Spicer exits as Trump shakes up his beleaguered press team

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer walks down the steps of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building towards the White House. Spicer abruptly resigned his position, ending a rocky six-month tenure that made his news briefings defending President Donald Trump must-see TV. He said Trump's White House "could benefit from a clean slate." Washington, July 21, 2017 | AP Photo/Alex Brandon, St. George News

WASHINGTON (AP) — White House press secretary Sean Spicer abruptly resigned Friday over President Donald Trump’s decision to tap a camera-ready financier to lead the beleaguered White House communications team. The departing spokesman said the president “could benefit from a clean slate” as he seeks to steady operations amid the Russia investigations and ahead of a health care showdown.

FILE – White House press secretary Sean Spicer speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has resigned over hiring of new communications aide, Washington, D.C., May 9, 2017 | AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File, St. George News

Spicer, whose daily briefings once dominated cable television and delighted late-night comics, quit in protest over the hiring of Anthony Scaramucci as the new White House communications director. Spicer denounced what he considered Scaramucci’s lack of qualifications, according to people familiar with the situation.

As his first act on the job, Scaramucci, a polished television commentator and Harvard Law graduate, announced from the White House briefing room that Sarah Huckabee Sanders would take Spicer’s job. She had been Spicer’s deputy.

The shake-up among the president spokespeople comes as Trump is suffering from dismal approval ratings and struggling to advance his legislative proposals. As his effort to replace Barack Obama’s health care law crumbled this week, the president continued to vent frustration about the attention devoted to investigations of allegations of his election campaign’s connections to Russia. Trump has blamed his own messengers — as well as the “fake news” media — for his woes.

Trump, who watches the press briefings closely and believes he is his own best spokesman, saluted Spicer’s “great ratings” on TV and said he was “grateful for Sean’s work on behalf of my administration and the American people.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, left, who has been named White House press secretary, watches as incoming White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, right, blowing a kiss after answering questions during the press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing room of the White House in Washington, D.C., July 21, 2017 | AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, St. George News

Scaramucci, who said Spicer had been gracious in showing him around on Friday, quickly took center stage, parrying questions from reporters and praising Trump in a 37-minute charm offensive. He flashed the television skills that Trump has long valued: He commended Trump’s political instincts and competitiveness, cracked a few self-deprecating jokes and battled with reporters who categorized the West Wing as dysfunctional, saying “there is a disconnect” between the media and the way the public sees the president.

“The president has really good karma and the world turns back to him,” Scaramucci said.

Spicer said during a brief phone conversation with The Associated Press that he felt it would be best for Scaramucci to build his own operation “and chart a new way forward.” He tweeted that it had been an “honor” and “privilege” to serve Trump and that he would remain in his post through August.

His decision to quit took advisers inside and outside the White House by surprise, according to people with knowledge of the decision. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the personnel matter publicly.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Spicer’s daily press briefings had become must-see TV until recent weeks when he took a more behind-the-scenes role. Sanders has largely taken over the briefings, turning them into off-camera events.

New White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci speaks to members of the media in the Brady Press Briefing room of the White House in Washington, D.C., July 21, 2017 | AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais. St. George News

The White House had been looking for a new communications director for several weeks, but struggled to attract an experienced Republican hand. Scaramucci, a former Democrat — like Trump — who once called his new boss a “hack politician,” began seriously talking to the White House about the position this week, and the president offered him the job Friday morning.

A person with knowledge of the decision said Trump has been impressed by Scaramucci’s defense of the White House on television and by his handling of a recent incident with CNN. The cable channel retracted a story about Scaramucci and fired three journalists.

A shift in briefing-room tone and style was immediate. Scaramucci’s delivery was smooth and polished. Spicer, who displayed a sometimes-fiery and occasionally flustered demeanor in on-camera exchanges with reporters, became widely known, particularly through an impersonation by Melissa McCarthy on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” McCarthy’s signature move was to plow down reporters with the podium when exasperated by questioning.

Spicer had long sought the strategic communications job for himself and had been managing that role along with his press secretary duties for nearly two months.

He had spent several years leading communications at the Republican National Committee before helping Trump’s campaign in the general election. He is close to White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, the former RNC chair.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, right, who has been named White House press secretary listens to incoming White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, center, answer questions during the press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing room of the White House in Washington, D.C., July 21, 2017 | AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, St. George News

Priebus told The Associated Press he supports Scaramucci “100 percent,” despite reportedly trying to prevent the financier from getting multiple administration positions. Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, and her husband, powerful senior aide Jared Kushner, had known Scaramucci for years from New York and pushed for his hire.

Scaramucci, a frequent visitor to Trump Tower during the transition, is expected to play a visible role as one of Trump’s defenders on television. But Spicer and other officials questioned his hiring as communications director ahead of the president’s push to overhaul the tax system and other policy issues.

As a Wall Street titan-turned-TV talking head, Scaramucci has no government experience and no experience crafting communication strategy around policy. The White House said he will officially take over the role on Aug. 15.

It’s unclear whether the new leadership will lead to a more open White House.

Scaramucci did not commit to putting briefings back on camera full-time. He also offered a level of support for some of Trump’s more outlandish statements, including his unsupported claim that millions of illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election.

“If the president says it … there’s probably some level of truth to that,” he said.

He also made clear that he would continue Trump’s efforts to push back against media reports he doesn’t like — and would do a better job of selling his victories.

File – President Donald Trump speaks about the U.S. role in the Paris climate change accord, Thursday, June 1, 2017, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., June 1, 2017 | AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, St. George News

“The president is a winner. And we’re going to do a lot of winning,” said Scaramucci, who blew a kiss to the press corps before departing.

Scaramucci notably said he reports directly to the president, not to the chief of staff — a highly unusual arrangement for a communications director and a possible reflection that Priebus’ standing with Trump is often uncertain.

Back in January, Spicer’s tenure got off to a rocky start. On Trump’s first full day in office, he lambasted journalists over coverage of the crowd size at the inauguration and stormed out of the briefing room without answering questions.

Spicer remained loyal to Trump but frequently battled perceptions that he was not plugged in to what the president was thinking.

The resignation comes a day after Mark Corallo, the spokesman for the president’s outside legal team, left his post. And in a separate move, former White House aide Katie Walsh is returning to the RNC, spokesman Ryan Mahoney said. Walsh will serve as an adviser on data and digital issues, and the appointment is unrelated to the White House personnel changes, he said.

Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire, Julie Pace, Darlene Superville, Vivian Salama in Washington and David Bauder in New York contributed to this report.

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Twitter: @STGnews

AP content: Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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5 Comments

  • NoNonsense July 22, 2017 at 12:34 am

    I will miss the funny skits from SNL about Commander Sean Spencer. However, as a seasoned navy man, I am sure he knows a sinking ship when he is on it, and I wish him the best finding safer waters in his carrier.

  • Caveat_Emptor July 22, 2017 at 8:49 am

    His credibility was shot a long time ago, not unlike KAC.
    He clearly cared more about his paycheck than his integrity, and was certainly not ready for prime-time, in front of a very alert media army.
    Melissa Mc Carthy has immortalized his stupidity in SNL reruns.
    The WH Press Corp is filled with very intelligent people, who exhibit exceptional critical thinking skills. It seems that this administration is grossly unprepared.

  • dogmatic July 22, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    I hope Nononsense does not jump overboard because he gets his news from SNL, MSNBC, The View and nut jobs like Maxeen Waters, Nancy Pelosi all screaming fire when there is no fire.
    Folks still believe the poles that predicted a Hillary win that are now tooting a low Trump approval. Very stupid liberals.

  • jaybird July 22, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    To all trolling Trumpers: this is how your Russian leader does things, expects but gives no loyalty. Sean Spicer will be happier without having to Trumpet lies to the public. Sarah Suckabee Sanders doesn’t read, so has no clue what the truth is and will follow this guy to the Kremlin’s prisons. Mooch is best for this New York wise guy wannabee.

  • Kilroywashere July 22, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    Wow, how fake news is seeping into our posts. Lol. Ocams razor. Spicer simply took the flak. He did his job. He was the canary in the coal mine. The perfect strategy is to switch it up at this point. I disagree with those who say he was sub par. And I agree with the poster in regards to getting your info from SNL skits or CNN for that matter. Might as well buy a Ouiji board and channel spirits as well. Wait there’s Nickelodeon, I forgot that source too. The fact is that it was a great move. Spicer goes out with honor leaving the ship in good hands. And it surely is not sinking – “the sky is falling, the sky is falling” said the little chicken little. It’s not that complicated, but Rachel Maddow will be analyzing it in-depth all next week. Maybe Spicer is a Russian mole by next Wednesday. Don’t click that channel or change that dial. STAY TUNED.

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