For Trump’s Team of Enemies there is nothing more satisfying than seeing a rival vanquished and then being able to comment on it in the immediate aftermath.
But unlike other administrations, where the misfortunes of colleagues are gossiped about behind the scenes, Team Trump prefers to stab each other in the front. After all, it’s more personal that way.
After a colleague is fired, charged with a crime, or otherwise smitten by fate, their former colleagues have routinely taken to Twitter or television to dole out sick burns on said person’s political corpse.
The latest was Corey Lewandowski who appeared on NPR hours after former Trump fixer/lawyer/ “guy who he didn’t know very well,” Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to tax fraud and campaign finance violations.
“Well, I know Michael Cohen very well. I ran the campaign,” Lewandowski said. “Michael has been a serial liar for the last...three years that I've known him.”
His bloodthirst not quite quenched, Lewandowski then let Paul Manafort—who helped push Lewandowski out of the campaign—have it too.
“I think that justice was served today with the Manafort convictions,” he said.
It’s a culture that, of course, comes from the top. Because no one loves to kick a perceived enemy when they are down more than the President of the United States.
This week it was Cohen who drew Trump’s ire. Previously it was former FBI agent Peter Strzok. Others who received mean tweets in the wake of bad news or tough career decisions include former FBI director James Comey, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Bob Corker (R-TN) and former Trump aide Sam Nunberg.
The practice dates back to the early days of the Trump campaign, before Trump won the Republican election.
When Lewandowski was fired after a series of missteps including grabbing a female reporter, lying about it and getting caught on tape lying about it, then-Trump adviser Michael Caputo tweeted “Ding dong the witch is dead!” complete with GIF of the Wicked Witch of the East, striped socks and ruby red slippers (Caputo quickly resigned from the campaign—but the tweet remains).
The street fighting continued through the transition. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was unceremoniously booted from the transition after, he said, Jared Kushner, then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon united against him.
This may have been the second round of previous brawl as Christie had put Kushner’s dad in jail. But then came round three. After Bannon was fired in August 2017, Christie did a victory lap.
“Now that he has been fired, no one is going to care about anything else Steve Bannon has to say,” Christie told PBS Newshour.” “[T]his I suspect is his last 15 minutes of fame. I hope he enjoys it.”
The hits have come from the podium as well.
After Omarosa Manigault Newman’s dramatic exit from the administration, White House spokesman Raj Shah was ready for questions about her departure, complete with a witty dig.
"Omarosa was fired three times on The Apprentice and this was the fourth time we let her go," Shah said. "She had limited contact with the president while here. She has no contact now."
Sometimes the public burying is done accidentally. Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s communications director for 10 days, famously burned a whole slew of staffers in a profanity-laced New Yorker tirade. He thought it was off-the-record but never bothered to check first. That particular saga was different from the others for one major reason. The Mooch attacked his colleagues while he, and they, were still in their job. But not for long.
Scaramucci was soon fired. He has since tried to be diplomatic with respect to his former colleagues. He indicated that Bannon should be fired days before he eventually was. But one of the only departures that Scaramucci has publicly celebrated was that of former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who had quit when he heard Scaramucci had been hired.
During an interview on The View in September 2017, Scaramucci told the hosts he referred to Spicer as “Liar Spice.” Spicer, for his part, declined to celebrate Scaramucci’s departure during one of his myriad TV hits since leaving his post.
“I don't think it's right to relish in somebody else's problems,” Spicer told Jimmy Kimmel in an interview a few months after Scaramucci’s stint as communications director came to an end. “And so I just as a person, I don't think that's right. But again, I think it proved my point. And that to do this job is one in which you have to have the proper background."
Instead, he opted for a much more Beltway approach when throwing daggers: he delivered them in a book lamenting his rival’s “betrayal of Donald Trump, Reince Priebus and the good people who were to serve under him.”
“What had originally stopped Scaramucci from getting a coveted White House job was the approval of a government office in the Department of Treasury to sell his company to a Chinese conglomerate,” Spicer wrote. “Months after his brief stint, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States... still did not approve the sale, and the Chinese conglomerate pulled out of the deal.”
—With additional reporting by Asawin Suebsaeng