In another White House staff shakeup, President Trump appointed friend and New York financier Anthony Scaramucci as his communications director Friday, a move that prompted press secretary Sean Spicer to resign.
Mr. Trump offered Mr. Scaramucci the job Friday morning and asked Mr. Spicer to stay on. But Mr. Spicer, who along with White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and presidential counselor Steve Bannon had argued against the selection of Mr. Scaramucci, decided to resign to allow the new communications team to “start with a clean slate,” colleagues said.
Mr. Scaramucci, a Trump loyalist whom the president calls “the Italian kid,” was introduced to the media and the public Friday afternoon in the White House press room. He said the White House needs to do a better job of promoting Mr. Trump’s agenda.
“I think there’s been at times a disconnect between the way we see the president and how much we love the president, and the way some of you [journalists] perhaps see the president,” Mr. Scaramucci said. “And I certainly see the American people probably see the president the way I do. But we want to get that message out there.”
The shakeup in the communications team came less than 24 hours after Mr. Trump also made changes in his legal team handling the response to Russia investigations. Lead attorney Marc Kasowitz was demoted, and legal team spokesman Mark Corallo departed.
The hiring of Mr. Scaramucci is also viewed as a blow to Mr. Priebus, who was an important ally of Mr. Spicer and had brought him to the White House from the Republican National Committee.
Glossing over the internal dissent over the communications staff changes, Mr. Scaramucci praised Mr. Spicer as “a true American patriot.”
“I would love to have Sean here. Sean decided that he thought it would be better to go,” he said. “This is obviously a difficult situation to be in, and I applaud his efforts here. And I love the guy. And I wish him well.”
He said there was “no friction” between him and Mr. Priebus.
“We are a little bit like brothers, where we rough each other up once in a while, which is totally normal for brothers,” he said. “But he’s a dear friend. He brought me into the political system.”
Deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was promoted to press secretary. Mr. Spicer said he will stay on until the end of August.
Mr. Scaramucci, who has been a prominent TV talking head on behalf of Mr. Trump, is expected to serve a major role in defending Mr. Trump on television but not to conduct daily press briefings. He is the founder of the global investment firm SkyBridge Capital and is a Fox News contributor.
He dismissed concerns about a White House “under siege” from investigations over possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russia.
“The president’s a winner, OK?” Mr. Scaramucci said. “And what we’re going to do is we’re going to do a lot of winning.”
Mr. Spicer had been largely sidelined from the press secretary’s role in recent weeks, also serving as communications director as Mrs. Sanders took over the job of daily press interactions. Sources in the administration said Mr. Spicer was balking at having Mr. Scaramucci, who has no real Washington experience, in a position over him.
Another source close to the White House said presidential daughter Ivanka Trump had been pushing for Mr. Scaramucci’s appointment against the wishes of other top West Wing advisers, including Mr. Priebus and Mr. Bannon.
Mr. Trump has been searching since the start of his presidency for surrogates who can aggressively defend him and his policies, especially on camera, a role that Mr. Spicer has moved away from.
Mr. Spicer held what was widely considered the most difficult job in the White House, with the role of speaking for a president who believes he is his own best spokesman.
He got off to the most contentious start possible with the press, sent out by the president to harangue reporters on the second day of the new administration about what Mr. Trump believed was unfair coverage of the crowd size at his inauguration.
In the early weeks of the presidency, Mr. Spicer’s televised daily briefings with the press got high ratings in an often confrontational atmosphere, and Mr. Trump praised his press secretary. But as the weeks wore on, the president realized that the high ratings were fueled mostly by cable TV viewers opposed to him and his policies.
Until Friday, the White House hadn’t held a televised press briefing since June 29.
One source familiar with the White House press operations said Mr. Trump wanted to “help out” Mr. Scaramucci, who is also known as “Mooch,” by giving him a White House job. But Mr. Trump is also said to favor Mr. Scaramucci’s combative style in TV interviews and his vocal defense of the president.
Earlier this year, Mr. Scaramucci struck a multimillion-dollar deal to exit his investment firm, selling part of his interest to a little-known company, RON Transatlantic EG.
White House press staffers gave Mr. Scaramucci a round of applause Friday morning as he was introduced by Mr. Priebus, and then they also applauded Mr. Spicer.