terça-feira, 1 de agosto de 2017
Who'd want Scaramucci's job now? In Trump's White House, no one comes out alive / John Kelly seizes control of the chaotic West Wing
Who'd want Scaramucci's job now? In Trump's White House, no one comes out alive
Whoever fills Scaramucci’s shoes will continue the circus anew before being sacrificed, in an oft-repeated ritual, on Trump’s altar
Lucia Graves is a Guardian US columnist
Tuesday 1 August 2017 00.41 BST Last modified on Tuesday 1 August 2017 08.17 BST
It’s been a very bad week for Anthony Scaramucci, who, after getting sacked from his marriage, got sacked from his job.
He’s dead even to his alma mater — Harvard law school’s alumni directory, in an erroneous report, apparently declared him deceased.
That his stint in the public eye lasted less than two weeks, though, should be less a punchline than it is edifying. The lesson: there is no worse job than trying to speak for Trump.
Though his entire White House has been full of political upheaval, with jobs changing over and positions going unfilled, it’s not by chance the the role of spokesperson is most fraught.
Under any president it’s a job that requires answering to the public, and if you work for Trump, that means obfuscating all the time. It also means, more than any other single person, and there are plenty within the White House, you’re the fallguy to absorb Trump’s hit.
If anyone could have succeeded in this line of thankless work, it should have been Scaramucci. After all he was in many ways the spitting image of his boss: petty and vain, if endlessly entertaining, a man who loves – above all – the sight of his own face on TV.
His disloyalty was perhaps on display last week when his wife reportedly left him for being so “hell-bent” on the White House, relentlessly – and opportunistically – courting Trump after his presidential rise. In January he sold his $11m stake in SkyBridge Capital in anticipation of a White House job.
Whether the details of the divorce report are true, what’s clear is he was willing to sacrifice everything: family, finance, reputation. It’s the same win-at-all-costs drive we’ve seen displayed repeatedly in Trump.
Then Trump turned around and sacrificed him.
He had been hired, it’s been said, as a tool to hasten the departure of Reince Priebus. And here, the loyalty flip again: though Scaramucci had once described his relationship with Priebus as one of “brothers,” upon arriving in the White House, he went on the attack.
Later he sought to clarify that he and Priebus were like feuding biblical brothers Cain and Abel – but as we now see, in the Trump White House version of the story, no one comes out alive.
The move was said to come at the request of Trump’s new chief of staff John F Kelly, the latest dummy to buy into Trump’s game. “Mr Scaramucci felt it was best to give chief of staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team,” read a statement from the White House. Whether it was issued by axed spokesman Sean Spicer or current deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was somewhat comically unclear.
What isn’t is that there will be no clean slates, as the White House seeks to pivot away from turmoil and toward passing its tax cut package: whoever fills his shoes will continue the circus anew before being sacrificed, in an oft-repeated ritual, on Trump’s altar.
For the president has always been willing to betray his political allies without a second thought, even as he demands comic levels of fealty from his underlings.
And having watched the rapid unraveling of the former family man known as Scaramucci, no person in their right mind would take the job now.
John Kelly seizes control of the chaotic West Wing
Trump’s new chief of staff established his authority by abruptly dismissing newly named communications director Anthony Scaramucci.
By ANDREW RESTUCCIA, JOSH DAWSEY, TARA PALMERI AND DARREN SAMUELSOHN 8/1/17, 7:29 AM CET Updated 8/1/17, 7:37 AM CET
By Monday afternoon, Kelly was meeting with staff again, this time without Priebus. Kelly assembled senior aides in his office and laid down his rules of the road: More accountability on how jobs are done. More limitations on access to the Oval Office. More structure. Better briefings and information for the president. A White House staff where everyone reports to Kelly.
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.
To both Scaramucci’s ouster and the new ground rules there was no public dissent: “I think people get it and he said he had authority from the president,” one person with direct knowledge of the conversations said.
Internally, people saw Scaramucci’s firing as a good thing, several West Wing aides said.
“Kelly is already changing the culture here” — a White House aide
The new ground rules and the decision to cut Scaramucci loose 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 on 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.
Kelly’s first day established a sharp contrast with his predecessor, 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 White House 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 are going to 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 hadn’t received 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 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 whom he believes are standing in the way of his mission.
“It’s not surprising to me that he would can someone,” said Mieke Eoyang, vice president at Third Way’s National Security Program, who has known Kelly for about 20 years.
Scaramucci was named to the communications director 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 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 first term 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 temporarily created 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 since Sunday with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, 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 White House chief 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, 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, 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 naming Kelly as chief of staff. “Looking forward to serving alongside John Kelly as we work for the American people,” Ivanka Trump wrote Monday afternoon on Twitter. “General Kelly is a true American hero.”
John Bresnahan, Burgess Everett and Jennifer Haberkorn contributed to this report.