WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned yesterday, ending a short and turbulent tenure that made him a household name and the butt of late-night television comedy lampoons, amid further upheaval within President Donald Trump’s inner circle.
While not a surprise, Spicer’s departure was abrupt and accompanied other changes in Trump’s media and legal teams, as an investigation of possible ties between his campaign and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election widened.
After six months in power and still without a major legislative win, Trump shuffled some of his closest staff, parting ways with Spicer after naming Anthony Scaramucci as the new White House communications director. Spicer had been communications director as well as press secretary following the resignation of Mike Dubke as director early last month.
A Republican close to the White House told Reuters that Trump settled on Scaramucci, 53, a political supporter and former Goldman Sachs banker, for the head media job on Thursday and met with him on Friday morning to formally offer it to him.
A White House official briefed on what happened next said Spicer was told of Scaramucci’s hiring and Trump urged Spicer to stay on. But Spicer, 45, said he did not want to stay on under the terms and conditions described to him and quit.
A source close to the White House said: “Basically Donald Trump likes Scaramucci on TV and saw the communications director job as a way to … make him a top TV surrogate.”
The source said Trump wanted Spicer to be press secretary and do much of the communications director’s work as well, “with Scaramucci holding the ceremonial title with no responsibility. And that was the real challenge.”
At an early afternoon briefing, Scaramucci, in his debut before the White House press corps, named Sarah Sanders as the new press secretary. She had been Spicer’s deputy.
Known by insiders as “Mooch,” the new communications director is a Harvard Law School-educated Long Islander who founded a hedge fund after leaving Goldman, and sold it to join the Trump administration.
Spicer, a veteran Washington staffer, was parodied memorably by actress Melissa McCarthy on the “Saturday Night Live” TV comedy show for his combative encounters with reporters.
“I am grateful for Sean’s work on behalf of my administration and the American people,” Trump said in a statement. “I wish him continued success as he moves on to pursue new opportunities. Just look at his great television ratings.”
Spicer will stay on the job through August.
From the start, Spicer invited controversy, attacking the media in his first appearance as press secretary for reporting what he called inaccurate crowd numbers at Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe,” he said, an assertion that quickly drew scorn.
In a Twitter post on Friday, Spicer wrote, “It’s been an honor & privilege to serve @POTUS @realDonaldTrump & this amazing country. I will continue my service through August.”