Anthony Scaramucci is trying to plug leaks. He is making a mess, instead.
In a bizarre sequence of events spanning Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, the new White House communications director appeared to accuse Chief of Staff Reince Priebus of leaking a financial disclosure form that is publicly available, asked a journalist to reveal the unnamed sources behind a different report, and called in to CNN to vent his frustration.
Let's review in a bit more detail:
At 7:22 p.m. on Wednesday, Politico reported that Scaramucci “still stands to profit from an ownership stake in his investment firm SkyBridge Capital” while he works in the White House. Politico cited a form Scaramucci submitted to the Office of Government Ethics and noted that the document is a public record.
At 7:41 p.m., Scaramucci claimed in a tweet that the release of his financial disclosure form was the result of a leak (it wasn't) and a felony (it's not). He also tagged Priebus and said he would contact the FBI.
Scaramucci later deleted the tweet (he's been doing that a lot, lately), but nothing ever truly disappears from the Internet.
In the 19 minutes between Politico's publication and Scaramucci's tweet, the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza reported that Scaramucci was dining with President Trump, Fox News host Sean Hannity and former Fox News co-president Bill Shine. Lizza's report, based on what he described as two “knowledgeable sources,” actually was a product of leaks.
Scoop: Trump is dining tonight w/Sean Hannnity, Bill Shine (former Fox News executive), & Anthony Scaramucci, per to 2 knowledgeable sources
— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) July 26, 2017
Citing an unnamed “senior White House official,” Lizza later reported that first lady Melania Trump also attended the dinner, and New York magazine's Olivia Nuzzi reported that Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle was there, too, according to a “source close to Scaramucci.”
Here's the recap so far: Scaramucci is (a) complaining about leaks that aren't leaks, and (b) failing to stop the ones that are.
But there's more.
Lizza also tweeted at 11:20 p.m. that he “can confirm that Scaramucci wants the FBI to investigate Reince for leaking,” though he did not say how he knew this.
In case there's any ambiguity in his tweet I can confirm that Scaramucci wants the FBI to investigate Reince for leaking.
— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) July 27, 2017
CNN journalists were rehashing Wednesday's tweets at the top of the 7 a.m. hour on Thursday, joined by Lizza, when Scaramucci called in to the show.
“Ryan, so sorry to interrupt you right now,” anchor Alisyn Camerota said. “If you would stand by for a second, that would be great, because we actually have Anthony Scaramucci on the phone.”
Scaramucci then revealed that he had spoken with Lizza the previous night — a detail Lizza had kept confidential — and went on to describe part of the conversation.
“When I was speaking to you last night, Ryan, I said it was unpatriotic that you weren't telling me who the leakers were,” Scaramucci said. “You may have caught it the wrong way. I was teasing you, and it was sarcastic. It was one Italian to another.”
After Scaramucci hung up, Lizza clarified that Scaramucci had called to ask who told him about the dinner involving the Trumps and Fox News people.
While he was still on the line, however, Scaramucci claimed that he is making progress in his war on leaks.
“I've done a major amount of work over the last five days,” he said. “I've interviewed most of the assistants to the president, I've interviewed most of the people in the communications team in the White House, and what the president and I would like to tell everybody [is] we have a very, very good idea of who the leakers are, who the senior leakers are in the White House.”
Maybe they do. But Scaramucci's 12-hour circus act just confirmed previous leaks about tension between him and Priebus — leaks that Scaramucci tried to counter last Friday when he called Priebus a “dear friend” and said “we are a little bit like brothers where we rough each other up once in a while.”
Right. A felony accusation is just standard, brotherly horseplay.
So far, Scaramucci's war on leaks has been, to borrow a phrase from his boss, a total disaster.