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The Scaramucci effect: Trump’s unconventional hires have come back to bite him

Then-White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci in July 2017. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

One of President Trump’s top selling points — that he would do things differently in Washington, in part by hiring different people — is now one of his biggest public relations headaches.

Trump installed people in power who had little or no government experience but lots of experience in drama. And that has burned him a couple of times, including on Monday, when former White House aide Anthony Scaramucci said he thinks Trump shouldn’t be president anymore.

Because what’s more dramatic than being kicked out of the White House, then going in front of TV cameras to dish all you know about the president and opine about how “unhinged”/racist/undeserving of the office Trump is?

Scaramucci served as White House communications director for 11 days in 2017 before getting fired. He knows his fate is tied to Trump. He was generally supportive of the president, but has changed his tune recently. Which — as he knows well — is a 180 that makes for great TV. And these past few days, Scaramucci went all out in describing the president as a melting-down figure who is bad for the country.

“I think you have to consider a change at the top of the ticket when someone is acting like this,” he said on CNN on Monday morning. (Scaramucci is a regular there.) “How are we all tolerating this?” he asked.

Scaramucci has been going after the president so often lately that Trump attacked him in two tweets over the weekend.

What Scaramucci has in attention-seeking skills, he lacks in political ones. He’s a New York investor who knew Trump socially before getting hired to one of the top jobs of the White House and lasting a little more than a week there.

Like many of the White House aides who have flamed out and singed Trump, too, his hiring came with warning signs. As Rebecca Nelson wrote in a profile of Scaramucci for The Washington Post magazine: “During the transition, he was promised a job running the White House Office of Public Liaison, but he says that then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon thwarted him because he was ‘a wild card’ who wasn’t entrenched in politics, and they were threatened by his long-standing relationship with Trump. In July 2017, despite their objections, Trump made him communications director.”

Now Trump has Scaramucci, of all people, on cable TV urging the Republican Party to call up its conscience and oust him.

The former White House communications director tells the Post’s Hannah Jewell how history will remember the Trump years, and why it’s okay to be an opportunist. (Video: The Washington Post)

You can’t mention drama and former White House aides without thinking of Omarosa Manigault Newman. She was a little-known contestant on the first season of Trump’s TV show, “The Apprentice,” whose penchant for ratings-grabbing feistiness fascinated Trump, those who know him say. He brought her back for several more seasons and then hired her as an outreach coordinator for black Americans despite her having zero experience in such work.

Manigault Newman was not a good fit for the White House, and Trump’s chief of staff fired her. She secretly recorded her firing while in the Situation Room, one of the most closely guarded and secretive parts of the White House, and used the recording to publicize her book about Trump: “Unhinged: An Insider Account of the Trump White House,” where she calls him a racist and a narcissist.

“As the only African American woman in this White House, as a senior staff and assistant to the president, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that [have] affected my community and my people,” she said at the time.

Trump called her a “lowlife” “crazed” and a “dog” — sexist and racially tinged insults that only served to prove her point, and get her more attention.

Even Trump’s unconventional hires who aren’t known for drama have sliced Trump on their way down. Perhaps the deepest cut was from Michael T. Flynn, who was Trump’s national security adviser for 24 days and who eventually pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and helped the Mueller investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump hired Flynn despite warnings from former president Barack Obama that he wasn’t trustworthy.

Another good example is former secretary of state Rex Tillerson, a former oil executive who had no experience in politics and didn’t deny that he once called Trump a “moron.” Trump fired him by tweet, apparently while Tillerson was using the toilet. “This can be a very mean-spirited town,” Tillerson said on his way out the door. Then, a few months later, he described Trump this way: “pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read” and someone who regularly proposed ideas that would break the law.

These unconventional hires have left the administration at about the same rate as the more traditional hires. More experienced officials haven’t been able to work with Trump well, either.

Trump started his administration with two guys who are the definition of the Republican establishment — former Republican National Committee head Reince Priebus and RNC communications director Sean Spicer — who didn’t serve long. Jim Mattis was widely praised by both parties in the Senate as the leader of the Defense Department; he resigned in December because he disagreed with Trump’s national security policies.

But those folks have largely stayed out of the limelight. It’s the characters Trump elevated who know their way around a TV camera better than the Situation Room who won’t leave the president alone. And Trump has himself to thank for that.