If you are looking for the first sign of change at the revamped White House communications shop, here it is: Incoming press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday added fuel to the dumpster fire that is the relationship between President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Trump began the day by criticizing Sessions (again) on Twitter, saying that the former senator “has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes.”
Were Sean Spicer still pulling double duty as press secretary and communications director, his answer to journalists' questions about these messages would be predictable: I think the president's tweets speak for themselves.
That was Spicer's go-to response whenever Trump tweeted something inflammatory, the goal being to avoid fueling controversy.
Now, with Anthony Scaramucci installed as communications director and Sanders acting as Trump's principal spokeswoman, the new goal appears to be reinforcing the president's attacks.
“Does he want the attorney general to go?” Ed Henry asked Sanders on “Fox & Friends” Tuesday morning.
“Look, I know that he is frustrated and certainly disappointed in the attorney general for recusing himself but, as we've said, I think that's a decision that if the president wants to make, he certainly will. … That frustration certainly hasn't gone away, and I don't think it will.”
“What about Rudy Giuliani?” as a successor for Sessions, Ainsley Earhardt followed up. “Would he be someone that the president would consider?”
“You know, I know he's somebody that he respects,” Sanders replied, though she quickly added that she has not been involved in any conversations about replacement candidates.
This is remarkable stuff — the White House press secretary speculating that the president's frustration with his attorney general will not dissipate, publicly entertaining the prospect of a firing and even acknowledging the president's respect for a rumored successor.
But this is exactly what Scaramucci hinted at when he previewed his communications strategy on “Fox News Sunday.”
“I want the president to be the president, and I want him to express the full nature of his personality,” Scaramucci said over the weekend. “Corey Lewandowski used to say, early on in the campaign, 'Let Trump be Trump.' It's a little disrespectful now because he's the president, so let's let the president be the president.”
Scaramucci followed his own advice Tuesday in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, who offered his view that “it's clear the president wants [Sessions] gone.”
“I have an enormous amount of respect for the attorney general, but I do know the president pretty well, and if there's this level of tension in the relationship that's public, you're probably right,” Scaramucci replied. He then hedged a bit, saying he can't be certain of what Trump will ultimately do.
Flimsy caveats aside, it looks like the White House communications team will spend less time trying to defuse conflicts and more time aiding Trump's combativeness.