In profane rant, Trump’s communications director calls Reince Priebus a ‘paranoid schizophrenic,’ lobs lewd insult at Steve Bannon

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WASHINGTON—Sean Spicer endured all manner of humiliation as Donald Trump’s press secretary. But when Anthony Scaramucci was hired as his boss, he resigned the same day.

We now have a better idea about why.

Scaramucci, the incoming White House communications director, insulted two of his senior administration colleagues in a shockingly vulgar Wednesday phone call to a journalist from the New Yorker magazine.

Of Reince Priebus, the embattled chief of staff he is trying to embarrass into resigning, Scaramucci said: “Reince is a f—ing paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac.”

Of Steve Bannon, the chief strategist, Scaramucci said: “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own c–k.”

He also accused Priebus of having “c–k-blocked” him from the administration for months, said he wanted to “f—ing kill all the leakers” disclosing information to journalists, and said he had to end the call to try to inflame Priebus via Twitter.

“Gotta start tweeting some s— to make this guy crazy,” he told the journalist, Ryan Lizza.

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Trump’s team of political novices is known for its vicious infighting, but its battles are usually conducted behind the scenes and via anonymous quotes. There is no precedent for the president’s chief communicator lambasting his colleagues on the record.

“Did you read that story? This guy’s f—ing out of his mind,” said Rick Tyler, former communications chief for Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and now an MSNBC analyst.

Scaramucci is a well-dressed, well-coiffed Wall Street financier with no experience in government but a Trump-impressing proficiency in combat on cable-television. His good-natured public debut on Friday was appraised by numerous U.S. reporters as “smooth” and “slick.”

Since then, however, he has so frequently raised questions about his basic competence that a media writer for the Washington Post described him as a “walking, talking, leak-busting disaster.”

Scaramucci promised Thursday to tone down his vocabulary, but he offered no apologies.

“I sometimes use colorful language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for @realDonaldTrump’s agenda,” he said on Twitter.

He had a bizarre 24 hours even before the New Yorker published its account of the interview on Thursday afternoon. After he told Lizza he was going on Twitter to make Priebus “crazy,” he tweeted that he was going to contact the FBI “in light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony.”

In fact, no leak had occurred; the disclosure form was public information available upon request. But Scaramucci told the New Yorker that he had indeed “called the FBI and the Department of Justice,” a remarkable breach of the traditional separation between the White House and justice officials.

He also tagged Priebus in the tweet — clearly suggesting he thought Priebus was the leaker. But when journalists correctly reported that this was the suggestion, he deleted the tweet and said their inference was wrong.

Then, on Thursday morning, he called in to a live CNN program to offer a third story. It went as follows: he was not suggesting Priebus was the leaker, but since journalists assumed he was suggesting this, Priebus probably was a leaker.

“So if Reince wants to explain that he’s not a leaker, let him do that,” he said.

It is theoretically possible that Scaramucci did not expect his comments to the New Yorker to be published. A reporter for the Daily Beast said he is known to be confused about conversational conventions like “on background” and “off the record.”

This was not even the first strange phone conversation of Scaramucci’s six-day-old tenure. On Tuesday, he told Politico that he was firing assistant press secretary Michael Short, a Priebus ally he had not personally informed.

Then, when Short told reporters that he hadn’t heard anything, Scaramucci falsely complained to reporters that the news had been leaked.

“The fact that you guys know about it before he does really upsets me as a human being and as a Roman Catholic. I should have the opportunity if I have to let somebody go to let the person go in a very humane, dignified way,” he said. “Because he probably has a family, right?”

Christina Reynolds, former director of media affairs for Barack Obama’s White House and now senior vice-president at the Global Strategy Group, said administrations are “most effective when the staff is driving the president’s message, not nursing petty grudges and attacking each other.”

“This rant doesn’t help them get a health care bill or focus on American heroes — so it’s a counterproductive start,” she said in an email.