Massive, explosion-filled feuding between factions within the White House has become like a movie set, but which movie depends on your point of view.
It could be “Goodfellas,” where previously aligned friends begin to undermine and whack each other.
Perhaps it’s like “The Magnificent Seven,” in which a town hires new gunslingers to get rid of bandits — in this case, leakers.
Or it could be “The Hunger Games,” where contenders fight each other for survival.
Or else it’s more of a mix of all of those movies, mixed in with the distinct feel of a reality-TV show.
Tension between President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and the new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, is hardly news. But how they are handling each other is remarkable, if only because it betrays a dysfunction in Trump’s executive staff.
On Thursday night, the New Yorker printed an explosive interview with Scaramucci, who called Priebus a “paranoid schizophrenic.”
Loyalists Back In
What’s happening, Republican insiders tell LifeZette, is that the Trump White House has decided it has gained nothing from having so many staffers from the Republican National Committee — staffers who may have viewed Trump skeptically throughout 2016.
Trump, they say, may now want to go back to “Trump loyalists,” many of the people who were stiff-armed away from jobs by Priebus (as Scaramucci was by Priebus in January).
Hell, apparently, hath no fury like someone who toils for a candidate but gets shut out by party insiders when that candidate wins.
A top Trump confidant told LifeZette on Thursday that Priebus is likely on his way out, as Trump turns to loyalists. The source said Trump will likely replace Priebus with John Kelly, the Homeland Security director, or consultant David Urban.
Such internal but publicly viewable sniping is unprecedented in the history of the White House.
That movie-style fighting took a bizarre turn on Wednesday night, when Politico reported on Scaramucci’s financial disclosure, after making a public request for documents. Scaramucci, in charge of White House communications, rushed to tweet an unfortunate, and erroneous, charge.
“In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony, I will be contacting @FBI and the @TheJusticeDept #swamp @Reince45,” Scaramucci tweeted.
Adding Priebus’ Twitter address seemed to be a shot at Priebus — and a suggestion Priebus did the leaking. But despite a denial about that from Scaramucci, he later said the media assumed it was a shot at Priebus because they know Priebus is a leaker.
Scaramucci later said executive appointees are leaking, and suggested Priebus could be one of the leakers.
“The fish stinks from the head down,” Scaramucci told CNN, a likely swipe at Priebus.
By Thursday morning, some top Trump supporters had enough.
“He obviously likes the limelight. He obviously likes being in the media,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, speaking Thursday on “The Laura Ingraham Show.”
“I would say right now that he’s being more pugnacious than effective,” said Gingrich. “I think he got down here from New York, and he is all excited. Frankly, he is talking more than he is thinking. He needs to slow down and learn the business.”
But it may be too late for advice. Scaramucci obviously believes he is doing the president’s bidding, because unlike previous communications directors, he reports directly to the president.
And with that power, Scaramucci has been saying some daring things, such as: “I don’t know if this [relationship] can be repaired or not.”
And the New Yorker reported that Scaramucci told the magazine, while fuming over leaks: “Reince Priebus — if you want to leak something — he’ll be asked to resign very shortly.”
It didn’t end there. In true reality-show style, and forgetting he had not asked the New Yorker reporter, Ryan Lizza (who is also a CNN contributor), for the conversation to be off the record, Scaramucci engaged in lewd criticism of other White House staffers, who he claimed wanted adoring media attention.
“I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own c***,” Scaramucci said, speaking of Trump’s chief political strategist. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the f****** strength of the president. I’m here to serve the country.”
By Thursday at noon, few people were defending Priebus, having read the apparent writing on the wall. The issue was playing out much like when Trump fired two campaign managers in 2016.
By late Thursday, media outlets such as Buzzfeed also began reporting that senior White House officials expect Priebus to leave sooner or later. It was hardly a surprise, even if it has not happened yet.