Transcript: Anthony Scaramucci on "Face the Nation," July 23, 2017

Last Updated Jul 23, 2017 1:59 PM EDT

Anthony Scaramucci is the incoming White House communications director. He held his first on-camera briefing Friday, and pledged to work on improving relations with the press corps. He also named Sarah Huckabee Sanders press secretary.    

Before taking the job Friday morning, he worked as chief strategy officer and senior vice president at the Export-Import Bank.

On Sunday, Scaramucci made his debut "Face the Nation" appearance -- and discussed topics ranging from the health care debate to consequences for leaking information

A transcript of the interview follows.


JOHN DICKERSON: And we want to welcome the incoming White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci to the broadcast. Mr. Scaramucci, welcome to "Face the Nation." I want to start with the president's tweet yesterday about pardons. He said he has complete pardon power. Why is he tweeting about pardons?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: Well, I think that unfortunately he may have had a conversation in the Oval Office or somewhere about it. And then people rush out to leak that information to people. It's just very unprofessional and very harmful. And I think the gist of that leak basically, I mean or that tweet I should say is that he's not going to pardon anybody.

He doesn't need to pardon anybody. And it's just really about the leaking that is actually injurious to the government, felonious to the government. But he's done absolutely nothing wrong. And there's no need for him to pardon anybody. But he just doesn't like the fact that he has a two-minute conversation in the Oval Office or in his study and that people are running out and leaking that.

So we're going to work on culturally changing that because it's extremely unprofessional. He's the commander-in-chief, the president of the United States. People that are standing around him that are doing that sort of nonsense are actually un-American. They're doing an injustice to the institution of the American presidency. And we're going to work very hard to change the culture of that.

JOHN DICKERSON: What happens to leakers on your watch?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: They're going to get fired. I'm just going to make it very, very clear, okay? Tomorrow I'm going to have a staff meeting. And it's going to be a very binary thing. I'm-I'm not going to make any prejudgments about anybody on that staff. If they want to stay on the staff, they're going to stop leaking.

If the leaks continue, we are strong as our weakest link. And I'll say it a little differently in a pun. We're strong as our weakest leak. So if you guys want to keep leaking, why don't you guys all get together and make a decision as a team that you're going to stop leaking.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me--

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: But if you're going to keep leaking, I'm going to fire everybody. It's just very binary.

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Anthony Scaramucci on "Face the Nation," July 23, 2017  

CBS News

JOHN DICKERSON: You talk about the president's success in communicating, getting his message across. Is it helpful when he talks about or tweets about the special counsel's investigation?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: You know, the truth of the matter is that is the president. That's the crystal essence of the president. And so some of you guys in the media think it's not helpful. But if he thinks it's helpful to him, let him do it. At the end of the day, I think when those investigations are over, it'll be another chapter in Washington scandals incorporated, that we had to have a scandal going on and gin up all this sort of nonsense so that we could distract the president from his agenda and his people and run around chasing something that's all about nothing.

And so I know we do that a lot in Washington. I certainly don't want to do that. What I want to do is I want to focus on the president's agenda, how he's going to help middle class people, lower middle class people, how we're going to take it to ISIS like we're taking it to them right now.

JOHN DICKERSON: Well, let me ask--

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: Those are the things that I really think are super important for us to focus on. And so let Robert Mueller and that team focus on that. I'm going to focus as little on that as possible.

JOHN DICKERSON: Isn't there a conflict between that though? The president's raising issues about the motivations of Mueller's team. Is that helpful?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: Like I said, it doesn't matter to me whether it's helpful or not.

JOHN DICKERSON: Well, doesn't get it in the way of the message that you were just talking about?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: Well, it- it-it may and it may not, right? You guys like talking about that stuff. And I understand that. But I'm not going to. What I'm going to do is we're going to be very proactive, very offensive, and very aggressive on the president's agenda. And so you guys want to talk about that, that's fine. I'm going to talk about the stuff that I think are important to the American people. So

JOHN DICKERSON: So it sounds like there's a new bright line. You won't be talking about the special counsel. Kellyanne Conway was on TV this week raising questions about donations some on the counsel's staff had made. Will that stop? There will be talk about the agenda and no talk--

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: No, no.

JOHN DICKERSON:--about the investigation?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: You know what I'm going to do, John? I'm going to sit down with Don Meehan. And I'm going to sit down with the outside counsel. I'm very close to Jay Sekulow. We know each other very well. Trust Jay. I know John Dowd as well. I'm going to sit down with these guys. I did go to Harvard Law School.

And I will understand the lines of communication, what we can say from the White House, what we can't say from the White House. And then we'll operate a strategy that I think will knock the socks off of people. What I don't like about what's going on right now is that we're, we get hit, we're on the heels of our feet, and we want the president to be on the heels of his feet?

President doesn't operate like that. The president operates off the balls of his feet. He's an aggressive guy. It's the reason why he won the presidency. And so we're going to come up with a strategy that's going to knock people's socks off.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask--

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: It's going to be,  It's going to be pro-Trump agenda. And when the, when the --

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you though about--

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: When the investigation dies down, I hope you'll invite me back on the show so I can say, "See? That was another one of those ridiculous investigations."

JOHN DICKERSON: You're from the business world. You know how these things work. The president was very critical of his attorney general in public in the New York Times. How does that help?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: Okay. So from the business world, what I would, what I would say about that and from my experience with the president, the president's a pretty wear-his-heart-on-the-sleeve sort of a guy. If people are very, very thin skinned, I think it's going to be super tough to work for this president.

The president has said things to me in a tough, and honest, direct way. I think he's a very good athletic coach, if you will. And so what I would recommend to all of my-my colleagues in Washington and know the president very well, if he's saying stuff about you that you don't like, call him up. Go see him. Go get in the Oval Office or the study.

JOHN DICKERSON: Why do it in public?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: Have a straight--

JOHN DICKERSON: Why not in private? It undermines the man--

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: Because--

JOHN DICKERSON: --as he's trying to serve the country.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: Because that's the president's personality. And it's not really that big of a deal. If you have a thin skin, what I'm learning about Washington, crocodile skin is not even the right metaphor. How about like titanium oxide, okay?

JOHN DICKERSON: But the president is known for responding to things that are said about him. So surely he responds to everything that's said about him. Does he have thin skin?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: Does the president? Actually, the president doesn't have thin skin. But what the president is is a fighter. The president doesn't like people saying stuff about him, and he wants them to stop it. And so he hits back. You know, what I enjoy about that, if you're saying something about him that he doesn't like, and then he says something about you, all of a sudden you get upset. But then you don't want him to get upset when you're saying stuff about him. It's -it's asymmetrical nonsense. Why don't we focus on the agenda instead of all of this nonsense?

JOHN DICKERSON: You said in a tweet, "My political views don't matter." That I assume also carries over to the -the donations you've made. You've supported Democrats in the past. All that doesn't matter for you doing your job?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: I'm - Listen. I'm an American businessman. And I'm a very practical guy. I've supported a lot of different people. I went to law school with President Obama. You know, if you've- if you've noticed, over the last two years that I've been more or less in the public domain, I don't like attacking people personally.

I like debating policy. I never once attacked personally Secretary Clinton. I have found that when I have attacked people personally, that's been a stupid mistake on my part. And so whoever I have attacked personally I apologize for. But here's what I was trying to do yesterday with those tweets.

I think it is nonsensical and more Washington nonsense that we have to take this political purity ideological test.

JOHN DICKERSON: Well-

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: So if I said I was for something

JOHN DICKERSON: Sure.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: and now I'm against something, that makes me a hypocrite. I don't believe in that. I think it's stupid. And I want to subordinate my political views to the views of the president and his agenda.

JOHN DICKERSON: So if you're able to subordinate the people you've supported in the past, the things you've said, and the money you've given, why then does the president raise past donations as disqualifying of the people who are working for Robert Mueller? Shouldn't the principle appear, shouldn't the principle work in both cases?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: Okay well, hold on. I'm not, I'm not, I'm not the president, John. That's the president's--

JOHN DICKERSON: No, I'm just talking about the principle though. You said that your past donations don't matter. Shouldn't it--

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: I understand. Let me- But you asked me the question. So let me just answer the question. I don't think it really makes a difference for me, but I am the communications director. The president's saying something a little bit different, okay? The president's suggesting that there might be people that are politically motivated to hit him and his family members even though that there's nothing there.

Now, I have been the victim of that. It's a nasty thing. It's really not something that you like going through. Someone's accusing you of something that you didn't do. And then you got to go out and hire yourself a lawyer. And you have to prove-- for some reason in these scandals we flip the Constitution around. You're guilty until you go out there and prove yourself innocent. You're not innocent until proven guilty. And so--

JOHN DICKERSON: But aren't, but isn't--

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: --the president doesn't like that. He thinks it's dishonest. And it's, it's subverting the agenda that he's trying to--


JOHN DICKERSON: But it seems that the--

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: --to project.

JOHN DICKERSON: The investigators are just doing the work. I don't think they've accused him of anything yet. At least by the president's admission. He says he's not being accused of anything and he's not under investigation. But they're doing their job and subordinating whatever they may have done with political donations, which seems like the same accommodation you're asking for.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: Okay so you're, but, again, I'm not the president. So if the president wants to say that about them, let him say it. It's fine.

JOHN DICKERSON: So you, do you think that--

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: I just told you--

JOHN DICKERSON: Do you they're compromised by--

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: I just told I have different--

JOHN DICKERSON: --by their past donations?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: Am I compromised by my past donations?

JOHN DICKERSON: No, do you think that the investigators are?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: Do I think the investigators are? I don't know. I don't know these guys personally. If you give me a half hour with each of these guys, I'm pretty good at reading people. I could figure out in probably 30 minutes if they're compromised or not, but I don't know the guys personally. They may or may not be, sir. I have no idea.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you finally on the question of mixed messages. This week the president has said three different things about health care. On the 17th he said Republicans should repeal the failing Obamacare bill and then start with a clean state. On the 18th he said, "Let Obamacare fail." On the 19th he said the country needs more than repeal. It needs repeal and replace. That's three different messages over three days. Isn't the President's message muddled?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: No, not at all. Here's the thing we got to- I hope we can do this for the president. I hope we can explain what he's doing and explain what he's thinking. And I hope that what you all start to realize, which is very refreshing to the American people, he's signaling over the top of the, of the mainstream media.

So let's go over each of those tweets. He basically wants to repeal and replace Obamacare. He knows that's the best thing for the American people. It turns out that he may not be able to get that done with a recalcitrant Congress. And so then he fires out a tweet. "Let's just repeal it."

Then it turns out because he's working super hard. He's probably the most effective legislative liaison person in the world. He may get the chance to repeal and replace it. So then he's sending out that tweet. His point is he's a business person. He's got a Rubik's cube on his desk basically that he has to spin through because there's so many confusing people in Washington. And he's trying to figure out if he can get his objectives done, which are to repeal and replace Obamacare.

JOHN DICKERSON: But the members of Congress--

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: So what we both know about Washington--

JOHN DICKERSON: --working on this bill right working on this bill right--

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: --there's a lot of different, different interests there, sir.

JOHN DICKERSON: But the, but the senators working on the bill right now have no idea what his position is. He's beating them up on the one hand. Then he's saying they should do this and that. I guess that's the point, is that his message--

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: That's not true.

JOHN DICKERSON: --is mixed to them.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: There's not one person in Washington that doesn't know the president's position. And if there is, then hopefully they watch your show because you've got a great show. He would like to repeal and replace Obamacare. That's what he would like to do. If you're going to stop him from doing that, the next best thing would be to repeal Obamacare.

If you're not going to repeal and replace Obamacare, then the third best thing is to let it implode. Because if you let it implode, there'll be a big enough crisis. And unfortunately in this town called Washington, these politicians respond better to crises than they do to just practical problem solving, which we could do right now before the implosion. So I think on a gradient that's what the president's saying, John.

JOHN DICKERSON: Will the president get what he wants next week? Will it pass?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: I don't know if he's going to get what he wants next week. But he's going to get what he wants eventually because this guy always gets what he wants, okay? What I know about President Trump is that the world- he's got very, very good karma. He's very, very good to the people that are super close to him.

Look at how great his kids turned out. You can't fake good kids. And the world turns back to President Trump. And so my prediction is he's going to get exactly what he wants. He's going to get health care reform. He's going to get tax reform. And he's going to start to put the regulatory,  deregulatory pillars in place so that our businesses and our economies can grow again, community banks can start lending again.

And the people that I grew up with, the people in my neighborhood that have been struggling with low income and low wages are going to see a burst in economic activity. And he's going to get reelected. And we're going to work on that feverishly over the next two and a half, three years.

JOHN DICKERSON: Final question. The Senate and the House have passed sanctions legislation on Russia or are going to. Will the president sign that? And if not, what more does he need to know--

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: Don't know.

JOHN DICKERSON: --about, what more does the president need to know about Russians' interference with the election?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: That's you know, that's a really good question. So I haven't seen any of that information. So I don't know the answer to that. I also don't know the answer to whether or not he's going to sign it. But- but- but we'll know shortly. And when we do, whether he signs it or he doesn't sign it, if you invite me back on, I'll try to explain to you the rationale and the reasoning that went into that decision.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Anthony Scaramucci, thanks so much for being with us.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: Thank you.

JOHN DICKERSON: We'll be back in a minute with a lot more "Face the Nation."