s getting a little nervous himself.