Spicer resignation comes at end of a tumultuous week for Trump

Latest personnel moves in the communications department may be a reflection of a White House under siege

Days after Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president in January, on the other side of the world in snowy Davos Anthony Scaramucci was addressing the annual World Economic Forum. The Trump presidency was on everybody's mind at the annual gathering of world leaders. Mr Scaramucci, a billionaire financier who had been a regular Davos attendee, was the man sent out to represent the Trump administration.

“I want to put your mind at ease,” he said, during a panel discussion, as he set out the reasoning behind Mr Trump’s America First policy. Arguing that the US had engaged in global trade policies in order to improve the fate of other countries after 1945, he said that the result had been a “hallowing-out” of the American middle class.

While Mr Scaramucci had been expected to land a job with the Trump administration when he returned to Washington, he in fact found himself outside the West Wing – until this week. Mr Trump was reportedly impressed with how Mr Scaramucci, a regular defender of the president on Fox News, had handled an issue with CNN after the network carried an erroneous report about him. He summonsed Mr Scaramucci to the White House, discussions began on Monday, and on Friday at 10am he offered him the post of communications director, a position that had been unfilled since Mike Dubke resigned two months ago.

In practice, Sean Spicer had been fulfilling Dubke's role in recent weeks as he appeared less frequently on the podium. On Friday, when he was told about Mr Scaramucci's appointment, Mr Spicer protested, arguing that the former hedge fund owner did not have the requisite communications experience.


White House under siege

He tendered his resignation, tweeting: “It’s been an honor & a privilege to serve @POTUS @realDonaldTrump & this amazing country. I will continue my service through August.”

With Mr Spicer due to appear on Fox News on Friday night along with Mr Scaramucci and chief of staff Reince Priebus, further insight into his thinking was expected to emerge. But a question on everyone’s mind is whether Mr Spicer will disclose details of his six months in the White House.

His departure comes at the end of a tumultuous week for Mr Trump. He lambasted attorney general Jeff Sessions, a man who was one of his earliest supporters, in an interview with the New York Times this week, stating that he would never have hired him if he had known that Mr Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Some members of Mr Trump's legal team have also resigned. In this sense, the latest personnel moves in the communications department may be a reflection of a White House under siege as it tries to deal with a flood of revelations about Russia and the president's low ratings.

‘Media bias’

Despite Mr Scaramucci's loquacious performance at the podium on Friday – when he professed his "love" for Mr Trump numerous times – it is likely that Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has assumed Mr Spicer's job, will brief the press publicly.

Mr Scaramucci is more likely to steer the communications strategy behind the scene, telling reporters on Friday that he wanted to redress the “media bias” that he perceives exists against the president.

For any communications official in the White House, however, the biggest challenge will be managing Mr Trump who has broken all public relations rules since assuming office. The president has previously boasted about his ability to bypass the media and communicate with people directly through Twitter. His aides were apparently unaware that he gave a 45-minute interview with the New York Times this week, and were forced to wait for the transcript to learn what he had said.

Mr Trump may have changed his advisers, but whether he will take their advice is another matter.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent