Anthony Scaramucci, President Trump’s freshly minted communications director, spent his first Sunday morning on the job sparring with CNN’s Jake Tapper, telling the “State of the Union” host that his new boss is still not sure Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
Scaramucci was asked if Trump was prepared to sign a bipartisan bill slapping new sanctions on Russia to punish Moscow for its meddling in the election. Scaramucci said he wasn’t sure whether Trump would sign it.
“There’s a lot of disinformation out there,” Scaramucci explained. “Somebody said to me the other day — I don’t want to say who — if the Russians actually hacked this situation and spilled out those emails, you would have never seen it. You would have never had any evidence of them. Meaning that they’re superconfident in their deception skills and hacking.”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Tapper interjected. “You’re making a lot of assertions here. I don’t know who this anonymous person is that said if the Russians had actually done it we wouldn’t have been able to detect it.”
“How about it’s the president, Jake,” Scaramucci said. “He called me from Air Force One and basically said to me, ‘This is — maybe they did it, maybe they didn’t do it.’”
U.S. intelligence agencies, including the directors of the national intelligence, the FBI and NSA — all Trump appointees — have each concluded that Russia was behind the hacking during the 2016 campaign.
“President Trump is contradicting it and you’re siding with President Trump,” an exasperated Tapper told Scaramucci. “Don’t you owe a duty to the truth?”
Scaramucci said he isn’t blindly “siding” with Trump, but that he didn’t know enough about the issue to conclude whether the Kremlin interfered in the election.
“Once I’ve cleared my security clearances and looked at the stuff, if I think it’s true, I’ll behind closed doors turn very directly to the president and say, ‘Sir, I think this stuff is true,'” Scaramucci said.
But Scaramucci also made it clear that as Trump’s communications director, it is his job to be the president’s “advocate on a show like this,” regardless of personal views.
Scaramucci — who was once critical of Trump and whose views on issues such as abortion, gun control and climate change differed from the president’s — spent part of his weekend deleting old tweets that could be seen as “a distraction.”
Full transparency: I'm deleting old tweets. Past views evolved & shouldn't be a distraction. I serve @POTUS agenda & that's all that matters
— Anthony Scaramucci (@Scaramucci) July 22, 2017
On Saturday morning, Trump went on a Twitter tirade, lashing out at multiple targets, including Obamacare, Hillary Clinton, two newspapers, his own administration and the investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
Trump also tweeted that everyone agrees the president has “the complete power to pardon.”
On Sunday, Scaramucci insisted that does not mean Trump is mulling a potential pardon.
While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.FAKE NEWS
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2017
“The president isn’t thinking about pardoning anybody,” Scaramucci said. “There’s an undercurrent of nonsensical stuff.
“The Russian thing is a nonsensical thing,” he continued. “I was there early on in the campaign. I didn’t have any interactivity with the Russians. I didn’t see anybody have any interactivity with Russians. It is a complete bogus and nonsensical thing … You guys have to manufacture these scandals to take the president off of his agenda. We are going to put the president right back on his agenda.”
The Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia are the subject of an FBI investigation and two separate congressional probes.
“None of that is being manufactured,” Tapper told Scaramucci. “None.”
On ABC’s “This Week,” Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal attorney, claimed that no one in the White House has discussed whether the president has the power to pardon himself. Yet on CNN, Scaramucci said he discussed that subject with Sekulow.
“I have talked to Jay Sekulow about that because he’s a scholar,” Scaramucci said.
Meanwhile, Scaramucci, who was named communications director Friday, said he plans to meet his staff on Monday to discuss leaks.
“Tomorrow, I’m going to be having a meeting with the communications staff and say, ‘Hey, I don’t like these leaks,'” Scaramucci said. “‘And so we’re going to stop the leaks. And if we don’t stop the leaks, I’m gonna stop you. It’s just really that simple.”
Scaramucci was also asked whether he would continue the recent Trump administration policy of often banning cameras from the daily White House briefing.
“If you’re asking me for my personal opinion — and maybe the president will be upset for giving my personal [opinion] — we should put the cameras on,” he said. “I don’t think we need to have the cameras off. But if the president doesn’t want the cameras on, guess what? We’re not going to have the cameras on. It’s going to really be up to him.”
Read more from Yahoo News:
- Trump, in angry Twitter spree, declares ‘the complete power to pardon’
- Scaramucci apologizes ‘for the 50th time’ for past insults
- Ex-CIA chief: Russia meddling was ‘most successful covert operation in history’
- Trump rails against Clinton’s emails amid Russia firestorm
- Departing White House press secretary says good riddance to press