WASHINGTON — Newly minted White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci warned suspected leakers on Tuesday that they must stop spilling Trump administration secrets or risk ending up outside the White House gates selling cheap souvenirs.
“Do you want to sell postcards to the tourists outside the gate or do you want to work in the West Wing? What do you want to do?” he told reporters in the driveway leading up to the West Wing. “I’m gonna put ‘em out on Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Asked how he would plug the kinds of leaks known to have angered President Trump, Scaramucci replied: “I’m going to fire everybody, that’s how I’m going to do it. You’re either going to stop leaking or you’re going to get fired.”
In a bizarre twist, the flashy financier professed to be upset “as a human being and as a Roman Catholic” about a leaked revelation that he planned to fire a junior White House press official — a development disclosed by … Anthony Scaramucci.
Politico reported around 9:15 a.m. that Scaramucci had said he planned to fire Michael Short, an assistant press secretary. Asked by other reporters barely two hours later to confirm the Politico story, Scaramucci vented that “this is the problem with the leaking.” But he neither denied that he was the source for the original story nor confirmed the news.
“This is actually a terrible thing,” Scaramucci said. “Let’s say I’m firing Michael Short today. The fact that you guys know about it before he does really upsets me as a human being and as a Roman Catholic. You got that?”
Scaramucci continued: “I should have the opportunity if I have to let somebody go to let the person go in a very humane, dignified way, and then the next thing [I would do] is help the person get a job somewhere, OK, because he probably has a family, right?”
The public discussion of Short’s fate is “not fair,” and leaking “hurts people,” Scaramucci said.
Short — who did not return an email or phone call seeking comment — came to the White House from the Republican National Committee, where he worked for Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus and outgoing Trump press secretary Sean Spicer. Spicer announced Friday he was resigning after Trump brought Scaramucci aboard.
A Trump loyalist in New York predicted Short’s firing is just the beginning.
“I think Short is going to be the first one to go, but more will follow,” the loyalist said.
The Trump loyalist cited other former RNC staffers as the most likely to exit after Short. There has long been tension between the RNC staff who joined the White House and allies who worked with Trump on the campaign and in New York. Scaramucci’s hiring and Spicer’s departure were seen by some in the president’s orbit as a blow to Priebus and his RNC faction. The Trump loyalist suggested that the ex-RNC aides on Spicer’s team are suspected to be a persistent source of negative leaks even though the outgoing press secretary is not seen as encouraging the practice.
“It’s viewed among Trump loyalists that the senior level under Sean — and this wasn’t coming from Sean, I want to be clear about this — spoke badly about the president,” the loyalist said, adding, “Business will continue to be settled.”
Short and another former RNC staffer had been named in an article on the conservative site GotNews as staffers responsible for “hostile leaks.” Both Politico and the New York Times reported that first lady Melania Trump passed to the president an earlier article by the site naming a potential leaker. The person named in that story later left the West Wing, and GotNews author Charles Johnson has since repeatedly boasted that Melania, who reportedly scans media reports looking for damaging leaks, is following his work.
Asked whether he would work to get fired administration officials new jobs, Scaramucci replied: “One hundred percent. These are all patriotic people, and these are all people that are working and serving the American president, and that’s my personality.”
Asked whether the leaks were coming from Trump communication aides, Scaramucci replied: “There are leakers everywhere.“
“Leaking is atrocious, it’s outrageous, it’s unpatriotic, it damages the president personally, it damages the institution of the presidency,” he said. “And I don’t like it.”