It’s open season on The Mooch.
As President Donald Trump’s feud with Anthony Scaramucci stretches past the brief flicker of time he served in the White House, the president’s supporters have been taking their own whacks at the man who has suddenly become Public Enemy No. 1.
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And Trump has been been grateful, reaching out to “give attaboys” to allies who have attacked his former communications director, according to a person close to the White House.
The schoolyard drama surrounding Scaramucci offers a revealing look inside how Trump’s wider orbit works — a daily scrum for his attention and affection.
As one former senior White House official described it, the Twitter-powered opprobrium the president has directed at his one-time aide — along with his private praise of others’ follow-on attacks — amounts to clear instructions for people around Trump to “fire at will” at Scaramucci.
“He takes extra pleasure in seeing people tee off on Anthony,” said the person close to the White House. “The signal was very clear when he started tweeting about it mercilessly. There’s a reason that the pile-on continues.”
Allies have started spreading dirt on Scaramucci in right-wing outlets, and the word has gone out to people in Trump’s orbit to “go after him,” as one of the sources put it, by launching personal attacks on the New York-based investor, seeking to discredit what he’s saying about the president and accusing him of being a phony.
“To me, he’s a joke,” said Brian Ballard, a Florida lobbyist who’s a top fundraiser for President Donald Trump’s campaign. “He’s the most non-credible witness against this administration you can have. He’s just craving attention and he was unworthy of the president’s graciousness in the past and he’s unworthy of the public’s attention now.”
Scaramucci in recent days has blitzed various television networks and news outlets to offer his conclusion that the president he once supported, raised money for and worked for is not fit for office.
The president, in turn, has blasted Scaramucci right back, tweeting about him seven times over the last 11 days and calling him “a dope.”
And he’s publicly encouraged others to do the same. After GOP chair Ronna McDaniel tweeted on Tuesday, “Anthony Scaramucci has ZERO credibility,” Trump approvingly retweeted her, adding, “Just another disgruntled former employee who got fired for gross incompetence!”
Scaramucci responded to the attacks leveled against him by telling POLITICO on Tuesday: “I am not going to punch down at paid staff. They have a tough enough job. Their narrative is failing because it’s inauthentic. They will come around and when they do I will show them how to do it. Wish them all a great end of the summer for me!”
Those familiar with how greater Trumpworld operates say these staffers and others aren’t freelancing.
“A tweet like this doesn’t happen by accident,” another person close to the White House said, noting McDaniel’s tweet. “It happened because it’s all organized.”
“The president has made his feelings known on this topic,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said. “I have too. I have been vocal because the things Anthony has been saying are false, self-serving and pathetic. After staunchly supporting this president for years, he has suddenly ‘seen the light’? Come on. The only light this guy is seeing is the camera lights he continues to seek out.”
The comments, coming from all corners of Trump’s political operation, are remarkably similar in tone and framing.
Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, told POLITICO in a statement, “Scaramucci wrote a book praising President Trump less than a year ago, but now he’s craving the attention of the leftist cable talk shows. He’s the shiny object for the media for the next 15 minutes, but whatever he’s dreamed up is doomed to failure.”
Scaramucci has fired back at Trump and his allies by going on TV to defend himself. On Tuesday, he published a Washington Post op-ed saying, “The tenor of his abuse only reinforces my thinking: I can no longer in good conscience support the president’s reelection.”
“[The] negatives of Trump’s demagoguery now clearly outweigh the positives of his leadership, and it is imperative that Americans unite to prevent him from serving another four years in office,” he wrote.
The latest bout between the two men started on Aug. 8, when Scaramucci told MSNBC that Trump “didn’t do well” on his trips to Dayton and El Paso after the mass shootings and that the visits were a “catastrophe.”
Two days later, Trump tweeted against him saying that “Anthony Scaramucci, who was quickly terminated (11 days) from a position that he was totally incapable of handling, now seems to do nothing but television as the all time expert on ‘President Trump.’ Like many other so-called television experts, he knows very little about me … Anthony, who would do anything to come back in, should remember the only reason he is on TV, and it’s not for being the Mooch!”
The attacks have gotten intensely personal, as when the president claimed that Scaramucci was a “mental wreck” who was “getting divorced.”
Meanwhile, allies of the president have been whispering to the Washington Examiner, which ran a negative story on Scaramucci with the headline: “‘Dirty secret’: Scaramucci ‘abused staff’ and claimed White House officials were having affair.” (POLITICO was unable to verify these accusations.)
“All the outside guys have gotten the bat light that says, ‘Let’s go,’” said the former official, who said the president was frustrated with Scaramucci’s critiques and believes he’s long worn out his 15 minutes of fame.
But Trump only seems to be stoking the flames of the feud, fueling more stories with the apparent help of the White House social media apparatus. Late on Monday evening, he tweeted out a compilation of video clips of Scaramucci saying nice things about him, commenting, “Nobody ever heard of this dope until he met me. He only lasted 11 days!”
Their falling-out has been just as swift. As recently as two weeks ago, one person close to the White House said, Scaramucci was with Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, and a few other people and talking about fundraisers he was planning to set up for the re-election campaign.
The suddenness of Scaramucci’s turn has Trump acolytes swapping theories about why he broke with the president.
Some whisper that Scaramucci may be doing this as a publicity stunt to keep himself in the news to get his wife Deidre a slot on “The Real Housewives of New York City.” She said on the couple’s joint podcast in June, “Mooch and the Mrs”: “I can’t get into too much detail, but I’d love to do the show if they really wanted me to do the show. But right now we’re just sitting here, waiting, and I’ll let you guys know.”
Others speculate that Scaramucci, a wealthy entrepreneur who sometimes visits the Hamptons in the summer, might be doing this is to ingratiate himself back into New York society circles.
“Who’s in the Hamptons all summer?” asked one prominent Trump ally. “Not Trump supporters! Right? He’s hanging out in the Hamptons with people who hate the president.”
What’s clear from conversations with Trump insiders is that there isn’t much strategy behind all the name-calling.
“This is what happens when he’s cooped up in Bedminster,” said a current White House official. “Every time, there’s another crisis.”
When presented with the possibility that the attacks have only given Scaramucci’s critiques more oxygen — and the publicity they say he’s seeking — a former senior White House official responded, “I don’t think anyone gives a shit.”