Anthony Scaramucci’s reign as White House communications director—a reign of terror and vulgarity, marked by two outlandish interviews and the departures of two top West Wing officials—has ended, just 10 days after it began.
The New York Times broke the news Monday afternoon, just hours after Trump tweeted that there was “No W[hite] H[ouse] chaos!” It was not clear whether Scaramucci would take another post in the administration or exit altogether. His firing reportedly came at the behest of John Kelly, who was installed as chief of staff on Monday, three days after Scaramucci forced out Kelly’s predecessor.
Even in an administration that has set records for quick departures—National-Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and Press Secretary Sean Spicer are all among the shortest-serving figures in their respective jobs—Scaramucci’s flameout was fast and phenomenal.
The financier was in the mix for White House jobs since the start of Trump’s administration, but he kept missing out. His first job, as business liaison, failed to materialize when the sale of his hedge fund was delayed. A series of other jobs likewise fell through. Scaramucci was patient and persistent, hanging around in Washington and taking a temporary job at the Export-Import Bank, waiting for his opening. It finally came two weeks ago, when Scaramucci was named communications director. That appointment came over the objection of several top Trump advisers, including Priebus, chief strategist Steve Bannon, and Spicer.
Spicer was the first to go, resigning the same day Scaramucci’s was named. The fight with Priebus took longer to crest. On Wednesday, Politico obtained Scaramucci’s personal financial disclosure through a routine request, but Scaramucci blamed Priebus for “leaking it,” lodging the accusation first in a tweet and then in a CNN interview Thursday morning. Later that day, The New Yorker published an interview in which Scaramucci railed against Priebus, calling him a felon and a “fucking paranoid schizophrenic.” (He also accused Bannon of engaging in autofellatio, presumably figuratively.) By Friday afternoon, Priebus was out.
It was an impressively fast act of revenge on Priebus for trying to block him, but Scaramucci soared too fast, too high. The interview was an embarrassment, even by the lowered standards of this administration. And for Kelly, who faces the task of whipping a fractious West Wing into place, Scaramucci—who had bragged about reporting directly to the president, bypassing the chief of staff—represented too loose a cannon. And so as fast as he arrived, Scaramucci was out, having self-destructed. It’s been a rough season for Scaramucci, who sold his beloved hedge fund to work for Trump, got a top job, and then saw his marriage and job both crumble.
For those who have watched this administration closely, it’s no surprise that the impetus for firing Scaramucci came not from Trump but from Kelly. Trump is, despite his catchphrase, extremely reluctant to fire anyone. Despite rocky relationships with many staffers—Trump has spent the last two weeks publicly ridiculing his own attorney general—most people who have left either the administration or his presidential campaign did so by resigning or after others insisted they leave, not because Trump himself told them they had to go. It is a tentative first sign that Kelly might be able to grasp the authority he needs to help get the White House functioning better.
The move leaves Trump once again without a communications director. The office has proven to have something of a curse. The first person named to the job, Jason Miller, withdrew before taking over. Spicer served on an interim basis until Mike Dubke was named to the post in February, but Dubke resigned in May after an ineffectual term. Spicer then once again stepped in until Scaramucci’s appointment. It’s unclear who will serve in the role now. Deputy Press Secretary Sarah H. Sanders was promoted to press secretary the same day Scaramucci took over.
Speaking to CNN on Thursday morning, Scaramucci acknowledged that while he had said he was like a brother to Priebus, some brothers had relationships like the one between the biblical brothers Cain and Abel, the former of whom slew the elder. Scaramucci did not say whether it was he or Priebus who represented Cain in that situation, but by Friday evening it appeared clear that Priebus was Abel. With the benefit of a few more days, it’s now clear that the better analogy comes not from the Bible but from Sophocles’ Antigone, and the cases of Eteocles and Polyneices—mutual fratricides, killed on the battlefield of a civil war.