WASHINGTON — Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, resigned Friday morning, telling President Donald Trump he vehemently disagreed with the appointment of New York financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director.
Trump offered Scaramucci the job at 10 a.m. The president requested that Spicer stay on, but Spicer told Trump that he believed the appointment was a major mistake, according to person with direct knowledge of the exchange.
Scaramucci, who founded the global investment firm SkyBridge Capital and is a Fox News Channel contributor, is known for his spirited on-air defense of Trump, but he also enjoys good relationships with journalists from an array of outlets, including those the president has labeled “fake news.”
Spicer’s turbulent tenure as the president’s top spokesman was marked by a combative style with the news media that spawned a caricature of him on “Saturday Night Live.”
His rumored departure has been one of the longest-running internal sagas in an administration brimming with dissension and intrigue. A former Republican National Committee spokesman and strategist, Spicer was a frequent target of the president’s ire — and correctives — during the first few months of the administration.
His resignation was also a blow to the White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, the former Republican Party chairman who brought Spicer into the West Wing despite skepticism from Trump, who initially questioned his loyalty.
Scaramucci was to meet with Priebus on Friday, according to a West Wing official — and applause could be heard in the second-floor communications hallway when Scaramucci was introduced.
During the transition, Trump had planned to appoint Scaramucci, a 52-year-old Harvard Law graduate from Long Island, New York, as director of his office of public liaison, but the offer was pulled at the request of Priebus over concerns about Scaramucci’s overseas investments.
His appointment came two months after the previous communications director, Mike Dubke, stepped down. Trump was frustrated with Priebus over the slow pace of finding a replacement, according to a half-dozen people familiar with the situation.
Trump made the appointment over the objection of Priebus, who thought Scaramucci lacked the requisite organizational or political experience. But the president believed Scaramucci, a ferocious defender of Trump’s on cable television, was best equipped to play the same role in-house, and he offered him a role with far-reaching powers independent of Priebus’.
Spicer flatly rejected the president’s offer of a position subordinate to Scaramucci, according to two administration officials familiar with the exchange.
The appointment of Scaramucci, a favorite of Trump’s earliest campaign supporters, was backed by the president’s daughter Ivanka, his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the officials said.