- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2017

New White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci stepped up his criticism of presidential chief of staff Reince Priebus on Thursday, intensifying suspicion that he’s gunning for Mr. Priebus‘ job.

In television interviews, Mr. Scaramucci warned that he is hunting for “senior leakers” in the administration, raised speculation that Mr. Priebus is among them, and compared his relationship with Mr. Priebus to the biblical brothers Cain and Abel.

In the book of Genesis, Cain slew Abel. And most observers in Washington were betting Thursday that Mr. Scaramucci sees himself as Cain in his analogy.

And in an interview with The New Yorker published Thursday, Mr. Scaramucci called Mr. Priebus “a f–ing paranoid schizophrenic.” Mr. Scaramucci called The New Yorker reporter demanding to know who leaked the news that he and two Fox News personalities were dining with Mr. Trump.

“This is like the ‘Hunger Games’ inside the Oval Office,” said a Republican with close ties to the West Wing. “And Trump is saying we’ll see whether Reince is strong enough to survive. It doesn’t look like it.”

Mr. Scaramucci said of his increasingly public rivalry with the chief of staff, “I don’t know if this is reparable or not, that will be up to the president.”

Mr. Priebus, who prefers to stay behind the scenes in the West Wing, didn’t defend himself publicly Thursday. But sources inside and outside the White House said the implications for his future in the role are painfully obvious.

“It’s pretty clear that Scaramucci and Priebus aren’t going to be able to coexist for long,” said David B. Cohen, a political science professor at the University of Akron, who studies the chief of staff position. “It’s very clear that President Trump is unhappy with Reince Priebus’ management of the White House and especially the communications department.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders downplayed the tensions but would not say explicitly that Mr. Trump still has confidence in Mr. Priebus, despite reporters asking the question several times.

“We all serve at the pleasure of the president,” Mrs. Sanders said. “If he gets to a place where that isn’t the case, he’ll let you know.”

She said the White House has “a lot of healthy competition” among the staff.

“The president likes that type of competition and encourages it,” Mrs. Sanders said.

Hired by Mr. Trump directly last week, Mr. Scaramucci said Thursday that he and the president have “a very, very good idea of who the senior leakers are” in a White House where leaked reports of infighting among staff and allegations of Russian collusion from the intelligence community have driven Mr. Trump to distraction.

“What the president and I would tell everybody is that we have a very, very good idea of who the leakers are, who the senior leakers are in the White House,” Mr. Scaramucci said on CNN.

Mr. Scaramucci said he and Mr. Trump and working with the rest of the team to “out” the leakers, not just at the White House, but those leaking national security information.

“What I also want to say is that we’re working together, the president and myself, and other members of his team and law enforcement to undercut and undercover, or out if you will, the leakers in the entire country,” he said.

Mr. Scaramucci said that some of the leaks regarding national security are “treasonous.”

“The White House leaks are small potatoes relative to things going on with leaking things about Syria or North Korea, or leaking things about Iraq. Those types of things are so treasonous that 150 years ago people would have actually been hung for those types of leaks,” he said.

Mr. Scaramucci also reacted to a tweet he posted and since deleted late Wednesday that implied Mr. Priebus might be one of the leakers, of a news story that disclosed Mr. Scaramucci’s financial assets. He demanded an FBI investigation of the “felony” leak, but the reporter who wrote the article, Lorraine Woellert of Politico, said she obtained the financial disclosure information about Mr. Scaramucci simply by requesting it through normal channels from a government agency as required by federal law.

Mr. Scaramucci later said journalists had misinterpreted his tweet about Mr. Priebus.

“When I put out tweet and I put Reince’s name in the tweet [journalists are] all making the assumption that it’s him because journalists know who the leakers are. So if Reince wants to explain that he’s not a leaker let him do that,” he added.

Mr. Trump values Mr. Scaramucci, a wealthy friend and former hedge fund manager, as a fighter who is smooth and comfortable on camera. Originally his hire date was to be Aug. 15, but Mr. Scaramucci moved up his effective date to this past Wednesday, in part to avoid any efforts to undermine his hiring.

Even supporters of the president and of Mr. Priebus acknowledged that Mr. Scaramucci’s public criticism is coming with Mr. Trump’s approval, tacit or otherwise.

The Republican source said of Mr. Scaramucci, “We’re talking about a guy who’s on day four of his job, and he’s taking on the White House chief of staff, which means he has been given the blessing of the president to humiliate the chief of staff into resigning.”

Mr. Cohen said the situation is “kind of crazy” for any White House.

“We’ve never really seen such a situation before,” he said. “Any other presidency, if you had an incoming staffer who was criticizing the chief of staff, they wouldn’t be getting that job.”

As White House chief of staff, Mr. Priebus, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, ordinarily would be able to control access to the president. But Mr. Scaramucci reports directly to the president, an unusual arrangement that he announced to the media on his first day in the White House.

“Every chief of staff should have hiring and firing authority,” Mr. Cohen said. “The fact that he [Mr. Trump] has granted Scaramucci direct access to him and doesn’t have to report through Reince is a very bad sign for the chief of staff.”

In short order after Mr. Scaramucci’s hiring, Mr. Priebus lost two top aides whom he had brought with him to the White House from the RNC. Press secretary Sean Spicer quit last Friday, and assistant press secretary Michael Short resigned on Tuesday.

There are more than 40 other former RNC staffers working at the White House.

⦁ Sally Persons contributed to this report.

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