Anthony Scaramucci has been on the job for less than 72 hours, and on Sunday he made his first appearance on the news talk shows as White House communications director. It did not go well.
On CNN’s State of the Union, host Jake Tapper pressed Scaramucci about Donald Trump’s continued insistence that the ever-growing Russia scandal was “fake news.” After questioning whether Trump was planning to sign a bipartisan bill imposing fresh sanctions against Russia for meddling in the November presidential election, Scaramucci instead sought to again cast doubt on the legitimacy of the U.S. intelligence community, and initially used an anonymous source to do it.
“There’s a lot of disinformation out there,” said Scaramucci. “Somebody said to me yesterday—I won’t tell you who—that if the Russians actually hacked this situation and spilled out those emails, you would have never seen it, you would have never had any evidence of them.”
An incredulous Tapper cut him off, pointing out that this anonymous source was breaking from every single intelligence agency in asserting that Russia’s involvement was in dispute. That’s all it took for Scaramucci to throw his boss under the bus.
“How ‘bout it was the president, Jake,” said Scaramucci of his anonymous source. “I talked to him yesterday, he called me from Air Force One, and he basically said to me ‘hey you know, maybe they did it, maybe they didn’t do it.’”
Forgetting for a minute the irony of Donald Trump serving as an anonymous source for his own administration after months of chastising the media for citing anonymous sources, Scaramucci’s admission reopens the question of just how delicate Donald Trump’s ego is. Reporters have long speculated whether Trump himself was responsible for some of the leaks emanating first from his campaign, and then from his White House.
It certainly wouldn’t be the first time Trump has impersonated someone else to defend himself. Last year, the Washington Post got hold of a recording from a 1991 phone conversation between a reporter from People magazine and “John Miller” who introduced himself as Trump’s publicist. The voice in the recording is eerily familiar, and when questioned directly in a phone interview about whether he had invented the John Miller persona himself, Trump abruptly hung up.
Trump’s impersonations were well known amongst New York City’s media and business professionals for decades before he stepped foot in the White House. As far back as 1980, Trump was assuming the role of “John Barron” when speaking with the media or threatening subordinates. His use of the name was revealed as part of a lawsuit brought against Trump for his use of undocumented Polish workers in the construction of Trump Tower in New York City (A “John Barron” reportedly threatened to sue the undocumented workers who were trying to recoup lost wages they believed they were entitled to).
Scaramucci’s reveal that Trump poses as an anonymous source to defend himself further calls into question the dozens of times Trump has cited unnamed “people” to justify his actions as president or suggest he is more popular than he is, or subtly criticize his own staff for their inaction, or not so subtly criticize the media.