Will Reince Priebus Be Fired? It's Not Looking Good For The White House Chief Of Staff
Perhaps this has been true of the vast majority of Donald Trump's presidency, but it has been a notably tumultuous week over at the White House. Aside from Trump's sudden decision Wednesday to ban all transgender people from serving in the military and the insane Senate quest to overhaul the nation's health care system, a dramatic and surreal civil war among administration officials has emerged. The brand new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci has been tweeting about and launching profane tirades against the president's chief of staff. It's lead to the inevitable question of whether — or when — Reince Priebus will be fired.
The apparently intense schism between the two spilled into the public arena Wednesday when Scaramucci tweeted his outrage over his belief that his financial form had been leaked. Curiously, he tagged Priebus in the post, which stated Scaramucci wanted the FBI to investigate, before deleting it soon after. It was a move largely interpreted to mean that Scaramucci believed Priebus to be the leaker. (The form, for the record, was a publicly available document.)
Scaramucci soon tweeted again to claim that he had tagged Priebus as a warning to leakers that the two were working together to end leaks. It was an assertion that would not hold up for long.
In a baffling morning interview on the CNN program New Day Thursday, "the Mooch," as he's known, was reinvigorated for round two. Despite his claim that he and Reince, a thoroughly establishment Republican, were collaborating to end the endless stream of leaks that have flowed freely from Trump's White House, he again appeared to call him out as the suspected leaker. "When I put out a tweet and I put Reince's name in the tweet, [journalists] are all making the assumption that its him because journalists know who the leakers are," he told Chris Cuomo. "So if Reince wants to explain that he is not a leaker — let him do that."
Scaramucci, who assumed his role as communications director reporting directly to the president less than a week ago, went on to compare his relationship with Priebus to that of the biblical brothers Cain and Abel.
The problem? Cain ultimately killed Abel in the Bible's version of events. Maybe Scaramucci meant just what he said, though, in the sense that he's out to knock Priebus off the White House payroll. In light of what happened next, it certainly seems that way.
Priebus's day undoubtedly only got worse from there. At the daily press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders answered a reporter's question about Priebus's status with the Trump administration rather cryptically. "We all serve at the pleasure of the president, and if it gets to a place where that isn't the case, he'll let you know," she said, according to Politico.
Not exactly a ringing vote of confidence, and certainly no comfort to Priebus if he's hoping to hold onto his job for much longer. But if there was any lingering ambiguity that Priebus's role could be on the chopping block, a piece in The New Yorker, which quoted Scaramucci speaking candidly about his desire to run Priebus out of a job and which went live Thursday afternoon, effectively obliterated it.
In the first-person account, Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza wrote that Scaramucci had called him on Wednesday night, before he sent his original tweet, demanding to know who had leaked information to him about a dinner the comms director and others had shared with the president.
To stop the leaks, Scaramucci told Lizza, he would simply clean house.
What I’m going to do is, I will eliminate everyone in the comms team and we’ll start over. ... They'll all be fired by me. I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I'll fire tomorrow. I'll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus—if you want to leak something—he'll be asked to resign very shortly.
Yikes. Meanwhile, BuzzFeed cited an anonymous source who claimed that counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway had been telling people that Priebus was on his way out. She reportedly believed that the administration is "going back to Trump loyalists" and will cut those connected with the Republican National Committee. Before being named chief of staff, Priebus was the chairman of the RNC.
GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak, on the other hand, told the outlet that Priebus is trying to hang on until the end of September, so as not to clock fewer days than former George H.W. Bush chief of staff Samuel Skinner — the chief of staff with the shortest tenure that didn't end because a president's term expired (he was fired after 252 days). In that respect, he's minding his legacy.
If Priebus does manage to hang onto his job with the unpredictable, unorthodox Trump administration for that long, though, who knows what his legacy will be?