When Anthony Scaramucci was, in the space of just 10 days, hired and fired as White House communications director, one commentator likened the brief fandango to “the life cycle of a fruit fly”.
But, in the three years since he left Washington, The Mooch, as he is known, has been more like a wasp, stinging Donald Trump with a ferocity that has outstripped even former colleagues who were likewise dismissed.
This in turn has prompted return fire from the US president on Twitter – last year Trump called Scaramucci “a highly unstable nut job”.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Scaramucci says this may be a case of projection on Trump’s part.
“You don’t need to be a psychiatrist to understand that the president has a problem.
“If you were watching a game of Gaelic football and you saw someone’s leg twisted in an unnatural way, would you have to be an orthopaedic surgeon to say: ‘The guy has injured his leg’?
“Journalists want to be objective, but the great danger is that we normalise people in high-powered positions,” he says.
“This man is in the most important administrative position in the world. He is the successor of Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower, but the result of knowing all of that is that we try to rationalise the behaviour of someone who is very unwell. He’s a malignant narcissist and doesn’t really care about anyone other than himself.”
All of which may be true, but Scaramucci’s opinion of Trump has swung wildly over the years.
In 2015 he called Trump a “hack politician” and the following year, in the Republican primaries, he endorsed first Scott Walker and then Jeb Bush. A year later, when he took up the post at the White House, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote that Trump had found: “A wealthy mini-me Manhattan bro with wolfy smile and slick coif who will say anything and flip any position. A self-promoter extraordinaire and master salesman who doesn’t mind pushing a bad product – and probably sees it as more fun.”
Scaramucci was as good as her word, smiling broadly as he claimed he had been “wrong about the president” and repeating multiple times on the lectern that he “loved” Trump. For good measure, he punctuated his first briefing with an air kiss delivered to the assembled press.
“I made a mistake, it was a type of cognitive dissonance,” he says now.
“I wasn’t alone. You’ll find tape that shows Kellyanne Conway, Mike Pompeo, Wilbur Ross, Mark Paul and Lindsey Graham were each critical of Trump at different times. There’s an arc people went on.
“You start out disliking him, and then you realise he’s going to the president of the United States, and you want to be a team player and so you get to where I was, which is where Rex Tillerson also was, which is where you understand that you have someone who is an unwell human being causing stress not just in the United States, but around the world.”
His error with Trump had its roots, he says, in his life’s arc from blue-collar Long Island to Goldman Sachs.
“My mistake, and the mistake of the millions of people that voted for him, was that we saw some of him in our own stories. I come from a train operator’s family. My dad is 86 years old. He never went to college. He’s a chain smoker.
“I went to Harvard Law School and in some ways you could say I was then part of the elite but I was moved by Mr Trump’s campaign and there was a vacuum of advocacy for blue-collar people.”
His appointment at the White House prompted the resignation of press secretary Sean Spicer and tensions with then chief of staff Reince Priebus, which spilled into the media via leaks.
Scaramucci later called Priebus a “paranoid schizophrenic” in a conversation with a reporter and, after Priebus was forced out, Scaramucci was given his marching orders by John Kelly.
Scaramucci downplays the contradiction of defending and then deriding Trump. “I never defended his policies but what I was arguing for was a renaissance for white, lower-middle-class people who felt disadvantaged. By the time children were being separated from parents at the [Mexico] border I had been fired, and I was critical of that.
“I wrote an op-ed saying the press are not the enemy of the people and, in all honesty, I think the reason that I was removed so quickly was that I am not a sycophant.”
The tumultuous tenure at the White House came in the same month that Scaramucci’s wife Deidre Ball gave birth to their second child and filed for divorce. They have since reconciled.
Scaramucci was disgusted when Trump last year tweeted alleged details of a private conversation he had with Scaramucci about his relationship with Ball.
“The president attacked my wife using the presidential Twitter feed. I find that reprehensible and the guy is basically a low-life, but what I am not going to do is attack his wife or speculate on his relationship with her.”
In June of this year, Scaramucci joined with Matt Borges and other well-known Republican operatives to launch Right Side PAC, a committee aiming to prevent Trump’s re-election as US “president and to support Joe Biden. Unsurprisingly Scaramucci predicts a resounding victory for the Democratic challenger.
“I think it’s going to be a landslide victory for Joe Biden. If you look at the national polling or the battleground polling, it’s very bad for him [Trump]. The [Covid-19] cases are surging in battleground states and that will cost him. One of the most trusted people has been Dr Anthony Fauci [the head of the White House’s coronavirus task force] and he has managed to malign him as well. Joe Biden has $439m in cash with 19 days to go, he’s got momentum and he’s fighting in a way that Hillary Clinton did not.”
Of Trump’s recent ambivalence on whether there will be a peaceful handover of power should Biden win, Scaramucci says: “It’s bulls**t, he’s blustering. He’s a remarkably insecure person. He’s overcompensating and I don’t see any real truth to that.”
He also says there is a reason we’ve seen so little of Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, lately.
“Ivanka is pretty smart at managing her image and she understands that what’s going on right now is an unmitigated disaster. And she knows it’s not going to change and I think that’s why she is now staying on the sidelines.”
A leaked copy of Biden’s tax plans was recently reported to propose sanctions on jurisdictions, including Ireland, that “facilitate illegal corporate tax avoidance and engage in harmful tax competition”. Scaramucci thinks these plans will not materialise.
“Barack Obama talked about changing the tax situation as regards overseas companies but that also didn’t happen then and I don’t think it will happen now,” he says.
Scaramucci doesn’t believe Trump will ever go to prison – “I can’t see that happening” – but believes that the nightmare of his presidency will soon be over.
“The unfortunate situation is that he has created a cult-like moment for primarily white Americans who fear a culture war, who fear that their way of life is going to be dismantled by the radical left.
“It’s not going to happen, but the fear is there. The Covid-fatigue we’re seeing is, I think, related to the president. It’s almost like you have a sick uncle in the family. I think when he’s gone, people will breathe a sigh of relief.”