Anthony Scaramucci, President Donald Trump’s short-lived former communications director, on Sunday criticized the president’s response to the weekend white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and blamed strategist Steve Bannon’s “nonsensical” influence for it.
Trump’s response to the rally, during which a car attack on a crowd of counterprotesters left one person dead and more than a dozen others injured, has been widely panned because he failed to call out the white supremacists and instead condemned violence and hate “on many sides.” Some of the white supremacists who gathered in Charlottesville proclaimed their support for the president.
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The White House issued a clarification following the uproar Sunday saying the president’s condemnation “of course … includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazis and all extremist groups.”
Scaramucci, who was fired after 11 days, told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in his first interview since leaving the White House that he “wouldn’t have recommended” the initial statement.
“I think he needed to be much harsher as it related to the white supremacists and the nature of that,” Scaramucci said on the Sunday morning program “This Week.” Referring to Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, he said: “I applaud Gen. McMaster for calling it out for what it is. It’s actually terrorism. Whether it’s domestic or international terrorism, with the moral authority of the presidency, you have to call that stuff out.”
Scaramucci attributed the president’s failure to do so to the fact that he “likes doing the opposite of what the media thinks he’s going to do” and his “impression that there is hatred on all sides.” But he said the advisers around Trump need “to be blunt with him,” and “I certainly would have never suggested him doing that.”
Scaramucci said some advisers “are probably reluctant to tell him the truth.” He then accused Bannon, the former chairman of the right-wing nationalist website Breitbart News, of being a bad influence on the president and advised Trump to distance himself from him.
“You also got this sort of ‘Bannon-bart’ influence in there, which I think is a snag on the president,” Scaramucci said. “If the president really wants to execute that legislative agenda that I think is so promising for the American people, the lower-middle class people and the middle class people, then he has to move away from that sort of Bannon-bart nonsense.”
“The whole thing is nonsensical,” he continued. “It’s not serving the president’s interests. He’s got to move more into the mainstream, he’s got to be more into where the moderates are and the independents are, George, that love the president. And so if he does that, he’ll have a very successful legislative agenda that he’ll be able to execute. And if he doesn’t do that, you’re going to see inertia and you’re going to see this resistance from more of the establishment senators that he needs to curry favor with.”
Asked whether Bannon needs to go, Scaramucci offered vaguely, “I think the president knows what he’s going to do with Steve Bannon.”
Asked to clarify, he said to “leave it up to the president,” but he accused Bannon of being a leaker and said “at the end of the day, I think the president has a very good idea of who the leakers are inside the White House.”
“The president has a very good idea of the people that are undermining his agenda that are serving their own interests,” he said.
Scaramucci said he spoke with the president last week and had a “very candid conversation” about his departure, which came after he gave a profanity-laced interview to The New Yorker. (He claims he thought it was off-the-record, though he acknowledges he did not ask for it to be.)
“You know, listen, there is probably mutual disappointment on both sides,” Scaramucci said of him and Trump. “Again, I have to be accountable for what I did. And I am.”
“Obviously, I wish they would have given me a bar of soap and told me to go wash my mouth out in the bathroom and move on,” he added.
But, Scaramucci said, “It was going to be very hard for me to stay in the job given the fact” that John Kelly “took over” as chief of staff. “My feeling about the whole thing is that what happened was meant to happen.”