CNN reports President Trump has “emboldened” former communications director Anthony Scaramucci to criticize Chief of Staff Kelly.
The President has emboldened Anthony Scaramucci, the boisterous former communications director who was fired after just 10 days, to continue attacking White House chief of staff John Kelly during his cable news appearances, a source familiar with the situation told CNN.
In multiple television segments, Scaramucci has faulted Kelly for the “terrible morale” in the West Wing, at times referring to him as “General Jackass” and suggesting he apologize for his handling of the Rob Porter resignation. According to this source, the President is aware of Scaramucci’s criticisms and has not discouraged him from making them. Sources familiar with his thinking say Scaramucci is frustrated with Kelly because he has limited the former communications director’s White House access.
“I like conflict. I like having two people with two points of view,” Trump said Tuesday when asked about internal strife during a news conference. “I like watching it, I like seeing it.”
When I first read this, I thought CNN was saying outright that Trump had given Scaramucci a green light to go on the attack against his own Chief of Staff. But the story doesn’t quite say that. It says Trump is aware of Scaramucci’s criticisms and hasn’t discouraged them. In other words, Trump could tell ‘the Mooch’ to knock it off but hasn’t, at least so far.
As for the report of chaos in the West Wing, Trump himself is denying that:
The new Fake News narrative is that there is CHAOS in the White House. Wrong! People will always come & go, and I want strong dialogue before making a final decision. I still have some people that I want to change (always seeking perfection). There is no Chaos, only great Energy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 6, 2018
But the recent departure of communications adviser Hope Hicks and the resignation today of chief economic adviser Gary Cohn indicates there is an unusual amount of turnover. Maybe Trump is comfortable with that but that doesn’t necessarily mean other people in the White House are. And the fact that Trump tweeted he had additional people he wanted to “change” is adding to the sense of “malaise” according to CNN:
According to conversations with a dozen Trump advisers inside and outside the White House, little has happened to change the feeling of malaise that has settled into the West Wing. Morale, many of these advisers said, remains low, with few signs of turning around.
Here’s an example of the kind of thing Scaramucci has been doing. In this CNN segment, he accuses Kelly of covering up and lying about what he knew about Rob Porter’s (alleged) spousal abuse. He goes on to blame Gen. Kelly for creating a “culture of fear” which he describes as a kind of “martial” order that doesn’t work in the White House. This is pretty strong stuff. Strong enough that Trump’s refusal to take Kelly’s side does seem fairly significant.