When President Donald Trump first read former Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci’s profanity-laden interview with The New Yorker, he liked it.
“At first, according to Scaramucci, Trump liked what he had said to Lizza,” Vanity Fair reported Thursday in a new tell-all profile on the Mooch, six months after he was ousted from his 11-day stint at the White House. “He got off on all that macho bravado. He liked that there was both the Harvard Law School Scaramucci and the Long Island Mooch. And he told Scaramucci so. He was laughing about it.”
While Scaramucci’s fall from grace was swift, Scaramucci claimed that at first the President wasn’t fazed by his behavior and even called him to tell him he was “a lucky bastard,” because he was out of the news cycle following former chief of staff Reince Priebus’ firing.
But once Priebus was replaced by John Kelly, the honeymoon was over. Scaramucci said he knew by 7 a.m. ET the Monday after The New Yorker interview that his time in the West Wing was up.
In the new Vanity Fair piece out Thursday, Scaramucci detailed his climb to power, his brief White House tenure and how he’s handled the past six months on the other side.
Here are a few highlights:
Scaramucci learned quickly that Washington, D.C. is more brutal than Wall Street.
“So, when the President turned to me and said he wanted to give me the O.P.L. job, I got a call from Reince: ‘Don’t take the O.P.L. job. You can be the finance director for the R.N.C. Stay at your company.’ Blah, blah, blah. I said, ‘No, no, no. I’m gonna take the O.P.L. job. I want to work with the president.’ How many times in my life am I gonna be able to work in the White House and work for the president of the United States? And Reince’s answer was, ‘Actually, I’m gonna do everything I can [to help you].’ He did say this because he’s a Washingtonian. That’s what they do to you, they say, ‘golly gee’ to your face and they act like Richie Cunningham to your face. They’re Richie Cunningham and they’re Opie from ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ but they’re the fucking Sith Lord behind your back. They’re hitting you with a lightsaber behind your back.”
Scaramucci never trusted former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, the Orwellian “creature from the Black Lagoon.”
“I helped Bannon through the three months that he was on the campaign, and we had a good relationship. But Bannon turns on me, because Bannon is ultimately railing against the swamp, but he’s actually a cock of the swamp. He’s the creature from the Black Lagoon, Bannon. He acts more swamp-like than any person that’s ever become a Washingtonian. So for all of his railing on the swamp, he is literally the pig in George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ that stands on his two legs the minute he gets power. He is the creature from the Black Lagoon.”
Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) recently joined the radio show of an ardent conspiracy theorist who believes the 9/11 attacks may have been carried out by the “World Zionist Organization,” a curious choice for a man gearing up for another possible Senate run.
The controversial lawmaker is seriously considering a run against Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) this year after losing a close and nasty race to Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) in 2014.
McDaniel still maintains that election was stolen from him, and appeared as a high-profile guest on internet radio host and conspiracy theorist Ian Trottier’s show to help his longtime friend and ally Ryan Walters promote his book “Remember Mississippi,” which makes the same argument.
Before McDaniel and Walters joined last week’s show, Trottier talked up the views of his previous week’s guest — Christopher Bollyn, a man who argues that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by an international Jewish conspiracy and has been labeled an anti-Semite by both the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“Look, whether he’s accurate or not regarding the World Zionist Organization, the likelihood that they have at least a hand in what may have transpired on Sept. 11, 2001 is extremely high,” Trottier said. “I don’t know if that attack was a hoax. I don’t know if the research that he has done is accurate. But when you listen to him speak it sure as heck makes sense and it sounds like he’s right on a trail that leads right back to understanding exactly what happened. Because it’s becoming ever so common that taking the whole Bin Laden angle just doesn’t make any sense.”
The full show can be heard here:
That’s far from Trottier’s only conspiracy theory — he also touts JFK assassination plots, international banking conspiracies and claims that childhood vaccines cause autism. But last week, he mostly focused on another claim: That the 2014 GOP primary was illegally rigged.
“We fought, we ran, we feel like we won, obviously, and but for 40,000 Democrats that moved into the primary we would have won,” McDaniel told Trottier.
Walters said Democrats were “bribed” to vote in the runoff.
McDaniel finished in first place in the initial primary, but didn’t win a majority of votes, triggering a runoff. In that race, Cochran’s allies helped turn out enough establishment Republicans and Democrats to turn the tide, grinding out a 7,700-vote victory. McDaniel went to court to have that overturned, arguing that the Democrats had voted illegally. But the Mississippi Supreme Court threw out his case after he failed to file it on time.
Experts said then that there was little evidence of McDaniel’s claim of 15,000 fraudulent votes, and that his argument that Democrats were barred from voting in a GOP primary was simply wrong: It was legal for Democrats to vote in the GOP primary in the state if they didn’t vote in the Democratic primary in the first round.
That 2014 primary campaign had some of the shadiest acts in recent political history. A local tea party leader and McDaniel backer broke into Cochran’s wife’s nursing home to photograph her in an attempt to prove he was cheating on her with another woman. McDaniel claims to this day he had nothing to do with it. Another McDaniel backer allegedly involved in the break-in scheme later committed suicide while awaiting trial. Shadowy outside groups blasted McDaniel as a racist tied to the Ku Klux Klan in the race’s closing days, spurring African Americans to head to the polls against him.
“They trashed Chris as a racist, a bigot, somebody who was friends with the Ku Klux Klan,” Walters lamented to Trottier last week.
Their discussion mostly focused on Mississippi, with McDaniel and Walters largely ignoring Trottier’s tangents.
Both interviewees told TPM they had no idea about Trottier’s views when they went on the air.
“I’m not into the conspiracy stuff, and didn’t know the host was pushing any of it. I briefly joined the program as a favor to a friend and campaign volunteer who was working to sell his book,” McDaniel said in a text message.
“A friend connected me to the show, which I had never heard of, in order to help me publicize my book, and it was a last minute arrangement that all happened right at airtime,” Walters said in an email. “Had I known the host was pushing these types of conspiracy theories I wouldn’t have joined the program or called Chris to get on air. And I certainly do not agree with the 9/11 Truthers or those that believe in any Jewish conspiracy.”
But Walters’ claim that the interview was scheduled at the last minute doesn’t seem to hold up. Trottier plugged the scheduled interview in his previous threeweekly shows, meaning the interview was apparently on the books for at least three weeks.
When TPM pointed out that Trottier had been talking up the scheduled interview for weeks, Walters admitted that he’d committed earlier but said McDaniel never did — which he said is why McDaniel joined at the end of the show after Walters had been on for a while. He refused to say who had connected him to Trottier.
“It was scheduled by a friend (I’m not giving out that name without their permission) a few weeks in advance for both of us but Chris had never confirmed anything because of his heavy work load. That’s why he wasn’t on most of the program. He’s busy with the state senate session. I just tried to get him on the program toward the end at the last minute in the hopes he was available,” he said in an email late Thursday night.
McDaniel didn’t answer directly when asked if he would have done the program if he had known about Trottier’s views.
“I’ve never heard the program. I have no idea what positions they hold,” McDaniel said.
He didn’t respond when TPM asked again in a follow-up text message, or explain when he’d agreed to do the program. Trottier didn’t respond to an interview request.
McDaniel, an attorney and former radio host, has a long history of controversial statements on race and gender. He made headlines last year for attacking the women’s march, claiming that “almost all liberal women are unhappy.” In older comments McDaniel blamed hip-hop for gun violence, threatened to stop paying taxes if Congress authorized slavery reparations and said one of the only useful Spanish words he knew was “mamacita,” an apparent joke about cat-calling Hispanic women.
McDaniel has been seriously mulling a race against Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) this year, along with a possible run for lieutenant governor, but has delayed making any final decisions, a sign that he’s also waiting to see whether Cochran’s poor health forces him from office.
An outside group partly funded by the billionaire Mercer family, Remember Mississippi (with the same name as Walters’ book, based on the rallying cry for those who think McDaniel was robbed in 2014), has collected $1 million to back a possible McDaniel run. McDaniel has also worked closely with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon as he gears up for a potential run, and joined Bannon in Alabama last year as he promoted Roy Moore’s Senate campaign.
McDaniel stood by Moore through the bitter end last year, even after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct towards them when they were teenagers and Moore’s wife claimed they weren’t anti-Semites because “one of our attorneys is a Jew.”
“The establishment strikes back. But tomorrow is a new day. Don’t lose hope,” McDaniel wrote on Facebook after Moore’s loss.
This story has been updated to include Walters’ latest response.
In an address Thursday at a West Virginia resort, President Donald Trump urged House and Senate Republicans to take up and pass a controversial immigration plan “that includes a permanent solution on DACA, secures the border, ends chain migration, and cancels the visa lottery.”
“It’s a strong bill, but it’s a very fair bill,” he said, though no such bill currently exists other than a one-page “framework” released last week. Trump then suggested he would veto any alternative that comes his way. “We’ll either have something that’s fair and equitable and good and secure, or we’re going to have nothing at all.”
But in an effort to break through the current immigration stalemate paralyzing Congress, some Republicans are breaking from their embrace of President Trump’s immigration plan and suggesting a narrower path without many of the controversial cuts to legal immigration the White House has demanded.
“I think that if we can solve DACA and border security that may be the best we can hope for,” said Sen. John Thune (R-SD), a member of the Senate leadership team, on Thursday.
House Oversight Chair Trey Gowdy’s (R-SC) announcement on Wednesday that he will not seek reelection in 2018 coincided with a vacancy on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, prompting speculation that Gowdy would seek a federal judgeship upon leaving the House.
However, his spokeswoman put that chatter to rest in a statement revealing that Gowdy turned down the opportunity to become a federal judge last year.
“Rep. Gowdy was approached about a federal judgeship last year but turned down the opportunity. After he finishes his term, he plans to return to South Carolina to practice law,” Gowdy spokeswoman Amanda Gonzalez told TPM in a statement.
White House Counsel Don McGahn approached Gowdy about filling the open position on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers South Carolina, some time over the past few weeks, Politico reported Wednesday.
Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) told South Carolina reporters in a conference call that he and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) urged Gowdy to take the judgeship, but that Gowdy made clear he did not want the slot, according to the Greenville News.
Gowdy is the ninth Republican committee chairman to announce that he will not seek reelection in 2018. His departure as chair of the powerful House Oversight Committee follows Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s (R-UT) decision to leave the chairmanship and the House just last year.
The fallout continues after the leader of a major Latino civil rights group wrote a letter praising President Trump’s immigration plan without sign-off from the group’s staff, board of directors, or general membership.
On Thursday at 1 a.m., the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) released an official statement rejecting President Roger Rocha’s letter endorsing the four “pillars” of Trump’s proposal, which Republicans in Congress had been publicly citing in attempts to pressure Democrats to vote for President Trump’s plan.
President Trump’s immigration-heavy State of the Union address, laden with warnings about crime and terrorism and heaped with false assertions, may darken the already dimming prospects for a bipartisan deal to protect young immigrants known as Dreamers whose protections Trump revoked last year.
As several separate groups on Capitol Hill meet almost daily to negotiate, they say they have made almost no progress, even on agreeing on the parameters of what an immigration deal could include. Rank-and-file Republicans and Democrats alike say Trump’s insistence, reiterated in the primetime speech and endorsed by GOP leadership, on deep cuts to legal immigration will alienate potential Democratic allies and put the prospects for a narrow deal on DACA in jeopardy.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) won’t run for another term, he announced Wednesday, making him the latest GOP chairman to announce he’s heading for the exits in recent months.
“I will not be filing for re-election to Congress nor seeking any other political elected office,” Gowdy said in a statement. “Instead I will be returning to the justice system. Whatever skills I may have are better utilized in a courtroom than in Congress, and I enjoy our justice system more than our political system.”
His announcement makes him the ninth Republican committee chairman to announce he’s leaving, the second this week alone, and the second Oversight chairman in less than a year, as former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) quit to take a job at Fox News last year.
Gowdy’s retirement will leave the GOP without one of their most aggressive bulldogs. The former prosecutor relentlessly led Republicans’ Benghazi investigation, a push that effectively damaged Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. He’s long expressed interest in becoming a federal judge. A seat on the Fourth Circuit Court, which covers South Carolina, became vacant just yesterday, and the current U.S. attorney in South Carolina is serving in an interim role
House Republicans have been retiring at record rates this year, outpacing even previous wave elections. There are now 34 GOP lawmakers who won’t be back next year. But unlike some others, Gowdy isn’t leaving because of a potentially tough reelection fight. His Upstate South Carolina seat is safely Republican — President Trump won it by a 25-point margin.
The Justice Department has dropped its plan to retry Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) on corruption charges, an abrupt about-face that keeps him from another arduous trial and likely protects his place in the Senate.
The decision comes one week after a federal judge acquitted Menendez and his co-defendant, wealthy patron Solomon Melgen, of seven of the 18 counts they faced. An earlier trial had ended in a hung jury — with a reported 10 of the dozen members of the jury supporting acquittal.
“Given the impact of the Court’s Jan. 24 Order on the charges and the evidence admissible in a retrial, the United States has determined that it will not retry the defendants on the remaining charges,” a DOJ spokeswoman said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
It’s become significantly more difficult to prosecute politicians for corruption since the Supreme Court tossed out former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) conviction in 2016, and while the accusations that Menendez helped Melgen with his business interests as well as getting him visas for young women he was seeing in exchange for campaign contributions are rather unsavory, under current law it appeared unlikely that he’d be convicted.
Menendez celebrated the news.
“From the very beginning, I never wavered in my innocence and my belief that justice would prevail. I am grateful that the Department of Justice has taken the time to reevaluate its case and come to the appropriate conclusion,” he said in a statement. “I have devoted my life to serving the people of New Jersey, and am forever thankful for all who have stood by me. No matter the challenges ahead, I will never stop fighting for New Jersey and the values we share.”
Menendez faces reelection this year, and an ongoing trial would have cast a dark cloud over him and possibly could have ended his career. But New Jersey Democratic power-brokers including Gov. Phil Murphy, Sen. Cory Booker and (most importantly) party boss George Norcross had all rallied around him, all but erasing any chance of a serious primary challenge. While Menendez’s approval ratings are currently in the toilet, it’s hard to see the GOP mounting a serious challenge against him in the Democratic-leaning state now that he won’t be facing trial.
Democrats gave President Trump a chance in his first joint address to Congress last February. After a year of norm-shattering and race-baiting, they weren’t so polite.
Many congressional Democrats sat stonily as President Trump entered the House chamber Tuesday night, refusing to join in the normal bipartisan applause for the president. They audibly groaned during many portions of his speech. Lines tailored for bipartisan applause landed flat. Democrats snickered when Trump described his hardline immigration plan as “bipartisan.” Many wouldn’t even clap when Trump proclaimed “the state of our union is strong.” And when he laid out false claims about family migration visas, more than a handful yelled “lies” at the president.
State of the Union speeches are rarely bipartisan love affairs, but a year into Trump’s presidency, his often-partisan speech and Democrats’ harsh reaction put on display just how divided he’s left America.
“The immigration portion was so xenophobic and anti-immigrant and that’s just not the foundation of America,” Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) told TPM after the speech. “I’ve always felt like you should stare a bully in the face and never walk away from a fight and it’s clear to me that this president has it out for people who don’t look like him, who are not of the same background, and that’s anti-American.”
“His speech was stoking the flames of xenophobia and racism in our country,” she continued, slamming Trump for his veiled attack against NFL players who’ve chosen to kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality against African Americans. “I chose to come because I respect the office. But what’s clear from listening to his speech is he doesn’t respect the office. He wasn’t talking about all Americans, he wasn’t talking to all Americans tonight, he was talking to a select group of his base.”
She wasn’t alone in her fury.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) told TPM she wasn’t one of the Democrats who shouted “lies” at the podium during Trump’s speech — “I yelled ‘wrong.'”
“We got teleprompter Trump tonight,” she said. “All of that belies the kind of actions he’s taken in a full year as president. He has not shown compassion. He’s not shown love. In trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act he’s not shown any care about the health issues for millions of Americans. … We’ve had a year of totally outside the norm behavior as president.”
Dozens of Democratic congresswomen wore all black, wearing “time’s up” pins to honor the #metoo movement that has been partly spurred by Trump’s treatment of women. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus wore ties and scarves with kente African print patterns, a visible protest of the president’s “shithole countries” comment.
Democrats’ palpable hostility didn’t go unreturned. Republicans noticed Democrats’ silent protests and responded by trolling them, seeming to drag out their first standing ovation as long as possible as they goaded their colleagues across the aisle. They broke into long chants of “USA” twice during the speech.
“I can’t believe they wouldn’t stand for America,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told TPM as he exited the chamber after the speech.
Democrats were furious about particular lines — the “stand for the national anthem” line, his falsehoods about so-called “chain migration,” his line that “Americans are dreamers too.”
“It was hurtful because I think he was trying to diminish them,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), who stormed out near the end of the speech, told reporters afterwards. “That’s what we’re trying to say, that ‘dreamers’ are Americans. … for a man who says he cares so much, why belittle them?”
Plenty were annoyed that Trump didn’t offer specifics on bipartisan areas like infrastructure, combating opioid abuse and paid family leave. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) started off clapping during Trump’s infrastructure comments and ended with a scowl, standing and rubbing his fingers together in a “show me the money gesture” during his remarks.
But the last year clearly overshadowed the speech itself — including for many Democrats from states Trump won in 2016.
“The president said almost nothing to try to bring us together. It was a continuation, now twelve months in a row, of divisive language almost to the point of name-calling in how he did that,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) told TPM. “He seems to have no interest in governing to and with and for the two-thirds of the people of the country that don’t seem to much like him.”
Correction: Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled “you lie” at President Obama during a joint address on health care policy, not a State of the Union address, as this post originally stated.
If President Trump has any plans for another push to repeal the Affordable Care Act, he did not make them known in his State of the Union address Tuesday, which included only one reference to Obamacare — a law Republicans for years promised to dismantle
Referencing the 2016 tax bill’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, Trump claimed that he had “repealed the core of disastrous Obamacare.”