Return to Transcripts main page
White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci Discusses Possible Sources of Leaks within White House. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired July 27, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Moments ago we spoke with the White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, to explain his tweets that seem to implicate White House chief of staff Reince Priebus as a leaker. It said, quote, "In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info, which is a felony, I will be contacting the FBI and the Justice Department, #swamp@Reince45."
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And the result was a lot of back and forth. Tweet was deleted. There was all this speculation about whether or not that was so, and this was setting up to being a morning complete with spin and pundits coming onto give their take. And who needs any more of that?
So NEW DAY decided to go to the source to get some clarity on what really matters. We reached out to Scaramucci to answer for the situation, and he took the opportunity and called in. The conversation went to the heart of what is definitely an aspect of palace intrigue, but then the larger issues about when leaks are used as a distraction. A lot came out. Here's a taste.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I was speaking to you last night, Ryan I said it was unpatriotic that you weren't telling me who the leakers were. I was on a plane landing in New York, I have to go visit my mom. So he may have caught it the wrong way. I was teasing you and it was sarcastic. It was one Italian to another. It wasn't me trying to get you to say if you could give me some sense for where they are because I have a responsibility to the president of the United States --
CUOMO: Anthony --
SCARAMUCCI: -- when you said you didn't, I totally respect your journalism and your integrity.
CUOMO: Anthony, I don't know -- hold on, Anthony, I want to make sure. I don't know if Ryan could hear you.
CUOMO: But just in case, it did go out over the air so he heard what you meant when you were talking about being unpatriotic. Let's reset at zero here. What's going on in your perspective? SCARAMUCCI: I want to reset at zero, but I also want you to know that I just spent about 15 minutes on the phone talking with the president of the United States who has given me his full support and his full blessing. And I'm going to read you something, Chris, and bear with me. And the president also told me, if you're nice to me in this segment he'll let me come back on the show. Is that cool? So why don't you let me talk for a little bit, and then you can ask me questions. But this is super, super important to the country.
Now, whether you agree with the president or you disagree with the president, you have to love the institution of the presidency. You have to love the office and you have to love our country. And what is going on right now, I've done a major amount of work over the last five days. I've interviewed most of the assistants to the president. I've interviewed most of the people in the communications team and the White House. What the president and I would like to tell everybody we have a very, very good idea who the leakers are, who the senior leakers are in the White House. We'll get to that in a second.
What I also want to say is that we are 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.
As the president would say in his own words, the White House leakers are small potatoes. I'll talk to you about a few leaks that happened last night that I find reprehensible, but the White House leaks are small potatoes relative to things that are going on with leaking things about Syria or North Korea or leaking things about Iraq. Those are the types of leaks that are so treasonous that 150 years ago people would be have actually been hung for those types of leaks.
So the president brought me in. He knows I'm his friend first, Chris. You're from New York, I'm from New York, the president is from New York. We had dinner last night, I sat next to the first lady. I love the president. I've said that. I know the press wants to ridicule me for saying it six times on the podium, but we started out as friends. I am not a politician. I'm an American businessman and entrepreneur that has built two businesses, and I try to play it straight with people. The president is trying to play it straight with people, which is why he has 140 or 125 social media followers because they want to hear it straight from the president.
And I said to the president this morning, I can't afford to be a sycophant to you, sir. I have to talk to you as a friend so I can help you with this problem. And so what I want to say to you is I understand the law. 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. I can't have a couple of friends up from FOX and friends and Sean Hannity, who's one of my closest friends, to dinner with the president and his first lady without it being leaked in seven minutes. It's absolutely, completely and totally reprehensible.
And as you know from the Italian expression, the fish stinks from the head down. But I can tell you two fish that don't stink, OK, and that's me and the president. I don't like the activity that's going on in the White House. I don't like what they're doing to my friend. I don't like what they're doing to the president of the United States or their fellow colleagues in the West Wing.
[08:05:10] Now, if you want to talk about the chief of staff, we have had odds, we have had differences. When I said we were brothers from the podium, that's because we're rough. Some brothers are like Cain and Abel. Other brothers can fight with each other and get along. I don't know if this is reparable or not. That will be up to the president. But he's the chief of staff. He's responsible for understanding and uncovering and helping me do that inside the White House, which is why I put that tweet out last night.
When the journalists who actually know who the leakers are, like Ryan Lizza, they know the leakers. Jonathan Swan at Axios, these guys know who the leakers are. I respect them for not telling me because I understand and respect journalistic integrity.
However, when I put out a tweet and I put Reince's name in a tweet, they're 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. But let me tell you something about myself, I am a straight shooter. I'll go right to the heart of the matter. So I'm done talking. You can ask me questions. But be nice on the segment, Chris, because this is a very serious matter of interest to all of America.
CUOMO: Anthony, look, I know when you say be nice, you're in part joking, because you know the job is to be fair. So let's be fair in this situation and try to get a sense --
SCARAMUCCI: I'm saying, again, with Ryan Lizza unpatriotic, it's that nuance.
CUOMO: Absolutely. Ryan heard it. He accepts what you said.
SCARAMUCCI: Be fair, be fair, Chris. The truth of the matter is I'm used to all different types of questions. I'm used to meanness. It doesn't matter to me. I'm here to play it straight for the American people and to protect my friend who's the president of the United States.
CUOMO: Understood. And Alisyn and I have felt the bite of personal comments from power as well. But we still do the job and we do it the right way because that's what matters more. So let's do that right now instead of talking about doing it.
SCARAMUCCI: Go ahead.
CUOMO: These tweets seem to indicate a problem that didn't start today, and I'm not talking about the leaking. It is well known, Anthony Scaramucci, that Reince Priebus was against you getting a job in the administration. You've talked about it privately with reporters. He has denied it, but there are tons of reports that that denial is hollow. And when you named him in the tweet, it seems to call that. Where is your head on that situation? What do you believe the reality to be, because it seems much more like Cain and Abel than two brothers that can get along?
SCARAMUCCI: Here's what I know. When you're running two reasonable successful companies and one which the entire world knows I'm about to sell for $180 million, here's what I know. When you're running a successful company or an organization, you can take this human equation to the bank. Under-confidence plus insecurity always equals paranoia and backstabbing.
So what you have to do as a manager is you have to go through the process and the system and figure out where the backstabbing is coming from. That will lead you to the people who are insecure or under- confident. If you can't bolster them and make them better, then you have to remove them from the process because then it becomes addition by subtraction. That's what I know.
SCARAMUCCI: So I don't want to talk about anybody specifically because we're on a live television wire, but the people know, the journalists know. You know the young kids on the comms team are taking a lot of heat from me right now. They know, Chris. The people know. You know who knows? The president of the United States.
CUOMO: This continues to be the most extraordinary reporting experience I have ever been a part of.
CAMEROTA: That says a lot, because you've had some extraordinary reporting experiences in your career.
CUOMO: I have never experienced anything like this. By the way, that's not a criticism. It is unusual on a number of levels. And the access that we've had this morning into what's going on I've never seen before. It's something that wasn't an investigation that didn't happen after the fact. This is happening right now.
CAMEROTA: I think it's an extraordinary viewing experience as well for our viewers, so let's talk about all of it with our panel. We have CNN political director David Chalian, CNN political analyst David Drucker, Washington bureau chief for the "Associated Press," Julie Pace. David Chalian, you watched it unfold along with us in real time. What do you make of what Anthony Scaramucci is focused on and talking about?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, there were so many things there to unpack. I do think at its core when you heard Anthony Scaramucci tell you, Chris, that he believes there are people in senior positions in the West Wing who see it as their duty to save America from Trump, what that is doing, he said what they should really be doing is injecting Trump into America.
[08:10:3] What that is really saying is he thinks there's a rampant disloyalty among the most senior people inside the West Wing. And he believes that by coming in now and on day five saying he is going to carry the flag for the thing that Donald Trump has been talking about for months and stamp out these leakers and get rid, purge anybody inside the operation who has questions about the way Donald Trump is conducting himself, this becomes a very dangerous thing. I don't know how you go to work in the West Wing today with any kind of confidence. That's one.
The other thing I think that it is important to note, and this gets to the point I was making earlier, it seemed to me Anthony Scaramucci concedes that the Trump agenda has not been executed on. He said repeatedly when we can finally execute the agenda, when we can execute the agenda. I read that as the White House communications director saying that the last six months have been for naught when it comes to executing the agenda, which I thought was a really astonishing concession.
CUOMO: Pause. You know, one of the reasons it's so extraordinary, because Alisyn and I have sat together next to all of this as it's unfolded since the beginning, is that there's so many layers of what's going on, to David's point.
CAMEROTA: For sure. David doesn't even know where to begin.
CUOMO: Palace intrigue, real and true. And by the way, my take at this point is Scaramucci is not the bad guy. He's a victim of it, and he was brought in to clean it up, and that's what he's going to do.
CAMEROTA: But who's the bad guy?
CUOMO: I think that there are several bad guys in there because, next layer, the president in terms of the tortured reference that he put on the Italians of the fish stinks from the head down, the president has engendered a culture where it is OK to attack one another as long as you're not attacking him. I can't tell you -- I grew up in this business. I didn't want to, I didn't like it, that's why I didn't go into it, but I'd never heard of that before. The way it usually works is, why are you talking about anybody but me? Which is usually something Alisyn says to me, ironic, but that's the way it usually works. So that's another layer here.
This whole political intrigue, Julie Pace, it's true, it's corrosive, it's toxic, it's also often informative to us about what's going on. That part is real, but there are other layers. It is this leak tactic being used as a distraction from the Russia probe, from what happened with LGBT, what's going on with Jeff Sessions. Is it right to use the DOJ and the FBI to police your own political intrigue? These are concerns as well.
JULIE PACE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I think there are two things that are important for people to know about the focus on leaks. One, this really is something that bothers the president. This actually is something he wants to get to the bottom of. He actually feels like if he can undermine the media, if he can undermine stories that are out there that are negative about him by focusing on the leakers, by saying that the leaks are false, that that actually will be central to his agenda. But on the other hand, look, this is something they would much rather
be focused on than the Russia probe, than the fact they have a health care bill that may not go anywhere. I mean, we're not even talking about that this morning in a 30-minute conversation with the communications director. So this is certainly a distraction technique as well. But it is important to remember that for the president leaks are a real agenda item for him, which is extraordinary in its own right.
CAMEROTA: David Drucker, your thoughts?
DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I have many. But which one should I pick?
CUOMO: The guffaw was a good start, by the way.
DRUCKER: I know, right. So look, I think that -- I understand, and Julie makes good points about where the president is on this and how frustrated he is.
I think that part of the problem that the president has had is he has tried to bring his culture of doing business into a professional political setting where he needs to depend on more people than just inner circle Trump loyalists. There's just no way to run a White House and an administration without reaching beyond that base of support.
And so I think Scaramucci, and we talk to him quite often, could be a good fit, could be a good bridge to get Trump connected to people outside and make this thing work better. But I think the way they're going about this in a very public airing and public berating of the people that they think are problems is counterproductive to making this work because all it does is make people more insecure. And when people are insecure politically, they look to stabilize themselves by helping to influence the story and make sure that they have alliances so that they can deal with the attacks that are coming from inside where they work.
And I think, although Anthony Scaramucci is clearly playing to an audience of one, to the president of the United States, and I think this is what the president wants from him, I don't think that they can accomplish what they want by going about it this way.
And one last thing, and David Chalian brought up a great point about whether or not the agenda has been successful. Look, I think they've had some victories, they've had some problems. But we have seen over the years that whenever a politician has trouble, whenever their approval ratings aren't where they want them to be, supporters always believe the problem is communications.
[08:15:00] DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think they've had some victories, they've had some problems.
But we have seen over the years that whenever a politician has trouble, whenever their approval ratings aren't where they want them to be, supporters always believe the problem is communications. That if we can just talk about this better and focus on this better, that somehow it's going to be better received and people will look at it differently. And that's usually never the case. It's usually the case that people are reading what's going on the way they would read it no matter what and this is the judgment they're rendering.
And I think this is what the White House really needs to grapple with.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: One little bit of more insider insight into this is Scaramucci can be effective if he brings in his own people. I think we're going to start seeing more and more turnover of the people around the president because this isn't --
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Meaning in the communications department or everywhere?
CUOMO: And more, look, I think the more -- both. Because I think initially it will probably be comms because that's his bailiwick right now.
CUOMO: But I think as your effectiveness grows, as we saw with Kellyanne Conway, your portfolio grows, your reach grows, the people you can have around you that your respect grows, you can't have Reince Priebus and Scaramucci if things stay the way they are.
But now then you get to the next layer, David Chalian, which is what won't be talked about as long as leaks are that matters every bit as much, this LGBT move is not just patent hypocrisy for Donald J. Trump because he said the exact opposite, he swore to protect this community. His DOJ just came out with a report saying they're not a protected class when it comes to work discrimination issues. That's a huge blow.
And then, he does this point to the military that by all accounts, the DOD was not aware of, which means this wasn't hoisted upon him, he initiated this, and wreaks, talk about a fish stinks from the head down, wreaks of placating the people who could be upsetting him about how he's treating Jeff Sessions who oh just by the way Scaramucci told us is in El Salvador right now.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I mean, yes. It was a classic shiny object in that he was using no doubt in a way that he knew would get the applause of his most core supporters who you're right we're finding offensive what happened with Sessions and making that known.
The other thing that I think is really important to pay attention to about how this was rolled out, as you said, the Pentagon didn't know, the Hill didn't know and there was no answer about how this was going to get implemented. So, it was made clear that this wasn't a seriously thought through policy proposal in any way because even in hours between the president first tweeting it yesterday and Sarah Huckabee Sanders giving a press briefing, there was zero answer and zero information because there is none about how it would actually be implemented.
CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much for going through all of this with us on this very interesting morning here. Thank you.
So, we're going to have much more of our exclusive interview with Anthony Scaramucci, but we're also talking about that major change in the military that we just discussed, President Trump's ban of transgender Americans. So, we have a Republican lawmaker who supports the president's move, next.
[08:21:52] CAMEROTA: Breaking news: White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci tells NEW DAY exclusively this morning that he's putting White House aides on notice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR (via telephone): The president and I would like to tell everybody we have a very, very good idea of who the leakers are, who the senior leakers are in the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: OK. Scaramucci also told us that his now-deleted tweet where he called out White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus over the leaks was not a threat.
Joining us now to talk about this and so much more is Republican Bradley Byrne of Alabama. He is a member of the Armed Services Committee.
Great to have you with us this morning.
REP. BRADLEY BYRNE (R), ALABAMA: Alisyn, it's good to be with you.
CAMEROTA: So, I don't know if you caught Anthony Scaramucci's interview here with us this morning, but he's focused on leakers. OK? Very focused. And he says the president is very concerned about the leaking in the White House.
Do you feel that that is a distraction from the other things that need to get done, health care, this new transgender ban, whatever the president wants to do about Attorney General Jeff Sessions?
BYRNE: It's not a distraction to the people in the Congress because we continue to get our work done. We were here over in the House last night until almost midnight voting on amendments on our appropriations package we're working on this week. So, we're getting our work done.
What's happening over at the White House seems to be stuff that's happening internally. I can tell you when I go home and talk to people in my district. They don't care about all that stuff. They want to know what we're doing about health care and other issues. So, we're staying on that. CAMEROTA: Sure. I hear that too, absolutely, Congressman. I hear that, too. So, then, why is the White House so focused on it?
BYRNE: I don't know. I'm not a part of these conversations that are occurring at the White House. I don't like the leaks. I think the leaks are harmful to the country. Some of the leaks may actually be criminal. I know the attorney general's looking at that.
People need to quit leaking. Let's get focused on our jobs and get it done because the American people want us to address these issues. I can tell you that.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Well, how do you feel about what the president has done for I think four days straight in a row of publicly dressing down Attorney General Jeff Sessions?
BYRNE: I know Jeff Sessions for almost four decades. He is a professional prosecutor. He was a U.S. attorney in Mobile, where I'm from, for 12 years, attorney general of the state of Alabama.
He knows what he's doing. And he's doing a very good job. He's doing the work that all of us expected he would do when he took this position. And he's doing it with integrity and professionalism.
I hope that he will stay on the job and continue to do that work because American people need for him to do that.
CAMEROTA: So, do you want the president to stop publicly criticizing him?
BYRNE: I want all of us to let Jeff Sessions do his job. Now, I know him well enough to know he has the ability to tune out the noise and stay focused on what he's doing. So I know he's getting his job done.
But it's not helpful for the rest of us to continue to go back and back and back to this. We need to make sure we're supporting him in what he's doing, so he can get it done and get it done in the right way for the American people.
CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, when you say the rest of us go back and back and back to this, it's the president. Have you somehow shared your feelings and your confidence in Jeff Sessions with the president?
BYRNE: Well, I have not directly done it, but be news media like I'm doing now I've been very clear as many, many, many people in Congress have that we have great respect for Jeff Sessions and the job that he's doing.
[08:25:03] Look, there are so many issues that the American people want us to be focused on here in Washington making sure that we have good law enforcement is one of them. Dealing with health care is another. Dealing with threats to the national security of the United States like what's happening in North Korea, that's another one.
Let's stay focused on those issues. If we do that, the American people will support us. If we don't, American people are going to get angry with us and come election time, they're going to let us know about that.
CAMEROTA: The president seemed to surprise Capitol Hill and the Pentagon yesterday when he tweeted out that he was reviving the ban on transgender soldiers. Do you support that ban?
BYRNE: The president's the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the United States. He gets to make that decision. He doesn't have to confer with Congress. He doesn't have to confer with the Pentagon before he does it.
I have no idea what decision making process he went through before he came to that decision. I do know this, both in the Armed Services Committee on which I serve and the Rules Committee on which I serve, we had some legitimate concerns raised about how you care for someone in a combat situation who has either just undergone gender reassignment surgery or who's getting ready to go through it. They've got hormone therapy they have to go through.
There are some legitimate practical problems here. I know Secretary Mattis was trying to go through those. I don't know what he's done with that, what he's communicated with the president.
So perhaps we'll hear about that in the next several weeks.
CAMEROTA: Well, shouldn't you have concluded that assessment or Secretary Mattis have before the president decided that transgender soldiers should be banned?
BYRNE: Well, I don't know that he didn't complete it. I don't know what's been done because that hasn't been shared with us.
CAMEROTA: But just help me understand, and just so that everybody understands out there, what do you think -- what harm do you think transgender soldiers do to the military?
BYRNE: I don't think transgender people as transgender people do harm to the military. The question is how can we care for them if they have medical needs as a result of their surgery or surgery they're about to go through or hormone therapy when they're in a combat setting? That's a legitimate question, a legitimate series of issues.
And I hope Secretary Mattis and the president are looking at that, and making sure they're making the right decision for our men and women in uniform but also for the needs to protect America.
CAMEROTA: I mean, what we've heard from transgender soldiers is that this is no different than any other medical condition, how you would care for anybody else that has any other medical condition.
BYRNE: Well, we have certain medical conditions that we don't allow people to come into the armed services if they have it. For example, certain types of diabetes, we cannot let you into the armed services because we can't adequately care for you in a combat situation.
So I think there are some concerns here. I hope that they will be addressed. I hope they'll be addressed in a way we can all learn publicly what the way we can deal with it is.
But in the time being if the president wants to have this decision and buy the time to get it right, I don't see anything wrong with that. I think it's the appropriate thing to do.
CAMEROTA: What happens in the meantime to transgender soldiers?
BYRNE: That's a very good question. I don't know the answer to the question.
We don't really have an order itself from the president. We only have what he tweeted. So I assume we'll be getting something in more formal order that will tell us exactly how they will handle that situation.
We've got some very good people in the United States military who are serving honorably, want to make sure they can continue to serve honorably for the country.
CAMEROTA: Should he have bounced this off the Pentagon and figured out the details of the plan before he made thousands of people concerned about their jobs?
BYRNE: Well, I don't know what he did. I can't tell you whether he got sat down with the Pentagon, went through this, talked about these issues.
CAMEROTA: The Pentagon says they were surprised by this.
BYRNE: Well, I don't know what the communications have been between the Pentagon and the president. I can't answer for that.
There are legitimate issues here. And I hope that the president and the people at the Pentagon will work through them. I think that's important for the American people.
CAMEROTA: Congressman Bradley Byrne, we appreciate your perspective and you being here.
CUOMO: OK. We're going to have more of our exclusive interview with Anthony Scaramucci. But first, Senate Republicans rejecting another major proposal. So what does this mean for health care? We're going to give you the skinny, what is a skinny repeal? Next.