White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wouldn’t say Thursday whether President Trump has lost confidence in his chief of staff Reince Priebus amid an escalating and public feud with new communications director Anthony Scaramucci.
Sanders said Trump “enjoys healthy competition and conversation” among his staff but wouldn’t confirm if her boss was taking one side over the other.
She also said the president has brought together senior staffers who have a “lot of different perspectives.”
“This isn’t group-think,” she added.
Tensions have been running high in the White House as Trump’s two top advisers, one a New York financier and the other a longtime politico, have taken their behind-the-scenes bickering public.
Scaramucci, who started his gig last week, on Thursday compared his relationship with Priebus to biblical brothers Cain and Able. In that story, one brother killed the other.
That was after Scaramucci seemed to implicate Priebus as a suspected “leaker” inside the West Wing. The new communications boss vowed overnight to contact investigators over what he called a “felony” leak of his financial information, and made a cryptic reference to Priebus.
“In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the @TheJusticeDept #swamp @Reince45,” he tweeted, including Priebus’ handle.
The tweet followed a Politico report on the former Wall Street financier’s financial holdings. Scaramucci has since deleted the tweet and denied reports that the vow was a warning to Priebus.
“Wrong! Tweet was public notice to leakers that all Sr Adm officials are helping to end illegal leaks. @Reince45,” he later tweeted, next to one such allegedly misleading report.
Yet Scaramucci then called in to CNN and challenged Priebus to declare he’s “not a leaker.”
“The fish stinks from the head down,” he said.
As for his differences with Priebus, he said, “I don’t know if this is reparable or not — that will be up to the president.”
While Scaramucci initially described the financial document leak as illegal, the report in question detailed the contents of a publicly available form. Scaramucci has vowed a broad crackdown on leaks, suggesting he could contact his “buddies” at the FBI to investigate anyone he believes is damaging the White House.
Scaramucci has been on the job less than a week, having been hired by the president against the wishes of Priebus and other senior officials, including adviser Steve Bannon.
Former press secretary Sean Spicer, a close ally of Priebus, resigned last week. Scaramucci then forced out another communications aide close to Priebus.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.