Return to Transcripts main page


White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer Resigns; Anthony Scaramucci Appointed White House Communications Director; WH Press Secretary Sean Spicer Resigns; Scaramucci: President Has "Good Karma"; Sean Spicer: The Good, The Bad And Melissa MacCarthy. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired July 21, 2017 - 16:30   ET


[16:30:02] MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: -- of his standing. And also, as you remember, when Mike Dubke was the Communications Director -- he was the President first Communications Director -- the setup was basically that Dubke reporting to Spicer. That's not usually how this works, that the Press Secretary is above the comms director.

Spicer had very much hoped to duplicate that in the replacement. There was no chance that that was going to happen this way. And I think that for Spicer it, you know, it's just became enough. Spicer is also remaining on for a month, which drags this out quite a bit.

JAKE TAPPER, THE POLITICS LEAD HOST: Maggie Haberman, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.

So just who is the new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci? Stick around, we'll tell you.


TAPPER: We're back with more on the stunning White House shake up in our Politics Lead. So what do we know actually about Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House Communications Director? What we know he's Wall Street financier who has never held a formal political communications job.

[16:35:06] He has been a prominent TV surrogate for the President in recent months. But they didn't always see eye to eye.

CNN's Tom Foreman, joins me now. Tom, back in August 2015, Scaramucci predicted that Trump's campaign would end by thanksgiving of that year, obviously, not quite.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. That was quite a leap out there, right? The man who is replacing Sean Spicer over here has quite a reputation and a resume. Anthony Scaramucci is 53 years old, a New Yorker. He's known by the nickname, the Mooch. He has big a league education with lead him to Wall Street where he work for Goldman Sachs and he founded the global investment company called, SkyBridge.

A Republican, he raised money for Mitt Romney in 2012. And in 2016, he backed Scott Walker and then Jeb Bush before coming over to the Trump camp. And it might not seem a perfect fit.

Back in August of 2015, as we've been showing you, Scaramucci was on TV and he called Donald Trump anti-American and a hack politician similar of other things well. Scaramucci directly apologized for that today. But he's also taking stances which might alarm some conservatives and appear they encountered (ph) to some of President Trump's positions.

In 2012, Scaramucci tweeted, "The USA has 5%t of the world's population, but 50% of the world's guns, enough is enough. It is just common sense to apply more -- it is just common sense apply more controls," is what he said there. And he also said that many people still believe in climate change. That's a hoax. He called that disheartening. And trying to fight globalization is counterproductive. All of these would seem to be off message for what President Trump has said.

But more recently, he has been staunch defender of President Trump in the media. And back in January, he even called members of Congress, jackasses. Jake?

TAPPER: So I think he and the President would agree on that. Scaramucci has no formal experience, obviously, in political communications, as we said. But my understanding is his personal communication skills and his report with the President appeared to be playing a big role here. What do you know about that?

FOREMAN: Yes, it's classic D.C. (ph) thing. It's not what you know, it's who you know. He has waged himself into a very favorable position with the innermost circle of with team Trump. He's well liked by Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner. He is also apparently close to Donald Trump Jr.

He doesn't seem to be nearly as tight with Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus over here, but he said a lot of nice things about them today, and as long as he's tight with this guy in the big chair, the rest of that may not matter much. Jake?

TAPPER: All right. Tom Foreman, thank you so much.

We have lost to discuss with my panel. We have with us, Mary Katharine Ham, was a senior writer at The Federalist, Robby Mook, former Clinton campaign manager, Josh Green, who was out with a new book titled "Devil's Bargain, Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the Storming of the Presidency."

First of all, Josh, you went to college with Sean Spicer?

JOSHUA GREEN, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK: I think he was a year ahead of me in college. I used to hang out with Spicer at keg parties.

TAPPER: Is that true? Are you surprised that after all he has dealt with and all the indignities, it was actual the idea of reporting to Anthony Scaramucci was the -- that was the bridge too far for him? GREEN: You know, I am a little surprised, but on the other hands, we went to a northeastern liberal arts college. Spicer was a Republican. There weren't many of those. I mean, he's used to being the guy in an uncomfortable situation. I guess Scaramucci was just a bridge too far.

TAPPER: Mary Katharine, what about you? I mean, I was surprised by this news, I have say.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: Yes. A bit surprised although there have been these rumors that perhaps, he was on his way out. And if I can be charitable to Spicer, I would -- there's the chance that he thought there was a chance for the RNC faction here to be rising at some point. It's seems pretty clear that was not happening.

And Scaramucci is a step in the New-Yorkization of this entire operation. And he was not fitting in there, quite obviously. And I don't -- I think that was some of the reason for some of the overreach, shall we say, in the press conferences where he was trying to prove himself to the President. Where Scaramucci today was very clearly comfortable because he's already in that club.

TAPPER: Yes. Andre Bauer, former Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina and a Trump supporter is also with us. Andre, Scaramucci, he had a good debut at the podium today. It seems people thought he was affable, people thought he was smooth. Do you think he is the right good choice to formulate White House strategy, though?

ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't know enough about in yet, Jake. I mean, I think you see the difference between him and Spicer, so almost like, Feisty Chihuahua, or an Afghan hound has been in the west minister dog show. They're totally different approaches to how they talk to the media.

TAPPER: Which one is which?

BAUER: I always thought that Spicer had a lot of --

TAPPER: You don't have to answer. You don't have to answer that.

BAUER: I thought Spicer had a lot of backbone when he dealt --

TAPPER: Go ahead.

BAUER: I didn't hear what you say.

TAPPER: I just said, which one is which, but never mind. Go ahead, I'm sorry.

BAUER: Well, I thought Spicer had a lot of backbone with the media, but it always didn't come off the best for the average American voter, I thought. This -- and Scaramucci I thought he was very smooth. He wasn't frictional. He tried to work with them. He did in any way, get confrontation. And I thought he was very good how he handled every question up. [16:40:09] You know, this is the first time at bat so there would be many more challenges ahead of him. But I think the Trump White House has ever evolving. I think Trump was looking for a different way to get to the American public.

I think he is a little disappointed that he's had so many accomplishments but his message isn't getting out there as well as he'd like because of some of the other issues that have been out there. So I think an individual who has a different background, Scaramucci, is a little bit -- I know about him -- seems like he will be a good fit to seal the message.

TAPPER: Robby Mook, what is your best advice to Scaramucci? As an American -- don't be a Democrat for one second. As an American who wants the White House to succeed --


TAPPER: -- and wants any American President to succeed, what's your best advice for Scaramucci?

MOOK: Well, first of all, one of the things that's interesting to me here is he seems to be selected because he was a good spokesperson. But being a good Communications Director is not being a spokesperson. That's what the Press Secretary supposed to do.

So, I think number one, he needs to not look at himself as somebody who's performing for the camera, but somebody who is mobilizing a real communications effort in getting this White House back on message. And part of that that's going to be key here is telling the President no. And what was scary to me today is that he himself said he was in the White House talking with the President about how he needs to be himself more, they need to let his authentic true self shine. That's really scary because the problem right now is the President true authentic self coming too much.

HAM: Well, and there's another problem which is that I think this position in order to maintain sway with the President, you have to be front-facing. I think we have seen that, right?

MOOK: Great point.

HAM: So the question is what Scaramucci will do both? Whether he will front-facing and whether he does have -- I mean, he's an entrepreneur, whether he has the managerial gumption to take this on and create the whole operation (ph).

GREEN: You know, my day job is Bloomberg news and financial journalism, Scaramucci is a very famous in my world is a fund to funds manager not because he has any talent in picking stocks, but because he is a salesman. I mean, he runs his famous hedge fund.

HAM: Or anything with pattern.

GREEN: I do but he is very good at glad handing and being positive, exactly what we saw from the podium today. We know about Trump and how to keep Trump happy, if he wants to turn on the TV and see that kind of smoothness, that positivity regardless of what's going on behind the scene at the White House.

TAPPER: But Andre I have to say that what President Trump needs in terms of the Communications Director, if I might prescribe something, is he needs somebody to come up with an actual strategy, to get him out among voters, to convince voters not just supporters but to convince people in swing districts, convince independence that his health care plan is actually good, it's going to help them, it's going to bring down premiums, et cetera. That stuff he is not doing, I don't know if Anthony Scaramucci is going to advise him to do those sorts things, but having smooth people on television talking him up really isn't going to convince members of Congress to pass his legislation.

BAUER: No, but he's a business guy and he's had to make sales pitches before and he needs to get the message out. The job numbers, unemployment.

You know, the things that are so good for this administration that really the average voter doesn't know about and why the economy has gotten so much better, that message is being lost and hopefully someone is been on Wall Street and really had to make sales pitches. Most of his life is going to get out there and say, look these are our priorities, these are things that really people can relate to and he gets that message. And I think he'll be effective in that, but time will tell us.

TAPPER: All right, everybody stick around. We're going to take a quick break and we'll be right back.


[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We're back with our "POLITICS LEAD." The White House shake up. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stepped down from his post just six months and one day into the job. Let's jump back with the panel. Andre Bauer, let me start with you. We're six months into the administration, we lost the Trump administration has lost the National Security Adviser. The former Communications Director were - he's about to lose, the Press Secretary. I can't imagine this is quite where the White House hoped they would be at this point. How can, though, administration shift the message from this crisis mode and get to health care reform, tax reform, infrastructure?

ANDRE BAUER (R) FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA LIEUTENANT GENERAL: Well, I don't call it crisis mode, I call it evolving mode. When I took over as Lieutenant Governor, I continued to change out folks until I found one - found one that really worked with the administration I wanted. Trump wants fierce communicators. He wants people to get the message out that he feels is most important. So I think you're going to continue to see some more change. My hats off to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, I'm really happy for her. I think she's a great fit. I think you'll continue to see folks that really find a way to work with the President to get his message out there. Right now the - his best message is not getting out there like it needs to be. TAPPER: One thing about Sarah Huckabee Sanders, we should point out, she is the first White House Press Secretary since the George W. Bush administration, since Dana Perino. President Obama did not have any female Press Secretaries, so congratulations to her. One thing that was very interesting about Scaramucci's appearance today, there were more propitiations of love than you hear on the average Yacht Rock Channel within an hour. He was very effusive in his phrase. Take a listen.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCIM, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: The President has really good karma, OK. And the world turns back to him. He's a genuinely a wonderful human being, and I think as members of Congress get to know him better and get comfortable with him, they're going to let him lead them to the right things for the American people.


TAPPER: OK, first off, karma takes place in the next life. But without getting into that, is this going to work?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, THE FEDERALIST SENIOR WRITER: This is part of the gig when - I think - when you working for President Trump is that you have to do some of that. I think also when you saw you had that disagreement with him and called him names back on Fox Business in the past, there's also part of Donald Trump that you don't get respect unless you push back sometimes. And they had that fight back then and he's apologizing for it. But look, I think Trump needs to decide whether he wants an operation for communications or personalities for communication. And I do think an operation would actually help what they're trying to do, and Scaramucci is somebody who tells the tale. Just a couple of months ago to a big Wall Street gathering that he organized many years ago, this conference they do every year, his speech was about, hey, look, my dad was a construction worker, I lived a middle-class life and I went out to the rest of the country with Trump and I heard from this folks that connected me back with my childhood. He walks this blue collar billionaire line that Trump wants to walk and has walked - and did walked during the campaign. Fairly well, I think he understands may be communicating with those folks. If he attempted to put an operation that did that -

[16:50:31] TAPPER: So here's the question. And again, you're the Steve Bannon expert, you've written this fantastic book about Steve Bannon. Steve Bannon was reportedly opposed to Scaramucci, despite the blue collar background, both of them, people who came from roughish background and then went into the worlds of Wall Street and the rest. Why?

JOSHUA GREEN, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That (INAUDIBLE) I think for the reasons that Mary Katharine, Robby have both said, he understands that there needs to be some sort of an organized communications effort. I imagine if he worked in the White House these first six months as he has tried really hard to push the policies and seen them kind of flop the way that most of Trump's legislative agenda has so far. You understand the need to have to communicate with Washington reporters in a way that is less hostile than Sean Spicer did.

TAPPER: And one of the issues Robby, of course, is what he has to communicate, and one of the things he's going to have to - he was kind of given a pass today, but one of the things left to defend is President Trump stories about him in the papers, finding - trying to find out, can I pardon myself? What is my - you know, stories that his teams are looking for dirt on investigators who are working for Bob Mueller.

ROOBY MOOK, FORMER HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Right, that's what is scary about this. I think this is a yes person for the President, and I think that he's going to be part of the team that's going to encourage him to just do what he wants to do. Pardon himself, go after the investigator. And the question to my mind is, at what point does the rest of the Republican Caucus in Congress start to break with the President on that? So I actually think this could be the President putting his foot on the accelerator as this car is headed towards a cliff and that's scary.

TAPPER: We will see. Mary Katharine, Robby, Josh, Andre, thanks one and all for being here. Appreciate it. Sean Spicer started his White House career with a very questionable claim. He then went on to become a Saturday Night Live laughing stock, and now, he's dropping the mic. We'll take a look at some of Spicer's unforgettable, perhaps unforgivable moments behind the podium.


[16:55:00] TAPPER: Welcome back. There's no question that outgoing White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer have a tough job. For nearly 200 days, he had to face a room full of reporters, sometimes having to publicly defend President Trump's lies. And please, really just an audience of one and certainly didn't help please many of us who are fans of the truth. And then, of course, there's the fact that most Americans probably knew his SNL version better played by Melissa McCarthy. Here's a look back at Sean Spicer's last six months and how he got to today.


TAPPER: It didn't take long for White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer to tell the first official lie from the White House podium.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE FORMER PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration period, both in person and around the globe.

TAPPER: Just minutes into his initial press conference, Spicer put his long-earned reputation as a Republican National Committee official up against a simple image search, all just to please the President. Over the next several months, the White House spokesman often got more headlines than the policy he was paid to promote.

MELISSA MCCARTHY, AMERICAN ACTRESS: First of all, I would just like to announce that I'm calm now.

TAPPER: A recurring SNL spoof among the harshest public relations blows. President Trump himself often undermined any official messaging plan.

SPICER: It can't be a ban if you're letting a million people in.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban.

TAPPER: When discussing Syria one time, Spicer seemed to forget about the Nazi gas chambers.

SPICER: Someone as despicable as Hitler, who didn't even sink to using chemical weapons.

TAPPER: He later apologizes for the mistake. And when news broke that FBI Director James Comey had been fired by the President, Spicer stood among the White House shrubbery before answering questions in darkness. Spicer never seemed to gain the full trust of the press or more importantly, the President. And Trump wasn't shy about excluding him. Spicer, a devout Catholic was noticeably absent from President Trump's visit to the Vatican in May. An administration official told CNN, he fumed to colleagues for being snubbed. As the Russia investigation has heated up and the President's rhetorical attacks on top Justice Department and Law Enforcement officials have gotten more vicious, Spicer has kept out of sight. He's not spoken on camera at the White House podium since June 20th.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: This is part of my job as well. When I'm needed, I'll step in.

TAPPER: Often he was replaced by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, leaving many to questions the role of the Press Secretary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are reports that your role is changing here at the White House.

SPICER: Right here? No.

TAPPER: Sanders now takes his job. While Spicer has stayed the course through it all, it now seems the hiring of Anthony Scaramucci is what has finally proven to be too much.


TAPPER: Tune in this Sunday morning for "STATE OF THE UNION." My guests will be Senator Rand Paul and Senator Al Franken. It all starts at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern on Sunday. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jaketapper or tweet the show @theleadcnn. That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper. I'll see you again tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on "OUT FRONT." I now turn you over to Brianna Keilar who is sitting in for Wolf Blitzer right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, AND ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, Spicer out. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigns after just six months on the job. This move coming as President Trump appoints a new Communications Director who once called him a hack politician.

Pardon me. The Trump legal team is reportedly looking at ways to push back against the investigation by --