Anthony Scaramucci was Donald Trump’s head of communications for 11 days and a Republican for decades. In an interview with DER SPIEGEL, he explains his break with the current administration, his accusations against the lame duck president and the enormous tasks Joe Biden faces.
Interview Conducted By Tim Bartz
Anthony Scaramucci, a self-made millionaire from New York and a permanent guest on American television who is also known as “the Mooch,” served as Donald Trump’s head of communications for 11 days and has voted for Republicans all his life, except this year. In an interview with DER SPIEGEL, Scaramucci compares the incumbent U.S. president with the greatest criminal of the 20th century, speaks candidly about getting fired from the White House, and discusses his vision for the future of the Republican Party and what the business world will expect from Joe Biden.
DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Scaramucci, Joe Biden is the winner of the presidential election, but Donald Trump refuses to concede defeat. What is going on?
Scaramucci: He is acting like a demagogue. Bullies like Trump are very difficult to get rid of. And they can make others do things that are not right. You in Germany have had your own experience with this. Are you familiar with the Milgram experiment?
About Anthony Scaramucci
Anthony Scaramucci, 56, is from New York. Scaramucci, the son of a construction worker, is the father of five children and has been married twice. As a lawyer, he first worked at investment banks like Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs before founding the hedge fund Skybridge in 2005. He first became known around the world after his appointment by Donald Trump as the White House director of communications — a position from which the president would fire him only 11 days later. Scaramucci had made disparaging remarks about a fellow Republican to a reporter. Later, he distanced himself entirely from Trump’s politics and gave his backing to Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential campaign.
DER SPIEGEL: It investigated the extent to which people follow an authoritarian leader, even if their conscience rejects it.
Scaramucci: That pretty much describes what we are experiencing right now. Trump shows abnormal behavior. He instructs his people to do things that are outside the norm that we have known for 244 years. The press conference (in which Trump spoke of election fraud) was one of the most reprehensible things I have ever seen in American politics. There is no evidence of electoral fraud. The last politician who refused to accept an election result was the Iranian presidential candidate (Hossein Mousavi) in 2009. So, you can see where we have ended up.
DER SPIEGEL: Will Trump voluntarily leave the White House?
Scaramucci: He still denies the situation he is in. But as his wounds heal, he will realize that he is facing legal difficulties. He has a problem with Deutsche Bank, which reclaims loans, and there are allegations of rape and criminal investigations against the Trump Organization and him personally. He has overstated his assets because he wanted to get loans. And he has declared his income too low to lower his taxes. I think he will leave voluntarily because he will still need Biden.
DER SPIEGEL: As president, Biden could pardon him.
Scaramucci: I do believe Trump is innocent. But he deserves a few days in court. All in all, he should consider what’s better for him and his family. He can, of course, continue to torch everything around him. This is reminiscent of German history and Adolf Hitler, who in April 1945 ordered his generals to destroy the power supply around Berlin and said: “If we can’t have a thousand-year Reich under my rule, I want everything destroyed!” That is classic nihilism.
DER SPIEGEL: Is there anyone in the Republican Party who can stop Trump?
Scaramucci: Trump has taken the party hostage. His son-in-law Jared Kushner openly calls this a hostile takeover. That this is true is evident from the fact that there was no election platform at all. What counts is what Trump wants. That is a perversion of the Republican idea. And there are really disgusting Republicans like party leader Ronna Romney McDaniel, (former U.S. Ambassador to Germany) Richard Grenell or (conservative lobbyist) Matt Schlapp. They do dirty things, like insane people in brown shirts.
DER SPIEGEL: Those are harsh words.
Scaramucci: It’s all sad. Look at post-war Germany and your Basic Law. The highest maxim there is human rights. Your judicial system has ensured that they are respected. It is now up to the Americans, who love their country, to make sure that we abide by the principles that are threatened by Trump.
DER SPIEGEL: Trump was elected by more than 70 million Americans, significantly more than in 2016.
Scaramucci: That was a protest vote against the elite and the media and says more about the voters than about Trump. These people no longer believe that the system serves them. They voted for Trump again, even though he is an orange wrecking ball. I know what I am talking about. I am the product of a classic working-class family.
DER SPIEGEL: Can you tell me more about that?
Scaramucci: We weren’t poor, my father had a good income, but I had to share a room and the bicycle with my brother. Today, with the same job, my father probably could not maintain that standard of living — too much has changed for that. Wages have fallen due to globalization and technological progress. I understand Trump’s voters. They are not racists or mentally challenged, but they say: “I don’t like the system anymore. I want to send a message and vote for Trump.
DER SPIEGEL: That was already the case in 2016. Could it be that the American dream, according to which social advancement is open to everyone, is history?
Scaramucci: Yes, that could be. Because politicians are constantly verbally attacking each other on television instead of developing ideas about what society should look like in five or 10 years. We have had all that before. In 1890, the journalist Jacob Riis wrote “How the Other Half Lives,” a book about living conditions in New York at the time. He described how immigrants were exploited. Teddy Roosevelt (who served as president from 1901 to 1909) had a great influence on this book. He was one of the fathers of political progressivism and raised living standards for lower- and middle-income groups. We need something like that again, otherwise the radical left will take over.
DER SPIEGEL: What does that mean for the future of the Republican Party?
Scaramucci: I fear that the Republicans will become even more like Trump. People like Marco Rubio or Tom Cotton have the potential to do so.
DER SPIEGEL: What about you? You are not a politician, you are in the public eye, you are a Republican and could help.
Scaramucci: The party leadership doesn’t like me, but my message would be: Open up the party, make the party look more like the colorful mosaic of the American people. If that is what they want, I could help. But if they stick to their xenophobic, racist attitudes and prefer to suppress voters in order to maintain their power rather than to develop ideas, I cannot help. And they would not want my help at all.
DER SPIEGEL: Are you still offended because Trump fired you after only 11 days as spokesman?
Scaramucci: No, I was fired. Then my family and I were attacked hard. But I am a big boy and I can take it. At this point, however, we need to talk briefly about Steve Bannon …
DER SPIEGEL: … a former Trump consultant, who is currently fantasizing about beheading FBI boss Christopher Wray and immunologist Anthony Fauci.
Scaramucci: I got kicked out because I confidentially told a reporter that Bannon was a guy who sucks his own dick, OK? The reporter then published that, and I was fired. My mistake, I shouldn’t have said that. People can say all kinds of shit about me, but I’m always honest. And we should be happy that I helped get Bannon fired after me. Imagine if that maniac and Trump were sitting together in the White House right now!
DER SPIEGEL: Back to the here and now. What does the new government need to do?
Scaramucci: Give lower- and middle-income groups more hope again, then populism will decline again. Just like in post-war Germany.
DER SPIEGEL: You say that radical leftists could take the helm among the Democrats, but to European ears, their demands sound more like social democracy than socialism. Can Biden manage to keep the left-wing votes small in his party, which wants to launch major welfare programs and expand the Supreme Court and Senate to include members from Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico?
Scaramucci: Yes, I think so. Biden has been strong enough not to leave the party to leftists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This is his moment. He is 77 years old and wants to take the lead. I believe he has the opportunity to govern in a non-partisan way.
DER SPIEGEL: But he doesn’t seem particularly buoyant. Does it boil down to him acting as the conciliator and having his vice president, Kamala Harris, run the day-to-day business?
Scaramucci: I have no idea. I don’t know how the two will work together. I know Biden well, we were together at the World Economic Forum in Davos and fought for gay rights. I have great respect for him and I think that he won this election thanks to his personality. I only met Harris once, I don’t know her personally.
DER SPIEGEL: In terms of the balance of power, would it be better if the Republicans continued to control the Senate?
Scaramucci: Yes. You see, I am a pragmatist, not an ideologist. Biden has known Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader in the Senate, for four decades, they are friends. Maybe they can bridge the gap and together they can put together an infrastructure program and a stimulus package that could help us get over the consequences of the COVID pandemic.
DER SPIEGEL: What does the business world expect from Biden? Wall Street doesn’t seem to fear him.
Scaramucci: I think Wall Street likes it when Congress is held by Republicans. That Trump has to go is good for the soul; if McConnell stays, it’s good for the wallet. The Republicans could prevent the government from raising taxes. I think that’s why Wall Street is quite positive.
DER SPIEGEL: Will the Democrats regulate the big technology companies more strictly? Or will they not considering how “Big Tech” is one of the Democrats’ biggest donors?
Scaramucci: I don’t know, but it would be good. Monopolies hamper innovation and distort prices. You can go back to Teddy Roosevelt (the American president from 1901-1909). He was the one who broke up big monopolies back then and thus spurred innovation. The last big monopoly to be smashed was the telephone company AT&T in 1984. That is where the technology of today has come from. We need that renewal again.
DER SPIEGEL: Big Tech would defend itself by all means.
Scaramucci: Sure. They will say: Our technology lowers prices. But in fact, it is crushing innovation! When you develop an app for the iPhone, Apple controls the prices and how much commission you have to give away on sales.
DER SPIEGEL: Trump has attacked China’s trade policy and imposed tariffs on imports. Didn’t his criticism hit the nail on the head?
Scaramucci: Attacking the Chinese so sharply was not the best idea. Europeans also have problems with China. Together, we could have talked to China with a trading block of almost a billion people. But he failed to solve the problem diplomatically. The trade agreement with China is a blatant failure, and our deficits are now even greater. We know from history that alliances are mutually beneficial, but Trump has denigrated democratic leaders, praised despots and made things even more complicated.
DER SPIEGEL: Do you believe there is a chance of reviving TTIP, the U.S.-European free trade agreement?
Scaramucci: That would be a good step. Controlling Chinese power is good for the interests of the U.S. economy. By the way, that was a mistake by Hillary Clinton in 2016: She did not stand by TTIP because she did not trust the Americans to understand that the U.S. would have benefited from it. Instead, she responded to Trump’s simple nonsense messages and caved in.
DER SPIEGEL: You are a patriot and a Republican, in that order. What are your feelings now that Trump’s chaotic presidency is ending?
Scaramucci: I am simply sad. He has missed so many opportunities. He is demagogic, racist, nationalist. Look: Until August 2019, I remained faithful to him and to the Republican agenda, despite my expulsion. At that time, he was way ahead in polls, his re-election seemed assured. But then it became too much for me.
DER SPIEGEL: In what sense?
Scaramucci: He started putting women and children into cages at the border and denying our secret services. He calls journalists like you enemies of the people. He says congressional women Democrats with African-American and Muslim roots should return to the countries they come from, even though they were born in America. At some point, I had to admit that it was a mistake to support him. My liberal friends tell me: “Tony, he’s the same guy he was 25 years ago! That’s right, today I’m smarter. But I am more aware of the pain and damage his behavior causes.
DER SPIEGEL: And what gives you hope?
Scaramucci: That a large part of the world attributes all this to Trump and not to the American people. When a golfer is allowed to repeat a failed shot with impunity, it is called a “mulligan.” I think the world will give us another four years after the “mulligan” Trump.