Anthony Scaramucci’s tenure at the White House was a political sparkler, burning bright, hot and briefly. He’s entered a pantheon of presidential characters that America would never have guessed would exist, alongside the long-haired personal physician and the Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer who showed up at Trump Tower.
But flamboyance aside, Scaramucci is also a good example of the turmoil inside the West Wing. Despite President Trump’s assurances Monday that there was no chaos in the White House and that the day of Scaramucci’s firing was a great day, that someone in the most senior communications position could be hired July 21 and sent packing 10 days later doesn’t suggest a stable work environment. Especially when you consider that Scaramucci was the second person to hold that role in an administration that’s only six months old.
In addition to a backlog of 350-plus federal positions for which the administration has yet to identify a nominee, the Trump White House has also seen a number of prominent positions suddenly become vacant because of firings or resignations. Scaramucci was one of four people to be the second to hold their position within the administration, though he is — so far — the only such person to no longer hold it.
The other three? John F. Kelly replaced Reince Priebus as chief of staff Monday (and who then quickly fired Scaramucci). Sarah Huckabee Sanders replaced Sean Spicer as press secretary (after Spicer resigned because of Scaramucci’s hiring). H.R. McMaster is the national security adviser, replacing Michael Flynn, who resigned under a dark cloud in February. Another person is poised to join their ranks: Christopher A. Wray, nominated to run the FBI after the firing of James B. Comey.
A number of other positions were vacated — and then left empty.
Since we included the transition period on that chart, it can be tricky to see how much of Trump’s time in office each of the positions has been unfilled. In some cases, it was very little, as in the transition between Kelly and Priebus. In some cases, as with Comey, it’s been substantial. Trump has spent about half of his presidency without an FBI director. He’s spent more than half of his administration without a deputy chief of staff, although there are rumors that Kelly will soon fill that role.
Scaramucci’s 10-day tenure was an earthquake in the figurative sense that it was a violent rupture in the White House. But it was also an earthquake in that it relieved tension that had been building since Jan. 20. Spicer and Priebus had both been the subject of ouster rumors before the arrival of Scaramucci, but it was only his appearance on the scene that led to the split.
The problem for Trump is that he keeps burning through communications directors. If the president keeps getting rid of people in that position at this rate — averaging 45-day tenures and 40 days of the position unfilled — he’ll go through 13 more by the time of the 2021 inauguration.
That seems like a joke, like no president could go through that many people in that role. And maybe it is.