New White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci is denying that he made a plea to the FBI Wednesday night on Twitter asking for the agency to investigate Reince Priebus, President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, for leaking, disputing a report by Ryan Lizza of CNN and The New Yorker.
Scaramucci, who has not yet officially started his White House job, but has spent most of the week in the building and making statements for the president, tweeted Wednesday night, “In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the @TheJusticeDept #swamp @Reince45”
As many on Twitter questioned why Priebus was tagged in the tweet, and wondered if it was a call for him to be investigated by the FBI, journalist Ryan Lizza, of The New Yorker and CNN, confirmed that was the case.
Scaramucci then tweeted again early Thursday morning, showing a screenshot of an Axios story headlined, “Scaramucci appears to want Priebus investigated by the FBI,” adding, “Wrong! Tweet was public notice to leakers that all Sr Admin officials are helping to end leaks. @Reince45.”
He also deleted the original tweet.
The tweet from Scaramucci came after Politico obtained the new communication director’s financial disclosure statement, a public document, and reported in its contents Wednesday night. It is not clear if leaking the document before it is publicly available would be a crime, or if it is a crime, if it would reach the level of a felony, as Scaramucci claims. The document can be requested by anyone, but it had not been officially released.
According to the New York Times, the financial disclosure form was not filed in connection to his new job as communications director, but for his short-lived job working in the administration for the Export-Import Bank. The report was filed June 23, and can be requested by anyone 30 days after the government receives it, the Times reports, making it publicly available on July 23.
“Asked why he thought the report had been leaked illegally, Mr. Scaramucci responded by text: ‘They aren’t in process yet.’ But when told his form could be released on July 23, he did not respond further,” the Times writes.
The news site reported that Scaramucci will still profit from his ownership stake in the investment firm SkyBridge Capital, despite leaving for the White House. The financial disclosure form listed his assets at $85 million, including real estate investments, a minority stake in the New York Mets baseball team and investments in snack and smoothie shops, according to Politico.
The tweet has ignited rumors and reports of an ongoing war between Scaramucci and Priebus, even if it was not an attempt by Scaramucci to call for an investigation of Priebus.
Scaramucci was announced as the new communications director last week, on the same day that Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned from his position, reportedly in protest of Scaramucci’s hiring. It was also reported that Priebus was against the Scaramucci hire, though both men downplayed any friction between them.
“Reince and I have been personal friends for six years,” Scaramucci said at a press briefing on Friday. “We are a little bit like brothers, where we rough each other up a little, which is totally normal for brothers. There’s a lot of people here who have brothers, so you get that.”
Priebus told the Associated Press, he supports the hiring of Scaramucci “100 percent,” and said they are “very good friends,” and it’s “all good here” at the White House. But Philip Rucker reports that Scaramucci and his allies are attempting to convince Trump that Priebus is a leaker:
Priebus has not commented about the Scaramucci tweet or the Post report.
Lizza said on CNN Wednesday night that Scaramucci has been feuding with Priebus since Scaramucci was blocked from a job in the administration after the election. Scaramucci blames Priebus for his inability to get two White House staff positions he sought. Lizza also said Scaramucci appears to be on a “jihad” to find leakers in the White House, and it has led to paranoia and clashes between Scaramucci’s camp and Priebus’ supporters.
On Tuesday, one of Priebus’ close allies, assistant press secretary Michael Short, resigned after Politico reported that Scaramucci wanted to fire him. “Short’s ouster is Scaramucci’s first warning shot to White House aides who have been perceived as disloyal to the president,” Politico reported.
Short told Politico he was not a leaker, despite speculation that was the reason for his ouster. He was one of several Republican National Committee staffers who came to the White House with their boss, Priebus, after Trump’s election. Spicer is also a longtime Priebus ally and was the RNC’s communications director prior to taking the White House spokesman job. Short was previously the director of rapid response and a spokesman for the RNC prior.
Scaramucci has made it his public mission to weed out leakers from the White House communications staff and elsewhere. “We’ve got to get the leaks stopped. If we don’t get the leaks stopped — I am a businessperson, and so I will take dramatic action to stop those leaks,” Scaramucci told Fox News Sunday, also vowing to “fire everybody” if needed to stop the leaking.
He and President Trump have also called for the Department of Justice to crack down on leaks from the intelligence agencies. Scaramucci and Trump had dinner Wednesday night with Fox News host Sean Hannity and former Fox executive Bill Shine just hours before Scaramucci’s tweet, the Washington Post reports. The dinner table discussion include talks about how to overhaul the West Wing staff and the Trump administration’s communications and political strategy, according to the Post report. Scaramucci has worked as a contributor for Fox News, earning about $88,000 in that role, according to the Politico reporting on his financial disclosure.
He also made an appearance on Hannity’s Fox News show Wednesday night, discussing the leaking issue, and made comments that seem to foreshadow his later accusatory tweet.
“One of the big problems that I’m discovering is that senior people are really the guys doing the leaking and they ask junior people to leak for them,” Scaramucci told Hannity. “I’m very proud to be reporting directly to the president so I can hermetically seal off the [communications] team from this sort of nonsense.”
Scaramucci downplayed the apparent ongoing battle between White House staffers.
“We let somebody go yesterday, but I’ve told people that if there’s a civil war, and people are fighting internally, we have to dial that down,” Scaramucci told Hannity. “I don’t think you can let people go … just for the sake of letting them go. I think we have to give them … some level of amnesty to see if they’ll stop and work together. But I’ll move very quickly if they cannot do that, because I have the president’s authority to do so.”
In a statement Wednesday night after Scaramucci’s Hannity appearance, Department of Justice spokeswoman Sarah Isgur FLores said, “We’ve seen an astonishing increase in the number of leaks of classified national security information in recent months. We agree with Anthony that these staggering number of leakrs are undermining the ability of our government to function and to protect this country.”
“Like the Attorney General has said, ‘whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail,’ and we will aggressively pursue leak cases wherever they may lead,” she said.