Maybe I attach too much importance to a few old-fashioned virtues like telling the truth, factual accuracy, and answering the question you are asked (or, if you are not going to answer it, say so frankly and explain why you won’t).
Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House director of communications, led off “State of Union” and “Face the Nation” yesterday. Good hair. Good smile. Rising from middle-class roots, he went to Harvard Law School and made his own fortune on Wall Street. Professes his “love” for Donald Trump (although he supported several of Trump’s rivals for the GOP nomination until they were eliminated). Doesn’t blow his cool.
I don’t claim to know what he expects to get out of his new gig. He went into his Twitter account and deleted many tweets that would be embarrassing now, for example endorsing stronger gun control laws and calling Hillary Clinton “incredibly competent.” But – full credit here – he disclosed that he was doing so. I’m not sure how that comports with anything that could be called truth-telling, but it’s better than denying that he did the deletions (especially since the odds are pretty good that if he did deny it, he would get caught). Several of the deleted tweets were saved by others and can be viewed here.
Scaramucci’s main defense against the aggressive questions he received on the Sunday shows is that his job is to say what the president wants said. He didn’t specify that he would tell lies or other forms of untruths, but he came pretty close.
The big moment on CNN’s “State of the Union,” which you’ve probably heard about by now, was when host Jake Tapper asked Scaramucci whether he accepted the unanimous conclusion of the U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered with the 2016 presidential election (it was related to the question of whether Trump will veto the law moving through Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support to punish Russia for its election interference).
Scaramucci would not say yes or no about the conclusion of the intelligence agencies, although he begged off by saying that he didn’t yet have high enough security clearance to get full access to all the intelligence on this matter, but he did say:
You know, somebody said to me yesterday — I won’t tell you who — that if the Russians actually hacked this situation and spilled out those e-mails, you would have never seen it. You would have never had any evidence of them, meaning that they’re super confident in their deception skills and hacking.
“Somebody said to me yesterday — I won’t tell you who.” That was pretty choice, but it didn’t hold up.
Tapper pushed back, suggesting that whatever Scaramucci’s unnamed source might say, it’s hard to believe that it would outweigh the unanimous opinion of the U.S. intelligence agencies, both when they were headed by Obama appointees and this year when the agencies are headed by Trump’s people, who have all accepted this conclusion about Russian interference via hacking and spreading of stolen and/or false information. Which led to this exchange:
TAPPER: Well, 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, but it is the unanimous …
SCARAMUCCI: How about it was — how about it was the president, Jake?
Okay, so, Ta-da. Donald Trump claims to know something that the U.S. intelligence agencies do not know about the capabilities of the Russians to hack into our election and into various sources of data (like the emails accounts of prominent Democrats) without leaving a trace. So the fact there were traces of some kind found that convinced the U.S. intelligence community, which has decades of experience tracking Russian activity, is actually evidence that that the Russians didn’t do it because if the Russians did it there would be no traces.
The full transcript of Scaramucci on “State of the Union” is here. It’s pretty amazing.