Scaramucci declares war on Priebus, Bannon

The newly appointed communications director is intent on ‘fixing’ the West Wing — and ousting other top aides.

Scaramucci’s arrival was described by one adviser as “a cannonball from a diving board into a pool.” With his brash outer-borough New York ethos and flair for showmanship, Scaramucci is perhaps more like Trump himself than anyone else on the White House staff — and his appointment is a clear signal that the president is walking away from his initial embrace of establishment Republicans familiar with Washington.

Instead, Trump is choosing the gut-driven approach that won him the presidency. And that especially doesn’t bode well for Priebus.

.. The chief of staff has seen his power base steadily erode, losing first his deputy Katie Walsh, who departed the administration in March and recently returned to the RNC, and then press secretary Sean Spicer, who resigned after it was clear that Scaramucci would be above him in the West Wing.

.. Priebus’ usual defenders in the White House seemed subdued on Thursday, a noticeable shift from earlier in the administration, when public criticism of the chief of staff was met with a rapid response. No one seemed empowered to defend Priebus, unlike in the early days, when two paragraphs in a story about him could prompt six or more phone calls.

.. One person who spoke with Priebus over the weekend said he’d wanted to make it to one year in the White House, but has settled for staying “at least through health care.”

.. Priebus has begun calling allies and asking for advice on whether he should stay in the job and how he should handle the situation, according to people familiar with the talks. One such call went to Speaker Paul Ryan earlier this week, who advised Priebus to stay and that the president needed him. “They speak often,” said Doug Andres, a Ryan spokesman, who declined to comment further.

.. Newly elevated press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to give Priebus a direct vote of confidence at the daily briefing Thursday, saying the president would “let you know” if he wasn’t happy with his staff. “The president enjoys healthy competition,” Sanders said.

.. He said there are only two people who can be trusted in the White House. “I can tell you two fish that don’t stink,” Scaramucci said to CNN. “That’s me and the president.”

.. “There are people inside this administration that think it’s their job to save America from this president,” he added.

.. Whether Scaramucci, who seems to have an innate understanding of Trump, remains his “flavor of the month,” in the words of one adviser, seems unclear. But friends say Trump is already more comfortable with Scaramucci — who is forceful and smooth on TV — and that he respects Scaramucci for his business acumen.

.. “If this is less of a s—show because Anthony Scaramucci is imposing some discipline and getting things done, that’s good for the country. It’s good for the country to have a functioning government even if you disagree vehemently,” said Stu Loeser, a friend and former press secretary to Michael Bloomberg.

.. “It is totally out of control, chaos,” Zelizer said. “This is unnerving people in Washington and everywhere, where the president’s advisers can’t get him to do anything and are behaving like this.”

.. And Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who serves as a surrogate for Trump, offered some advice to Priebus, as he copes with being on the ropes: “Just do your job.”

The Latest Voice at the Lectern: An Effusive New Yorker

Where Ms. Sanders tends to the dry and sardonic, Mr. Scaramucci is over the top.

.. The uneasy alliance between Mr. Scaramucci and Ms. Sanders will help determine the fate of Mr. Trump’s efforts to reboot his message and survive amid the escalating scandals engulfing his presidency.

The pair represent the competing power centers still vying inside Mr. Trump’s West Wing:

  • Ms. Sanders, the Southern-drawling, workmanlike political operative installed by Mr. Priebus; and
  • Mr. Scaramucci, the gregarious New York hedge fund manager who has grown close with the Trump family and is new to politics.

.. Telegenic and smooth-talking, he was an eager face of the Trump campaign on television and in the halls of Trump Tower, bringing a brash style and disarming humor to his tussles with reporters.

.. A mother of three young children whom she often mentions in tense moments in the White House briefing room, she inherited her father’s folksy style, his Christian conservatism and his biting sarcasm.

“If you want to see chaos,” she told a reporter on Friday, when asked about the West Wing turmoil, “you should come to my house early in the morning, when my three kids are running around. That’s chaos; this is nothing.”

.. there’s a New York-versus-Washington dichotomy here, New York is winning

..  it was left to Mr. Scaramucci, not the president, to announce that Ms. Sanders would be his new press secretary. The slight did not go unnoticed by veteran communicators, who said it could undercut her at the outset.

.. “It would have been appropriate for him to announce Sarah,” said Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary for President George W. Bush. “It empowers her, it sends the message that the president appointed her, he’s standing next to her, and that signal was not there.”

.. While Mr. Trump all but invented the “fake news” moniker himself, some of his advisers, including Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, have told him that he cannot afford to have a spokeswoman who has such a poisonous relationship with reporters. That was one of the reasons that Mr. Scaramucci was brought on.

.. “He’s very slick and smooth,” said Jennifer Palmieri, another of Mr. Obama’s communications directors. “This removes any ruse that this is a White House that will operate under the transparent standard we expect for a democracy. Instead, it will operate like a country with ministers of propaganda, not press secretaries.”

.. “If the president thinks he’s surrounded by good people fighting for him, defending him and doing a really good job at it, then the president won’t feel the need to push boundaries himself and make the mistakes that he’s made on Twitter,” Mr. Fleischer said.

.. Mr. Scaramucci wished Mr. Spicer well in a distinctly New York style.

“I love the guy,” he said. “And I hope he goes on to make a tremendous amount of money.”

The Quiet American

Paul Manafort made a career out of stealthily reinventing the world’s nastiest tyrants as noble defenders of freedom. Getting Donald Trump elected will be a cinch.

Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s palace, is impressive by the standards of Palm Beach—less so when judged against the abodes of the world’s autocrats. It doesn’t, for instance, quite compare with Mezhyhirya, the gilded estate of deposed Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych. Trump may have 33 bathrooms and three bomb shelters, but his mansion lacks a herd of ostrich, a galleon parked in a pond, and a set of golden golf clubs. Yet the two properties are linked, not just in ostentatious spirit, but by the presence of one man. Trump and Yanukovych have shared the same political brain, an operative named Paul Manafort.

.. “Manafort is a person who doesn’t necessarily show himself. There’s nothing egotistical about him,”

.. The late Washington Post columnist Mary McGrorydescribed him as having a “smooth, noncommittal manner, ” though she also noted his “aggrieved brown eyes.” Despite his decades of amassing influence in Washington and other global capitals, he’s never been the subject of a full magazine profile.

.. As Roger Stone has boasted about their now-disbanded firm: “Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly, lined up most of the dictators of the world we could find. … Dictators are in the eye of the beholder.” Manafort had a special gift for changing how dictators are beheld by American eyes. He would recast them as noble heroes—venerated by Washington think tanks, deluged with money from Congress.

.. he remade Ukrainian politics and helped shift the country into Vladimir Putin’s sphere of influence.It

.. The genesis of Donald Trump’s relationship with Paul Manafort begins with Roy Cohn. That Roy Cohn: Joe McCarthy’s heavy-lidded henchman, lawyer to the Genovese family.

.. It was Roy Cohn who introduced Stone and Manafort to Trump.

.. Dirty tricks came naturally to Stone. He assumed a pseudonym and made contributions on behalf of the Young Socialist Alliance to one of Nixon’s potential challengers. He hired spies to infiltrate the McGovern campaign.

.. Manafort had a very different mentor. He studied under the future secretary of state, James A. Baker III, who wielded his knife with the discipline of a Marine and the polish of a Princetonian.

.. “Paul modeled himself after Baker,”

.. Despite his Yankee stock, Manafort ran Reagan’s Southern operation, the racially tinged appeal that infamously began in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the hamlet where civil rights activists were murdered in 1964.

.. Manafort and Stone pioneered a new style of firm, what K Street would come to call a double-breasted operation. One wing of the shop managed campaigns, electing a generation of Republicans, from Phil Gramm to Arlen Spector. The other wing lobbied the officials they helped to victory on behalf of its corporate clients.

.. he began with his rote protestations of friendship. “Nobody likes Indians as much as Donald Trump.” He then proceeded to worry that the tribes would prove unable to fend off gangsters. “There is no way Indians are going to protect themselves from the mob … It will be the biggest scandal ever, the biggest since Al Capone … An Indian chief is going to tell Joey Killer to please get off his reservation? It’s unbelievable to me.”

.. Trump poured money into a shell group called the New York Institute for Law and Society. The group existed solely to publish ads smearing his potential Indian competition. Under dark photos of needles and other junkie paraphernalia, the group asserted, “The St. Regis Mohawk Indian record of criminal activity is well documented.” (It wasn’t.) “Are these the new neighbors we want?”

.. Later, they lured Lee Atwater, the evil genius who would devise the Willie Horton gambit for George H.W. Bush.

.. Black would later boast that the firm had schemed to gain cartel-like control of the 1988 Republican presidential primary. They managed all of the major campaigns.

  1. Atwater took Bush;
  2. Black ran Dole;
  3. Stone handled Jack Kemp.

A congressional staffer joked to a reporter from Time, “Why have primaries for the nomination? Why not have the candidates go over to Black, Manafort and Stone and argue it out?

.. He took on clients and causes that even most of his colleagues on K Street considered outside the usual bounds. Black, Manafort, and Stone hired alumni of the Department of Housing and Urban Development then used those connections to win $43 million in “moderate rehabilitation funds” for a renovation project in Upper Deerfield, New Jersey.

..  Local officials had no interest in the grants, as they considered the shamble of cinder blocks long past the point of repair.

.. Two years later, rents doubled without any sign of improvement. Conditions remained, in Mary McGrory’s words, “strictly Third World.” It was such an outrageous scam that congressmen flocked to make a spectacle of it. Manafort calmly took his flaying. “You might call it influence-peddling. I call it lobbying,” he explained in one hearing. “That’s a definitional debate.”

 .. Strangely, the HUD scandal proved a marketing boon for the firm. An aide to Mobutu Sese Seko told the journalist Art Levine, “That only shows how important they are!”
.. Indeed, Manafort enticed the African dictator to hire the firm. Many of the world’s dictators eventually became his clients. “Name a dictator and Black, Manafort will name the account,
.. The client list included
  1. Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos (with a $900,000 yearly contract) and the despots of the
  2. Dominican Republic,
  3. Nigeria,
  4. Kenya,
  5. Equatorial Guinea, and
  6. Somalia.
When the Center for Public Integrity detailed the firm’s work, it titled the report “The Torturers’ Lobby.”
.. Indeed, the firm was an all-purpose image-buffing operation. As the Washington Post has reported, Manafort could book his clients on 60 Minutes or Nightline—and coach them to make their best pitch. He lobbied Congress for foreign aid that flowed to his clients’ coffers.
.. Manafort understood the mindset of the dictator wasn’t so different from his corporate clients
.. Despite his client’s Maoist background, Manafort reinvented him as a freedom fighter. He knew all the tricks for manipulating right-wing opinion. Savimbi was sent to a seminar at the American Enterprise Institute, hosted by the anticommunist stalwart Jeanne Kirkpatrick, a reception thrown by the Heritage Foundation, and another confab at Freedom House. (Kirkpatrick introduced Savimbi, who conscripted soldiers, burned enemies, and indiscriminately laid land mines, as a “linguist, philosopher, poet, politician, warrior … one of the few authentic heroes of our time.”)

.. His lobbying helped convince Congress to send Savimbi hundreds of millions in covert aid. Indeed, every time Angola stood on the precipice of peace talks, Manafort, Black worked to generate a fresh round of arms—shipments that many experts believe extended the conflict.
.. “So the war lasted another two more years and claimed a few thousand more lives! So what? What counts to a Washington lobbyist is the ability to deliver a tangible victory and spruce up his client’s image.”
.. Like Henry Kissinger, Manafort can claim that he merely “consults” with foreign governments, relieving him of the legal burden of announcing his benefactors.