White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned Friday after President Donald Trump hired financier Anthony Scaramucci as his communications director, capping days of tumult as Trump shifted his legal and public relations strategy.
“It’s been an honor & a privilege to serve” Trump, Spicer said in a statement posted on Twitter. “I will continue my service through August.”
Scaramucci, 53, was a campaign fundraiser for Trump and regular adviser during the presidential transition. He’s been mentioned for multiple jobs in the administration, most recently as ambassador to the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. He’s also been considered as head of the White House Office of Public Engagement.
One person familiar with the changes said that Trump offered Scaramucci the communications job out of a sense of loyalty to his surrogate, whom he calls “the Italian kid.” Spicer resigned out of frustration, the person said: Scaramucci is not expected to perform the traditional duties of a communications director, such as planning messaging campaigns for the president’s policies, and that work would have fallen to the already overwhelmed press secretary.
The White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said he backed Scaramucci’s hiring.
“I support Anthony 100 percent,” he said in a text message. “We go back a long way and are very good friends.”
Priebus and Spicer are close, having worked together for years at the Republican National Committee before joining the White House. But Priebus has no plans to leave his job, a person familiar with his thinking said.
Spicer exits the White House on the heels of another Trump communications strategist, Mark Corallo, who had been a spokesman for Trump’s legal team representing him in the Russia probe until he resigned yesterday. Trump also changed the leadership of his legal team, this week, appointing John Dowd to replace Marc Kasowitz as his lead attorney.
A person familiar with Corallo’s departure said he, too, left out of frustration with Trump’s White House and defense strategy. Corallo declined to discuss his decision.
Scaramucci agreed in January to sell his approximately 45 percent stake in SkyBridge Capital. The buyer group included a subsidiary of HNA Group, the Chinese conglomerate, as well as a little-known company called RON Transatlantic.
Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, began planning a couple weeks ago to bring Scaramucci into the communications office at the White House, according to a person familiar with the matter. Kushner was impressed by the fact that CNN retracted a story about Scaramucci in June, said the person. That story cited an anonymous source saying the Senate Intelligence Committee was reviewing an alleged meeting between Scaramucci and a Russian investment-fund executive.
Kushner has suggested giving Scaramucci a larger White House role over time, said the person, who asked not to named because the discussions haven’t been made public.
The New York Times first reported Spicer’s resignation, which it said was in protest over Scaramucci’s hiring. The White House communications staff gathered in Spicer’s office Friday morning, where applause was heard shortly after the news broke.
Spicer’s departure from the administration was sudden. On Thursday, Spicer traveled with the president to a meeting at the Pentagon and told reporters he was still planning his family’s summer vacation schedule around his duties. He attended farewell drinks for a White House reporter departing the beat Thursday night, mingling with members of the media and even former Obama White House press staffers.
Spicer struggled to adjust to the demands of the job from the outset. During his first official press event a day after Trump’s inauguration ceremony, Spicer berated reporters about the crowd size at the inauguration, using false information that was quickly debunked.
In the weeks that followed, Spicer’s press briefings were regularly packed with reporters and aired on live television as he repeatedly flummoxed the media with incorrect or inconsistent statements.
He has been regularly lampooned on NBC’s Saturday Night Live by actress Melissa McCarthy, who portrayed Spicer as a belligerent and unprepared spokesman often struggling with his words.
But Spicer more recently had retreated from public view. It has been more than a month since he has briefed reporters on-camera, and his deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has instead increasingly taken over the podium in the White House briefing room.