The day after the election, I was in Trump Tower,” said Anthony Scaramucci. “I was in Trump’s office. We were celebrating, congratulating him on his victory. He says, ‘You’ve got to come help me. You’ve got to drop that stupid business of yours. I can give you a’—you know how he talks—‘I can give you an agency that’s 40 times the size of your business. Drop that stupid business of yours and come work for me.’ I said, ‘O.K. I’m happy to help.’”
Scaramucci, the Wall Street hedge-fund impresario and #Donald Trump’s perfect foil, is irrepressible. Some six months after his historically short-lived tenure as the White House communications director, he has embarked on something of a rehabilitation tour. He has been defending Trump in Davos, on CNN, and in The Wall Street Journal when few others have, or would. The obvious subtext is that, in these difficult days, the president needs a friend—and the Mooch, as he is known, is the most loyal friend there is. Could Anthony Scaramucci actually talk his way back into the West Wing? In Trumpworld, stranger things have happened.
In a series of three epic interviews, Scaramucci, whom I’ve known for nearly a decade, told me his origin story, beginning as an Italian kid in Port Washington, on Long Island—his father spent 42 years digging up the sand that was used to build Manhattan skyscrapers. It was when his father cashed a $10,000 insurance policy to help put him through Tufts, where he played football, that Scaramucci had “my epiphany,” he told me. “I’m not gonna be this gold-chain-adorned guy driving around as a Long Island guido.”
Then, when he went to Harvard Law, his mother thought he was going to Hartford, Connecticut. “She’s got the map out,” he said. “I said, ‘No, ma, we’re going to Harvard.’” Then it was on to Goldman Sachs and, from there, the cutthroat world of hedge funds. That’s when his real education began, but it still didn‘t prepare him for what was to come. “I want you to imagine the worst person that you’ve met on Wall Street, the most ruthless and the most diabolical,” he told me. “That’s the best person in Washington. That’s the Eagle Scout of Washington.”
The West Wing was supposed to be the capstone to the Mooch’s unlikely rise. On January 12, 2017, Rick Dearborn, the executive director of the transition team, wrote that the Office of the President-Elect had offered him the job of assistant to the president and director of the Office of Public Liaison in the White House. It was pretty much the same job that Valerie Jarrett had in the Obama White House. It was a big deal, and he accepted the offer quickly. “I’m given the job of O.P.L. director, which is actually a perfect job for me,” he said. “I’m gonna be his public liaison of the corporations.”
To go into the White House, and in order to be free of any potential conflicts, he had to agree to sell his majority stake in SkyBridge Capital, his New York City-based hedge fund-of-funds. He hired Greg Fleming, a longtime financial institutions banker at Merrill Lynch and then a senior executive at both Merrill and Morgan Stanley, to run the auction process. Scaramucci eventually selected a consortium led by HNA Group Co. Ltd., a big Chinese conglomerate, and RON Transatlantic, as the buyers. There was another potential buyer that was offering a higher price, but that buyer also said it needed financing and intended to fire more than half of the SkyBridge employees. “I have 70 people on staff,” he said. “They were gonna let go 45 of them. So I’m like, ‘O.K. I’m not doing that to these people. I built this company with these people. I’m not blowing out 45.’
“So I said, ‘O.K., I’ll take the second-highest bid. This looks like they’re an unbelievable company.’ I meet all the people. I like them. They’re a global Fortune 500 company. Then we make the announcement on the deal, and then the hits start.
“Rancid Penis”—the Mooch’s name for Reince Priebus, then Trump’s chief of staff—“you know, he just cannot believe this. He’s just very jealous, can’t believe I’m this close to Trump. Priebus had the society broken up into ‘Always Trumpers’ and ‘Never Trumpers,’ and he was trying to flood the White House staff, as the chief of staff, with ‘Never Trumpers,’ and trying to figure out ways to blockade, slow down, and keep out, particularly of the White House, the ‘Trumper-Trumpers.’
“So, when the president turned to me and said he wanted to give me the O.P.L. job, I got a call from Reince: ‘Don’t take the O.P.L. job. You can be the finance director for the R.N.C. Stay at your company.’ Blah, blah, blah. I said, ‘No, no, no. I’m gonna take the O.P.L. job. I want to work with the president.’ How many times in my life am I gonna be able to work in the White House and work for the president of the United States? And Reince’s answer was, ‘Actually, I’m gonna do everything I can [to help you].’ He did say this because he’s a Washingtonian. That’s what they do to you, they say, ‘golly gee’ to your face and they act like Richie Cunningham to your face. They’re Richie Cunningham and they’re Opie from The Andy Griffith Show, but they’re the fucking Sith Lord behind your back. They’re hitting you with a lightsaber behind your back.” In fact, according to Scaramucci, Priebus disinvited Scaramucci’s parents from the January 22 swearing-in ceremony for the new White House staff.
Scaramucci believes that his decision to sell his stake in SkyBridge to HNA and RON gave Priebus an opening to try to get rid of him, or at least keep him from getting a job so close to Trump. “If I had sold to Blackstone, there would have been no opening there,” he continued. “Now he’s got his opening: ‘China, China, China.’ He goes to Trump. He says, ‘Oh my God. They’re selling to China. He probably got a high price from them. They think they’re gonna curry favor with you.’ He convinces Trump that I have a legal problem. I don’t.”
The Mooch continued: “He gets this whole nefarious research packet over to The New York Times. They love this stuff. Boom: HNA is this mysterious, nefarious company. Then he goes to [Steve] Bannon [then Trump’s chief strategist] and he says, ‘I’m gonna get you on the National Security Council if that’s where you want to go, but you’ve got to join forces with me and take out Scaramucci.’” (A source close to Bannon said it was “laughable” to think that he agreed to join forces with Priebus against Scaramucci to get on the N.S.C.) Scaramucci continued, “I helped Bannon through the three months that he was on the campaign, and we had a good relationship. But Bannon turns on me, because Bannon is ultimately railing against the swamp, but he’s actually a cock of the swamp. He’s the creature from the Black Lagoon, Bannon. He acts more swamp-like than any person that’s ever become a Washingtonian. So for all of his railing on the swamp, he is literally the pig in George Orwell’s Animal Farm that stands on his two legs the minute he gets power. He is the creature from the Black Lagoon.
“Now I realize that he’s turned on me and I go to see him,” he continued. “I said, ‘You’re out of your mind. Why have you turned on me?’ The O.P.L. [job] got put on ice because of ‘China, China, China and Reince, Reince, Reince.’ I pushed Priebus. I say, ‘Hey, we’re gonna be in trouble here now because you’re lying to the president about me.’ He says, ‘O.K. Don’t go to the press on that. I’m gonna give you one of these ambassadorships. You’ll be the ambassador to the O.E.C.D.’”
According to Scaramucci, Priebus kept that promise; he and Bannon recommended Scaramucci to be the United States ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in Paris. The position came with a 17-room apartment in Paris. He was going to move there with his family. But the position, like any ambassadorship, required Senate approval, which would take a few months. In the meantime, according to Scaramucci, Priebus found the Mooch a desk job at the Export-Import Bank, in Washington. (The source close to Bannon said, “Bannon was the leading advocate for Anthony’s appointment to O.E.C.D. to get Senate confirmation, and later the possible opportunity to become a deputy Cabinet secretary or Cabinet secretary.”)