WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday removed Anthony Scaramucci from his position as communications director, the White House announced, ousting him just days after Scaramucci unloaded a verbal tirade against other senior members of the president’s staff.
“Anthony Scaramucci will be leaving his role as White House Communications Director,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement. “Mr. Scaramucci felt it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team. We wish him all the best.”
Scaramucci’s abrupt removal came just 10 days after the wealthy New York financier joined the West Wing staff, a move that led to the departures of Sean Spicer, the former press secretary, and Reince Priebus, the president’s first chief of staff.
The decision to remove Scaramucci became public as Kelly, who replaced Priebus, began his first day in charge of the White House staff. He was said to have told aides gathered in early-morning staff meetings that he intended to impose a new sense of order and operational discipline that had been absent under his predecessor.
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Scaramucci had boasted about reporting directly to the president, not the chief of staff. But the decision to remove him came at Kelly’s request, according to two people with knowledge of the decision.
Over the weekend, Kelly was said to have told associates that he was dismayed by Scaramucci’s remarks. Removing him from the communications post was not intended to be personal, but rather an effort to change the culture of the White House and to signal to staff that their comments always reflect on the president.
It was not clear whether Scaramucci will remain at the White House in another position or will leave altogether. The White House had originally said his official start date as a government employee was to be Aug. 15, though he appeared to begin performing his duties immediately.
Scaramucci’s allies floated the idea of Scaramucci returning to his chief strategy officer post at the Export-Import Bank, but Sanders said he “does not have a role at this time” with the Trump administration.
While Kelly’s objection was the decisive factor in Scaramucci’s departure, people close to the decision said Trump had quickly soured on the former hedge fund manager, and so had the president’s family.
Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, and Jared Kushner, her husband, had pushed for the president to hire Scaramucci, seeing him as a way to force out Priebus, the former Republican National Committee chairman, and his allies in the West Wing, according to White House officials.
In that, Scaramucci was successful. Spicer, a close ally of Priebus, resigned just hours after the news about Scaramucci’s hiring was made public. And shortly after Scaramucci called Priebus a “paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac” — adding a more vulgar term to the beginning of the phrase — Priebus, too, offered his resignation.
Trump was initially pleased by Scaramucci’s harsh remarks, directed at Priebus and Steve Bannon, the chief White House strategist. But over the weekend, after speaking with his family and Kelly, the president began to see the brash actions of his subordinate as a political liability and potential embarrassment, according to two people familiar with his thinking.
“The president certainly felt that Anthony’s comments were inappropriate for a person in his position,” Sanders said when asked about the ouster.
No other post in the White House has experienced as much upheaval as the communications director job. It was first given to Jason Miller, a Trump campaign aide who stepped down from the post during the transition before even being sworn in. It was then given to Republican operative Michael Dubke, who resigned in May. In the intervening weeks, Spicer had taken on those responsibilities in addition to his role as press secretary until Scaramucci was named to the position.
Trump denies ‘chaos’
Scaramucci’s dismissal was the latest in a fast-moving sequence of events at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., but Trump dismissed any talk of disarray. He insisted in a morning tweet that there was “No WH chaos,” then followed up in the evening with a tweet that said, “great day at the White House.”
Scaramucci’s exit underscored the challenges that Kelly, the former homeland security chief, faces in bringing order to a West Wing where many aides have reported directly to the president, feeling free to walk into Trump’s Oval Office or buttonhole him in the hallway to lobby for conflicting agendas.
While in most administrations the chief of staff closely manages the president’s time and others’ access to the Oval Office, Priebus never was able to prevent Trump from continuing the same disorderly style he had created atop his business.
And then there is the president himself, who uses tweets at all hours to make new policy announcements, insult critics and even go after fellow Republicans who don’t toe his line.
On Kelly’s first day, the White House put out word that the retired four-star general had free rein to tighten the chain of command.
Sanders said Kelly “has the full authority to carry out business as he sees fit” and that all White House staff members will report to him, including Ivanka Trump, Kushner and Bannon.
Kelly “will bring new structure, discipline and strength” to the White House, Sanders said.
The chief of staff took his oath of office early Monday in an Oval Office ceremony thronged by senior staff members, including Scaramucci.
Trump said he has “no doubt” that Kelly, whose appointment was announced via Twitter on Friday, will do a “spectacular job” in his new role.
“What he’s done in terms of homeland security is record-shattering,” Trump said, adding that Kelly had achieved “tremendous results” in “a controversial situation,” a reference, among other things, to the administration’s temporary travel ban on refugees and residents of several majority-Muslim countries and its more aggressive enforcement of immigration laws.
“We look forward, if it’s possible, to an even better job as chief of staff,” Trump said.
“I’ll try, sir,” Kelly responded.
After swearing in Kelly, Trump convened his full Cabinet, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the target of recent public rebukes from the president. Sanders later brushed aside talk of yet another abrupt shuffle: the idea of Sessions leaving the Justice Department to replace Kelly at the Homeland Security Department. The president has no such plans, she said.
Trump, for his part, declared that his administration was humming along smoothly.
“Overall, I think we’re doing incredibly well. The economy is doing incredibly well, and many other things,” he said.
Asked by a reporter what will be different under Kelly, Trump said his administration “has done very well” and set “lots of records.”
He said that “the stock market is the highest it’s ever been,” that the unemployment rate is “the lowest it has been in 17 years” and that business confidence is high.
“We’re doing very well. We have a tremendous base,” Trump said. “The country is optimistic. And I think the general will just add to it.”
Information for this article was contributed by Maggie Haberman, Michael D. Shear and Glenn Thrush of The New York Times; by Jonathan Lemire, Catherine Lucey, Jill Colvin, Josh Boak and Vivian Salama of The Associated Press; and by Abby Phillip, Damian Paletta, Robert Costa, Philip Rucker and John Wagner of The Washington Post.
A Section on 08/01/2017