In the summer of 2019, I was interviewing Anthony Scaramucci in his office on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, taking the first row to what would soon become his public fall-out with the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. The sitting president was at the top of his approval ratings, but Scaramucci was insistent that his former boss was not going to win re-election. “Everybody looked at me like I was on some kind of Kamikaze mission,” Scaramucci briefly recollected.
The Democrats were not sure yet. The media was hesitant. All the while, Scaramucci has been consistent for the past fifteen months with his stance against Donald J. Trump. “The Mooch” was first to send invitations to Donald Trump’s break-away party, before the Lincoln Project even realized its purpose. For the Harvard educated lawyer, The Who of Who’s Who on Wall Street, everything was crystal clear, even when on ‘Real Time with Bill Maher’ the high-brow neocon David Frum called out Mooch, predicting he might “name drop Harvard” in the midst of losing an argument.
Things quickly became personal when the President of the United States went after Scaramucci’s wife on Twitter. In American political circles, the President of the United States launching an attack on Twitter is just the ordre de jour, but, in reality, and for any citoyen ordinaire, it’s a big deal. “I’m not Ted Cruz,” Scramucci said, and the battleground lines between Trump and Scaramucci, the two New Yorkers were set in stone.
Flash forward to the week after the 2020 election, I am talking to Scaramucci in New York. The breaking news continues to surface haphazardly, lapsed by new stories perpetuating the flux, from the Biden-Harris transition to Pompeo’s statement about a “smooth transition into the second Trump administration,” to post-election exodus at the Department of Defense. Scaramucci seems to be particularly concerned with the developments at the Department of Defense and the firing of a Secretary, Mark Esper.
“I’m concerned by it because it is unnatural for a president in the interim period, between Election Day and January, to start making these sorts of personnel changes,” Scaramucci assessed. “It signals to me that Secretary Esper was pushing back on some things that Mr. Trump potentially wanted to do. I’m of the belief that Trump is on the take. I think that not necessarily it has been paid now. But I think he’s been going to be paid in the aftermath of whatever he’s doing. Because, if you look at what he’s doing, it’s not consistent with American foreign policy.”
Trump’s decision to fire Esper among other personnel, to Scaramucci, seems to be “ad hoc, related to him.” He added, “these people that he’s installed will try to do things that are against the interests of the United States, or military perspective, but perhaps in the interest of the autocrats that Mr. Trump has consistently praised while he was president. That has me worried.”
“Do you think you’re going to have a smooth transition?” I put the question in front of him.
“The time is running out on a smooth transition,” Scaramucci was blunt.
Legal battles brought forth by the Trump campaign are underway, while the Biden-Harris transition makes headway at the same time. “If Mr. Trump and his people are suggesting that they’re going to hijack that process and that the state legislatures take over that process, I think the Supreme Court has already ruled on that,” Scaramucci explained. “They said that that’s not something that fits the narrative inside the Constitution,” he shared, predicting, if the three people Trump appointed to the Supreme Court rule in his favor, “You’ll have an international nightmare on your hands. It’ll be an ineffective coup inside the United States.”
Scaramucci predicts that there will likely be 306 electoral votes for Joe Biden. “Trump lost the election, he lost in a state-by-state challenge,” he continued. “By Mr. Trump’s definition, he won by 306 electoral votes last time, he said that that was a landslide. Therefore, he’s been beaten by a landslide,” said Scaramucci.
“He’s lost the popular vote by five or six million people as well,” the former White House Communications Director pointed out. “If we don’t start having a quote-unquote, peaceful transition soon, the potential for that is going to be over. Scaramucci foresees trouble for Trump, sharing, “I think he’s got legal issues in the state of New York and in the city, a possible federal investigation. I think that this very un-American approach to the presidential transition is going to hurt him,” he added.
The Biden campaign had a broad coalition of not only Democrats but also of “Never Trumpers,” led by the Lincoln project. Does Scaramucci think that the Lincoln Project is going too far in their means to the end of Trump, in the context of the future of the Republican Party?
“I get where they’re coming from,” Scaramucci began. “They feel that the Republicans, particularly in the Senate, had been willing accomplices of Mr. Trump. I think that they also feel people like Perdue and Loeffler were briefed on the national security consequences of the pandemic. Their first reaction was not to protect the people in Georgia, but was to protect their portfolios,” Scaramucci did not spare the Senators from criticism.
“Do you support Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in their re-election?” I asked.
Scaramucci admitted the subject gave him pause. “When I hear Mike Pompeo say that he’s looking forward to a smooth transition into a second Trump administration, and when I think of what Purdue and Loeffler are saying about the need for a resignation from the Secretary of State of Georgia… I’m wondering openly, like the Lincoln project, is this a party that’s going to be a successful party going forward? Or is this a party that needs to be taken down to the ground and rebuilt from its foundation?” He concluded, “I don’t support them, but I’m not willing to campaign against them at this point. I would prefer, frankly, a mixed government, so those two people winning would allow there to be a mixed government.”
In summer 2019, in an interview for The Pavlovic Today, Scaramucci told me that America was ready for a post-partisan president. I took the opportunity to ask him if this remains to be his vision.
“Correct. I think that the mandate, really from the American electorate, on Election Day, was a mixed government, a divided government. The mandate for the American people is now to figure out a way to get along somewhere in the middle.” Stressing again his views on the necessity of mixed government, he shared, “For those reasons, I’m not going to go against Loeffler and Purdue. The flip side is –because the Republican Party is acting like a menace to the American democracy– I’m not overly enthusiastic about what they’re doing either.” He shared his view of politicians holding pro-Trump positions, “People like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul? I guess they’re cheering Trump on. You know, Lindsey Graham is cheering Trump on.”
These days, everyone wants to know if Scaramucci is still a Republican or if he has crossed over to the Democratic party. “I’m a lifelong Republican,” he declared, however suggesting that status may be subject to change. “I would like to maintain myself in the Republican Party, but I don’t see it for myself if that party has been completely hijacked by Donald Trump and is now a Trumpist party.”
The Republican Party, in Scaramucci’s opinion, is “Making a colossal mistake in vision and in direction. That party is becoming an aging white demographic. That is a party of people that are buying catheters and My Pillows from Fox News commercial interruptions, and they’re not expanding the base. That party should be thinking about how to make itself look like the beautiful and colorful mosaic of the American people and they’re not doing that.”
Failure to expand the party in such a way, Scaramucci explained, “is super, super dangerous, because, you know, don’t become a minority party. What I find with these guys is they’re holding on to their history.” He remarks, “When Lyndon Johnson got the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, he said to his aides that these Southern states will vote Republican now for possibly 100 years… It’s 55 years later, and all of those states in the South have voted Republican.”
Scaramucci laid out why the Republican party is receding to minority status. “They do gerrymandering. They do voter suppression. They do legal maneuverings to try to keep themselves in power.” He argues, “Wouldn’t they be better-off refreshing their brand and sort of expanding the opportunity and expanding the ideas inside the party so that they can gain favor with a majority of the American people?” Whatever the strategy now, Scaramucci senses major room for improvement: “I feel like that was total Jim Crow, voter suppression nonsense going on in the South during this last election cycle,” he explained.
“Is there a space for both Lindsey Graham and Anthony Scaramucci under the GOP tent?” I brought the question before him.
“I don’t know. You have to tell me, is there? I’m worried about that,” He replied. “That would be the Lincoln Project’s point— that they want to build a new center-right party that is more traditional, and it has more philosophical tenets and principles closer to what old school Republican Party politics used to be,” Scaramucci said.
“Do you see yourself going with the Lincoln project or joining the Biden administration?”, I wanted to know.
“No, I’m not joining the Biden administration,” he answered definitively. “I am a lifelong Republican who happened to have strongly advocated against Donald Trump,” Scaramucci explained his reasoning. “I thought he was a systemic danger to the institutions of our democracy, and I thought that there’s something wrong with him. You don’t have to be a shrink to know that Donald Trump is crazy. You could just look at his mannerisms, his actions, and how he handles himself,” he said.
Scramaucci told me that he did not talk to and hasn’t spoken with President-elect Joe Biden after the Election. “I mean, they can reach out,” he said.
In the past fifteen months, Scaramucci has become one of the most public political voices, from American CNN to the BBC.
“Are you planning to run for the office in the future? Or if Biden proposes a position to you, would you consider it?” I asked.
“The second question is easy. I would say no, because I like where I am right now with the business and the family, and, yes, I wouldn’t do that,” He reinforced, yet again, his commitment to the Republican Party. “But would I run for office? I mean, you know the answer to that— I’m open. I’m open to it,” he affirmed, adding, “There would have to be a confluence of events that would make something like that make sense.”
As Joe Biden intends to heal the nation, AOC, the Trump Accountability Project and the Lincoln project are making the blacklists. How is this speaking to the idea of ‘healing the nation’ and Biden’s position that ‘opponents are not the enemies’? I asked.
“I’m not a fan of blacklists. I’ve never been a fan of that. I’m not a fan of the cancel culture,” said Scaramucci. “What I would say, though, about those 71 million people that voted for Mr. Trump, I see that more as a vote for themselves. I see that more as a protest against the establishment more than anything else. “, Scaramucci observed, explaining “If you actually do the cross-tabs on those votes, many of those people are upset with Mr. Trump’s personality. And many of those people would say to you, yeah, I don’t want the radical left. Therefore, I only have two choices, I’m holding my nose to vote for Donald Trump. I don’t think that they’re in love with the guy’s personality. He has a classically un-American personality. Trump is a bully. He goes after innocent. He’s a chump.”
In his first post-election encounter with the media, Joe Biden’s Press Secretary only called the five biggest news outlets she had on her list. As the former White House Communications Director, I was curious to learn Scaramucci’s assessment of the future of the media under Biden. “It’ll be slightly different under Biden. It’ll be better, but it won’t be perfect,” he predicted. “The media has been decidedly negative towards President Trump,” Scaramucci referred to the Pew research study. Despite the fact, he believes “they’ll give Joe Biden more of a benefit of the doubt because he’s a liberal, and, you know, most of the media is liberal.” He pointed out, though, that Biden will “have the conservative media on his tail the way they were with President Obama.”
Scaramucci believes that those who still did not break away from Trump feel angst similar to the one he once had. “There are things about him, and the policies that you like, and there are things about the Democrats and their policies that you dislike,” he says of the dissonance-ridden world of bipartisan politics “But the problem with Mr. Trump is he’s the wrong messenger for that movement because he’s just really not a good person.” Rather than with “any level of heart, or social purpose, or social consciousness,” Scaramucci says of Trump, “He’s coming at that job to serve himself, and to provide some kind of attention for himself and self-aggrandizement.”
“Were you surprised that Myles Taylor turned out to be Anonymous?”, I asked.
“I would say yes because he said to me that he wasn’t. It felt like he was, which caused me to ask him if he was, and he said no to me and obviously 300 other people before he admitted it, but I think what he did was very impressive.”
Hope for a smooth transition, whatever it may look like, dwindles as the days between the election and inauguration begin to sweep past. Growing more vulnerable by the hour is the mood of the nation that, like Scaramucci, has grown tired of the uncertainty and upheaval.
In a scathing review of Trump and the state of the Republican Party at large, Scaramucci leans on his consistent vision for change. Will we see Scaramucci on a ticket one day? Perhaps. For now, his opinion is clear: Trump’s refusal to step aside could be dangerous for the nation. His removal would be best for the next four years.