The Mooch is back. Why is anyone’s guess.
Fresh off a wacky, expletive-laden interview with Vanity Fair, former Trump White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who was canned after just eleven days on the job when he accused then-chief strategist Steve Bannon of autofellatio in a no-holds-barred interview with the New Yorker, made a Friday night stop on Real Time with Bill Maher.
Things got off to a very rocky start—an expected outcome, given how Mooch was flanked by Maher, anti-Trump conservative David Frum, and ex-interim DNC chairperson Donna Brazile, and that the Mooch’s political career has been defined by crass opportunism, with the former Hillary and Obama backer supporting first Scott Walker, then reaching out to Marco Rubio, and then endorsing Jeb Bush before finally joining the Trump campaign in 2016 (despite branding Trump “anti-American” and a “hack politician” just one year prior).
Early on, Scaramucci defended the Trump tax cuts, leaving Maher beside himself. “Anthony, where is most of the money going? Where is most of the money going?!” the host pleaded, prompting Scaramucci to launch into a red herring-tale of the decline of the working class due to globalization.
Enter David “Axis of Evil” Frum, senior editor of The Atlantic and former George W. Bush speechwriter. “I have a question for you: before you went into government, where you served as communications advisor, you were given an enormous offer from a Chinese group for the purchase of your company for what, $90 million, before you went in. After you came out, the purchasers lost interest. How am I to understand that?” he queried.
Frum was referring to a conflict of interest that arose when Mooch took the White House gig: the pending sale of his investment firm Skybridge Capital, valued at between $200-230 million, to the shady Chinese firm HNA Capital, which has deep ties to the Chinese government. Mooch was himself expected to clear $77 million from the deal after taxes, though it never passed regulators.
If you recall during his brief White House tenure, Mooch, in a hilarious self-own, called on the FBI and Justice Department to investigate the “leak” of his financial disclosure forms revealing his existing ties to Skybridge, despite them being a matter of public record. He later blamed the “leak”—even though there was no leak, as the documents were given to an inquiring reporter by the Export-Import Bank—on then-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, causing a rift between Mooch and pals Priebus and Bannon.
The Mooch, seething with anger, called Frum’s accusation “completely untrue” and “BS,” telling him to “call the Treasury Department.”
Pursing his lips and flexing, The Mooch exuded an air of agitated calm throughout the HBO show’s panel discussion, finding himself repeatedly on the receiving end of barbs courtesy of Frum, Brazile, and occasionally Maher.
When Maher suggested that “Russia helped” Trump win the election, Scaramucci replied, “You’re suggesting that [Trump] colluded with the Russians,” which, no, that was not the suggestion. Mooch later admitted that he agrees with the assessment of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), which oversees all 17 U.S. federal intelligence agencies, that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election—though appeared to ignore the part of the report stating: “We assess the [Russian] influence campaign aspired to help President-elect Trump’s chances of victory when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to the President-elect.”
But it was Frum who clashed loudest and longest with Scaramucci, with the #NeverTrumper at one point charging that he was blinded by “ambition,” which, true, and later saying, “I’ve spent more time in a Republican administration than you. As a Republican, does it not stick in your craw that Vladimir Putin wanted to help your guy so much? Don’t you ask yourself the question, ‘Why did my guy win the Putin primary?’”
Mooch brushed the question off, replying, “Your level of anger and sanctimony is not coming across as great on television.”
“For me, it’s not a performance,” Frum shot back, “it’s the country that’s in danger, and you have helped endanger it.”
The Mooch, not to be denied, accused Frum of “cultural elitism,” to which Frum replied, “You’re gonna play that card or you’re gonna name-drop Harvard. One or the other,” referring to the beginning of Mooch’s guest appearance where he indeed name-dropped Harvard several times. (The Mooch is also worth several hundred millions dollars.)
It was Maher, of course, who got the last laugh. When pressed by the comedian as to how he’d explain Trump’s Access Hollywood tape to his child someday, Mooch unconvincingly replied, “Depending on his age, I’ll be very honest with ‘em. I’ll say, you know what, there’s a lot of flawed people in the world. Your daddy has a whole phone book of flaws…”
At that point, Maher—and the panel, and the viewers—had had enough, so the host cut him off and went into “New Rules.”