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Trump’s feud with Anthony Scaramucci, explained

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One of President Donald Trump’s most public supporters has suddenly become an outspoken critic. And Trump, as he’s wont to do, has responded by lashing out. But in doing so, the president is giving that critic — former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci — a larger platform and audience than he would have otherwise had, almost certainly motivating Republicans unhappy with Trump to take a close look at Scaramucci’s critiques.

Over the past six weeks, Scaramucci has undergone a remarkable transformation. As recently as July 3, “The Mooch” predicted on Twitter that Trump would “win 40+ states in 2020.” But things started changing in the days that followed, as Trump launched attack after attack against Democratic women of color — attacks that Scaramucci described as “racist and unacceptable.”

But the definitive break between the former allies came after Scaramucci went on MSNBC on August 10 and characterized Trump’s trip to visit mass shooting victims in El Paso, Texas, as a “catastrophe.” This was the visit in which the president was recorded attacking his Democratic rivals and bragging about crowd sizes at his rallies, and he was photographed ghoulishly making a thumbs-up gesture alongside a baby orphaned by a shooter who took cues from his rhetoric.

“Maybe he’ll tweet something negative about somebody for saying he didn’t do well, but the facts are he did not do well on the trip, because if the trip is being made about him and not the demonstration of compassion and love and caring and empathy for those people, then it becomes a catastrophe for him, the administration, and it’s also a bad reflection on the country,” Scaramucci added during that MSNBC appearance.

Predictably, Trump took the bait and fired back later that night on Twitter.

Fast forward 10 days, and Trump still isn’t over it. He posted tweets attacking Scaramucci on Monday and Tuesday, and the Republican National Committee has gotten in on the pile-on, too.

Scaramucci, however, has been undeterred — he has even teased a plan to organize a possible primary challenge to Trump, while calling for more Republicans disillusioned by Trump to follow his lead.

Why anybody cares about Anthony Scaramucci in the first place, briefly explained

Scaramucci was a relatively unknown New York-based financier before Trump tapped him to be his communications director on July 21, 2017.

A mere five days later, Scaramucci called New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza and uncorked a crude verbal tirade against his perceived enemies within the administration.

He threatened to fire the Trump administration’s entire communications staff, called then-White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus “a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” and accused Priebus — who was ousted two days later — of leaking damaging information to the media. Perhaps most memorably, Scaramucci blasted then-White House adviser Steve Bannon, saying “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock. … I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the president. I’m here to serve the country.”

The next day, Scaramucci called in to CNN and melted down again over his frustrations about White House leaks. Days later, news broke that Scaramucci’s wife had demanded a divorce from him earlier that month, shortly before she gave birth to their child, in part because of her frustrations about him taking a job working for Trump.

Scaramucci’s on-the-record meltdowns and personal peccadilloes made it clear he was in way over his head serving in a role he had no qualifications for, and his departure from the administration was announced on July 31, 2017. The brevity of his White House tenure has since become a punchline.

But, for both Scaramucci and Trump, there was an upside to the former communication director’s brief, embarrassing White House tenure. He leveraged his newfound prominence into a role as one of Trump’s most prominent supporters on TV and became a regular guest on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News.

Scaramucci rode that wave for two years. But the first sign that things were changing came on July 16, when Scaramucci criticized Trump for making racist attacks on Democratic congresswomen of color.

In a sign of how Trumpified the Republican Party has become, the Palm Peach County GOP responded to Scaramucci’s tweet by disinviting him from speaking at a fundraiser (fittingly, Roger Stone ended up being his replacement). Days later, Scaramucci tweeted that the disinvitation was “a badge of honor for me,” though he added that he still supported Trump.

But the final split occurred after Scaramucci went on MSNBC and criticized Trump’s response to the recent mass shootings. When the TV-loving president responded by attacking him, Scaramucci indicted his days of being a loyalist were finally at their end.

Things have escalated from there. On Monday, Scaramucci authored an op-ed for the Washington Post headlined, “I was wrong about Trump. Here’s Why.” In it, he writes that Trump’s “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 added.

Trump responded on Monday night by posting a tweet calling Scaramucci a “dope,” that included old video clips of Scaramucci praising him.

Then, on Tuesday, the president followed that up by quote-tweeting an attack on Scaramucci from Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, adding that Scaramucci is “[j]ust another disgruntled former employee who got fired for gross incompetence!”

Trump vowed during his presidential campaign that he would only “hire the best people” if he won the election. There’s already a mountain of evidence indicating how hollow that promise was, but Trump’s attacks on Scaramucci — along with his refusal to be accountable for hiring him — is perhaps the starkest illustration yet of how empty that promise was.

Scaramucci is definitely a self-promoter, but that doesn’t mean he’s not making good points about Trump

Scaramucci’s sudden turn against Trump has a whiff of opportunism. For instance, on August 11, he wrote that “for the last 3 years I have fully supported this president,” but “recently he has said things that divide the country in a way that is unacceptable” — as if Trump hasn’t been saying divisive things since he began his campaign by trashing Mexican immigrants.

In fact, “The Mooch” himself was a Trump critic before he became a sycophant. During a Fox Business appearance in 2016, Scaramucci described Trump as a “hack politician,” and in the months that followed, he called Trump’s rhetoric “crazy” and criticized his proposed Muslim ban. Scaramucci even posted tweets praising Hillary Clinton, only to delete them when he went to work for Trump.

In his Washington Post op-ed, Scaramucci explains that he hoped Trump “could bring a pragmatic, entrepreneurial approach to the Oval Office” but gradually became disillusioned as Trump defended white supremacists, separated migrant families, and attacked the media. He characterized Trump’s attacks on the Democratic congresswomen of color as “the final straw.”

On Tuesday, Scaramucci went even further and said during an MSNBC interview that he’s working with “a very group of Republicans” — including “ex-cabinet officials, military people,” and others — in hopes of mounting a Republican primary challenge to Trump.

Trump can’t help but attack “The Mooch.” But in doing so he’s amplifying Scaramucci’s criticisms.

If we know anything about Trump at this point, it’s that he can’t help but lash out at his critics, and he values personal loyalty above all. But in attacking Scaramucci, Trump is amplifying his former director’s message.

Scaramucci concluded his Washington Post op-ed by urging other Republicans who have tired of Trump to follow his lead, and with hopes that Democrats will accept such turns in good faith.

I challenge my fellow Republicans to summon the nerve to speak out on the record against Trump. Defy the culture of fear he has created, and go public with the concerns you readily express in private. Hold on to your patriotism, and help save the country from his depredations. And to members of the so-called resistance, please leave room on the off-ramp for those willing to admit their mistakes.

My personal odyssey took longer than it should have, but I’m not concerned with being on the right side of history — I’m determined to ensure that good people are the ones who end up writing it.

Since that op-ed was published, Trump has posted four tweets attacking Scaramucci, including two that go after him in extremely personal terms.

Will Trump’s tweets succeed in discrediting Scaramucci? Maybe, but even then he will still be left to explain why he hired him in a top administration position in the first place. But by drawing attention to a man who has suddenly transformed from a staunch loyalist to an outspoken critic, Trump’s attacks may also motivate disaffected Republicans to look into what Scaramucci is saying — and that’s dangerous terrain for a notoriously divisive president who will have a hard time winning reelection if he can’t keep Republicans united behind him.

The news moves fast. To stay updated, follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter, and read more of Vox’s policy and politics coverage.

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