Politics

They're back! Trump's departed — sometimes disgraced — staff hit the campaign trail

Last summer, Anthony Scaramucci was fired as White House communications director only 10 days into his tenure, after giving a forthright and rather profane interview. But on the campaign trail these days, Republicans aren't holding that against him.

"I should go back?" Scaramucci asked after a voter shouted encouragement as he campaigned for congressional candidate Michael Grimm on Staten Island, N.Y. last month.

"Absolutely!" came the reply.

"I'm trying to stay married!" cracked Scaramucci, who is often known as "the Mooch." The crowd laughed.

Scaramucci is one of a long list of former Trump White House officials who are finding new fans — and another turn in the political spotlight — on the 2018 campaign trail as Republican candidates ask them to headline fundraising events, appear at campaign rallies and record robocalls.

And in an administration that has experienced record turnover, there's no shortage of former aides to tap.

Besides Scaramucci, there's also former Press Secretary Sean Spicer (who became a household name thanks to "Saturday Night Live,") , ex-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who was fired on the tarmac next to Air Force One, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in connection with the Russia investigation, and Sebastian Gorka, an outspoken former deputy assistant to the president.

On July 25, 2017 Anthony Scaramucci was named President Trump's new White House communications director -- and late-night hosts like Stephen Colbert had a lot to say about it. Ten days later, Scaramucci resigned from his post as communications dir

Administration veterans — even those with the shortest of tenures — bring with them Trump-stamped resumes and a dash of celebrity, even if they also bring baggage from President Trump's tweeted insults and public firings.

“People remember them as being in the bunker with the president,” said Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign aide helping Grimm.

He dismissed any problems surrounding their dramatic exits.

“I think most Americans understand that the White House, no matter who the president is — people understand the White House could be perhaps the most difficult place in the world to work. Those who withstood the daily fire are respected no matter what their exit was.”

Perhaps no one has been as active as Spicer, who resigned during the short-lived Scaramucci era.

This summer, Spicer will appear at events for California's largest Republican political action committee, Republican women’s groups in Washington and Prescott, Ariz., the Republican Party of Washington state’s annual fundraiser and events for the Saratoga, N.Y. and Cobb County, Ga. GOP.

“This is one way I can help,” said Spicer, a former Republican Party official who is releasing a book next month and sometimes accepts payment for campaign speeches.

Sean Spicer resigned his position as White House press secretary on Friday. Spicer made headlines with some of his statements behind the podium during press briefings.

Ben Cline, a Virginia state legislator running to replace retiring Rep. Bob Goodlatte in conservative western Virginia, said Spicer was a big draw at his hospitality suite at an annual gathering of Virginia Republican activists in December, shaking hands, posing for photos and signing autographs. A few months later, Spicer recorded a robocall for Cline.

“He’s a prominent figure in the party and well-respected in our part of the state,” said Cline, who is campaigning on a promise to help Trump get his agenda through a sometimes reluctant Congress.

Trump surrogates are most welcome in contests where the candidates are focused more on base turnout than persuading moderates. GOP candidates in moderate seats tend to keep their distance from anyone tied to the polarizing administration, and many others who do want to be associated with Trump are hoping for Trump, his children, and Vice President Mike Pence.

But just as the Trump White House was at first divided between establishment Republicans and populist conservatives so, too, are the Trump alumni now on the campaign trail.

Those staffers hired by Priebus are generally backing mainstream candidates who have the national party apparatus behind them. Those associated with former chief strategist Steve Bannon are often supporting more hardline, sometimes even fringe, candidates.

No matter the surrogate, though, the message of any candidate embracing current or former Trump staff is clear: They, too, support Trump, who has an 87 percent approval rating among Republicans, according to the latest Gallup poll.

“The common theme you’ll see among former White House staff that are engaged in the midterm election is the candidates they help are committed to coming to Washington and supporting the president’s agenda,” said Katie Walsh, former White House deputy chief of staff.

Priebus, who left the White House in late July and rejoined his law firm, endorsed Leah Vukmir, a state legislator vying to run against Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in Priebus's home state of Wisconsin. He has helped raise money for Josh Hawley, who is running against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri. Priebus lent his name to one of Hawley's fundraisers last week. (Walsh is also aiding Hawley). Priebus did not return a message seeking comment.

Bannon, who was fired in August, initially planned to be heavily involved with anti-establishment candidates, but he has kept a lower profile in the U.S. since he was quoted making disparaging remarks about Trump and his family, which he has said were mischaracterized. Bannon didn't comment for this story.

But some of his traditional allies, like Gorka, are still prominent presences on the trail.

Gorka has made several endorsements, and also done events for candidates including Kelli Ward, a hard-right candidate in Arizona who remains a sharp critic of ailing Sen. John McCain, and John McCann, the GOP House nominee in northern New Jersey. He also backed Shak Hill, who lost to incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock in a Virginia GOP congressional primary on Tuesday.

Gorka, who suddenly left the White House soon after Bannon did, is slated to rally and raise money with Spicer on behalf of Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York on June 28.

“I will support anyone who is a fighter, fed up with the domination of RINOs, [Republicans in Name Only], and who wants to Make America Great Again,” Gorka said in an email.

In the past, he has sometimes accepted payment from campaigns. Gorka and the Zeldin campaign didn’t respond when asked if the same would be true for the June event.

Here are the events that lead up to Michael Flynn's guilty plea in the FBI’s Russia investigation.

Then there are the Flynns. Despite his guilty plea, Flynn still hit the trail to campaign for Omar Navarro, a Republican candidate challenging Rep. Maxine Waters in a deep-blue California district, and he also endorsed Troy Downing, a GOP Senate candidate in Montana. Downing lost his primary.

Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr., a bombastic presence on Twitter, has also endorsed a state candidate in Virginia, Ivan Raiklin.

Raiklin failed to get on the ballot.

Anita Kumar: 202-383-6017, @anitakumar01

Katie Glueck: 202-383-6078, @katieglueck

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