'The guy stinks and he’s a racist'
‘The Mooch’ explains why, even after his swift dismissal from the White House, he stayed loyal, until Trump’s online bullying finally made him see the light
His was a flame that burned twice as bright and half as long. Anthony Scaramucci’s tenure in Donald Trump’s White House lasted just 11 days, which may be some kind of record. But it was a cameo of blinding incandescence that removed the scales from his eyes.
Many officials fired by Trump have sought what might be seen as moral decontamination, a purging of the soul, by turning ostentatiously against him. But few have done it with the ferocity of the man nicknamed “The Mooch”, who in the space of a half-hour FaceTime interview calls the US president “very crazy”, “low life”, “full-blown racist”, “son of a bitch”, “maniacally narcissistic” and “off his rocker”.
Scaramucci is as New York as skyscrapers, subways and Sinatra. He knew Trump from the Big Apple. “When you were sitting in the room with him 10 years ago, he’s a garrulous person, self-absorbed but funny and a raconteur and, at times, very rakish and very charming, and you would enjoy his personality, frankly, and he had a good sense of humour,” he says.
Scaramucci, at home in Southampton, Long Island, is wearing a Superman T-shirt, and cable news is playing on a big wall-mounted TV.
“Now you would find him to be more brittle, defensive and self-exclamatory where he’s just launching into these run-on long sentences. He’s having a conversation with himself and it’s a rationalisation of who he is and what he’s doing and he’s trying to explain to everybody that he knows it all, he’s got it all figured out, and that’s a great tragedy in itself because nobody has it all figured out.”
Scaramucci, a Harvard law school graduate and former Goldman Sachs banker, founded the global hedge fund SkyBridge Capital in 2005. Three years ago next week, on 21 July 2017, he was hired by Trump as communications director, despite the objections of the press secretary, Sean Spicer, who resigned in protest, and the chief of staff, Reince Priebus.
Maureen Dowd, a New York Times columnist, opined that Trump had found an ideal courtier: “A wealthy mini-me Manhattan bro with wolfy smile and slick coif who will say anything and flip any position. A self-promoter extraordinaire and master salesman who doesn’t mind pushing a bad product – and probably sees it as more fun.”
This wolf of Wall Street delivered a maiden press briefing with self-assurance and swagger that culminated with an air kiss to the White House press corps. His new boss was not impressed.
Scaramucci says: “In my 11 days, the great irony was some people said my press conference was well handled and well executed, but Trump was not in love with it, which indicated to me that I was going to end up having a problem with him because he’s not one to allow anybody else on that stage.
“One cabinet official said to me there are two things that, if he says to you, you know you’re in trouble: one, you’re getting more famous than me; or two, you’re getting too much attention. That’s like your near-death experience. He said to FBI Director James Comey, you’re getting more famous than me, and then a week later he was fired.”
But during that brief spell in the west wing, Scaramucci observed up close the most powerful man in the world. “My observation was, OK, he’s not listening, and good leadership requires delegation and listening, and he’s too defensive and too insecure to actually take in input,” he says.
“I found that when I was briefing him, I had to put pictures of him in the briefing. When I put the pictures in, it was a good sign, and when I didn’t put the pictures in, you couldn’t get him to focus on it.
“Here’s the bad news, though. Even if you got him to focus on it, he wouldn’t listen to you anyway because he’s so maniacally narcissistic. He wants to immobilise everybody around him and then he wants to go on and win the presidency anyway on this nihilistic rampage and show everybody, ‘See, I wiped out all of you with napalm and I didn’t need any of you.’ That’s full blown narcissism.”
Scaramucci was dismissed on 31 July 2017 after he gave an expletive-laced interview to the New Yorker magazine and made derogatory statements about White House officials including Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon, both of whom are now long gone.
“I was crestfallen about the firing, but listen, it’s not the first time I’ve been fired – I’m a little bit of a rogue, I’m an entrepreneur,” Scaramucci recalls. “I made a mistake. I did something fireable. I am accountable for my mistakes.”
If he had not been fired, wouldn’t he have quit by now, as the Trump administration lurched from disaster to disgrace? “I don’t want to pretend about what I would have done because I would tell you this as a cautionary tale about ego. When you’ve got your ego involved in something, you do things that are irrational and your emotions go up and your intelligence goes low.
“I was fully invested in getting rid of Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus. I would like to think that I would have stood on principle during the Charlottesville situation [when Trump drew equivalence between white nationalists and anti-fascists] because that was a week after my departure. I thought that was ridiculous.
“Even if I didn’t stand on principle – let’s say I was into moral equivocation that you see in many of these people working for President Trump or trying to justify themselves through cognitive distance, ‘If I wasn’t here, it would be worse,’ and all the stuff that they say to themselves – I would have been fired anyway.
“I may not have made it 15 days or 20 days because my personality is not suitable for President Trump’s. I’m an entrepreneur. I’m an independent thinker. He doesn’t like iconoclastic or independent thinking, so I don’t think I would have lasted very long. But listen, the universe and the good Lord works in very strange ways: saved my ass.
“As I told Trump when we were still friendly, after I got fired he called me and asked me how I was doing, I said: ‘Relax, you’ve made me as famous as Melania and Ivanka and I didn’t have to sleep with you or be your daughter, so I’m going to be totally fine, you never have to worry about me.’ I know how to roll with the punches.”
But Scaramucci likens what happened next to being Tim Robbins’s character in the film The Shawshank Redemption, escaping from jail by hurtling down a sewer pipe and eventually being spat out.
“If you’ve never experienced being on the front page of a tabloid when your personal life is being destroyed and you’re being disfigured as a human being and a lot of lies are being said about you, and then you’re getting lit up … that is The Shawshank Redemption, because you have to go through that sewer pipe of humiliation and shame and you’re being disfigured.
“You have people that don’t even know who you are forming a negative opinion of you based on these snippets of information without really getting the full blown context or texture of your personality. You learn to live with it and you also learn to use your sense of humour and your grounding wires in life to just roll with it.
“I don’t think about it much today, but I will say this: it made me a better person. It made me more psychologically aware. I turned on Trump in August 2019; I was loyal to him for two years after my departure. Somebody said to me: ‘Well, you turned on Trump. He’s the same guy that he was in 2015, so why did you turn on him? He’s doing the exact same things.’
“I looked at the person and said: ‘Well he may be the same guy, but I’m not the same guy. I’m a different person today than I was in 2015 or 2017. I think I’ve got a lot more psychological awareness and a lot more depth of understanding of what’s going on and, remember, we’re products of our environment.
“We grow up in a certain background, with certain prejudices and biases, and you need earthshaking experiences sometimes to wake you up to what other people’s realities are and what they’re dealing with.”
Scaramucci, who is of Italian descent, chose to speak out when Trump attacked four Democratic congresswomen of colour known as “the Squad” and suggested that they should “go back” to their countries, even though all are American.
“I said, ‘OK, that’s enough for me and I cannot be affiliated with this any more’, I’m not going to disavow my personal integrity and my life story to support this man. I’m not going to make the equivocations that these other people are making: ‘Well, it’s Republican, it’s judges, it’s policies.’ No, the guy stinks and he’s a racist and he’s an American nativist.”
As a result Scaramucci, who took part in a recent BBC Three documentary, Trump in Tweets, ended up in a Twitter fight with the president that spiralled out of control.
“Once he attacked my wife, I took the gloves off because you’re not allowed to attack my family members or my wife. He knew my wife and I were having marital issues in 2017 and he still went after her on the presidential Twitter feed, so he’s a low life. Once he did that, then I just started eviscerating him.”
Trump’s online bullying had real world consequences. Scaramucci says: “I had people taking pictures of my front door, saying they were going to come through the front door and hurt my family. I had a squad car outside my house because the threat seemed legitimate and the FBI was working on it. But that’s the America we’re living in now. If you have a political opinion in America now, you have to have that sort of nonsense going on.”
As the BBC programme documented, Trump’s ability to weaponise Twitter helped him with the White House in 2016 but, Scaramucci believes, it will lead to defeat this November. “You’re getting his full-blown impetuosity and his craziness and his viciousness and I think it’s very bad. History will reflect poorly on it and it will be his undoing.
“He’s going to get destroyed. It’s not even close how badly he’s going to get destroyed. His ardent support is wilting and, by November, there’ll be over 200,000 people dead from the coronavirus. This is not 2016, where he’s an unknown entity and you have this very polarising figure, Hillary Clinton. He’s also got guys like me that are Republicans that are going to work on hiving off 3 to 5% of the Republicans.”
Having voted for Trump in 2016, Scaramucci will vote for his opponent, Joe Biden, in November 2020 and he believes the long national nightmare will soon be over. “I always tell people 120 days is, like 500 years in Trump World but he’s on a trajectory of a downward slope and he’s doing something – because I know the son of a bitch well – he’s doing something that I find fascinating. He’s subconsciously self-detonating.
“He’s doing things every single day that is literally forcibly unravelling his political career and that is the hidden secret, the underbelly of a narcissist. They have a very full blown self-destructive streak in their personalities. He’s got his hand on the self detonator now.”
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