Angered by a story in Politico using his publicly available financial disclosure form, White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci waged an all-out war on “leakers” Wednesday night and Thursday morning, appearing to specifically blame Chief of Staff Reince Priebus for the Politico report.
Likely upset that someone in the administration was looking to take him down a peg, Scaramucci threatened to sic the FBI and Justice Department on the supposed leaker, even though those agencies are supposed to operate independently from the White House. Scaramucci denied that he was trying to blame Priebus for the Politico story. But he later followed up with cryptic comments about Priebus suggesting that the chief of staff has been behind leaks from the White House.
Scaramucci started on a tear against “leakers” the very moment he accepted the communications director position, pledging to root out traitors in the White House and other parts of the administration who leak juicy tidbits and sensitive information to the press. On Wednesday morning he complained on Fox News about the backstabbing within the White House and said that he is “more of a front-stabbing person.”
The 12-hour saga began with a tweet from Scaramucci Wednesday night — which he deleted two hours later — that appeared to blame Chief of Staff Reince Priebus for the “leak” of his financial disclosure form to Politico.
Scaramucci said he would talk to the FBI and the Justice Department about the “leak,” which he erroneously claimed was a felony. During a CNN interview Thursday morning, Scaramucci denied that he was blaming Priebus for the Politico story on his disclosure form.
“In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the #TheJusticeDept #swamp @Reince45,” Scaramucci said in a tweet screen captured by several news outlets.
After Scaramucci’s initial tweet, New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza reported on Twitter Wednesday night that Scaramucci wants the FBI to look into whether Priebus is behind leaks to the press.
The Justice Department also chimed in with a statement pledging to “aggressively pursue leak cases.”
Scaramucci, who has been at odds with Priebus, denied on Twitter Wednesday night that he was trying to blame Priebus for the “leak,” but Lizza told CNN Thursday morning that he spoke to a senior White House official who said Scaramucci wanted Priebus investigated for leaks.
The White House communications director then joined CNN’s “New Day” for a lengthy interview about the tweet and leaks from the White House.
Scaramucci said on CNN that he spoke to Lizza on Wednesday night, but did not say that he discussed his anger with Priebus about the disclosure form. He instead told CNN that he has interviewed White House staff and that he has “a very, very good idea of who the leakers are, who the senior leakers are in the White House.” He acknowledged that it was not illegal to send a reporter his disclosure form, but said he had an issue with the political games.
“I know that there was a public disclosure mechanism in my financial forms. What I’m upset about is the process and the junk pool, the dirty pool, Chris, in terms of the way this stuff is being done, and the leaking won’t stop,” he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
He then offered a confusing explanation for his tweet tagging Priebus, suggesting that he was not blaming Priebus for the leaks while also suggesting that journalists’ assumptions about the tweet may show that Priebus is behind the leaks.
“When I put out a tweet, I put Reince’s name in a tweet, they are all making the assumption that it’s him because journalists know who the leakers are. So if Reince wants to explain he’s not a leaker, let him do that,” Scaramucci said.
Later in the interview, Cuomo asked Scaramucci if he really believes the Politico story on his financial disclosure form warranted contacting the FBI.
Scaramucci said that he has contacted Attorney General Jeff Sessions and that he’s “got buddies of mine in the FBI that I’ll be calling.”
Asked again if the FBI should really be investigating the leak of his disclosure form, Scaramucci explained that he mentioned the FBI and Justice Department in order to make leakers “nervous.”
“When the iceberg hits the boat, the rats start flying up from steerage,” he said.
Scaramucci said that he does not want the FBI to investigate “dirty politics.”
“But I like mentioning them because I know knee-knockers when I see them and their knees will start knocking,” Scaramucci added.
Cuomo then asked Scaramucci if he has concerns about Priebus.
“Reince Priebus can speak to you about that and he can address that himself,” Scaramucci replied. “People know my history between me and Reince. I can speak for my own actions. He’s going to need to speak for his own actions.”