WASHINGTON — Hitting the Sunday shows to promote his boss, the new leader of President Trump's revamped communications team said Trump has no need to pardon himself or any associates because they have done nothing wrong regarding Russia.
White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, speaking two days after his appointment, vowed to change the White House public relations approach, telling Fox News Sunday that Trump is "one of the most effective communicators that’s ever been born. And we’re going to make sure that we get that message out directly to the American people."
During various network appearances, Scaramucci and other officials also said Trump reserves the right to raise conflict of interest claims against Russia special counsel Robert Mueller, should it become necessary. Trump and aides have complained that lawyers on Mueller's team have made contributions to 2016 Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
A member of the president's legal team, Jay Sekulow, told ABC's This Week that "you have to evaluate conflicts as the matter moves forward," though he added that Mueller's office has never notified Trump he is under investigation.
Democrats accused Trump and his team of trying to intimidate investigators.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Cal., the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told CBS' Face The Nation that "the president is clearly worried that Bob Mueller's going to be looking into allegations, for example, that the Russians may have laundered money through the Trump organization."
During an appearance on CNN's State of the Union, Scaramucci said he received a call from someone over the weekend who doubted Russia's involvement in the hacking scheme; when pressed about the identity of the caller, Scaramucci acknowledged it was the president himself.
Trump weighed in on the Russia investigation on Sunday via Twitter, describing it as a "phony Russian Witch Hunt."
The incoming White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said on ABC's This Week that Trump would sign a congressional bill to put new sanctions on Russia over interference in last year's presidential election.
An initial proposal "was poorly written," Sanders said, but the administration worked with House and Senate members on a new version that the White House supports. "The administration is supportive of being tough on Russia, particularly in putting these sanctions in place,” she told ABC.
These and other comments came two days after Trump changed his communications team by tapping former New York businessman Scaramucci to run it. That decision prompted the resignation of press secretary Sean Spicer, who is being replaced by Sanders.
During his tour of Sunday interview shows, Scaramucci:
— Downplayed reports that President Trump has asked attorneys about the pardon power, saying it is unnecessary because there is nothing to the Russia investigation.
"The president is not going to have to pardon anybody because the Russia thing is a nonsensical thing," Scaramucci told CNN's State of the Union.
Trump himself raised the issue during a weekend tweet storm that again criticized leaks to the news media. "While all agree the U.S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.FAKE NEWS" he tweeted.
While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.FAKE NEWS— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2017
— Said one of his priorities as the new White House communications director is to stop news leaks.
Speaking on CBS' Face The Nation, Scaramucci said he would fire any White House official caught improperly leaking, and made a rhetorical play on the old adage about a company's weakest link: "We're as strong as our weakest leak."
— Predicted that Trump would continue to pursue an agenda that includes repealing and replacing President Barack Obama's health care law, tax cuts, reduced federal regulations on businesses, and a likely 2020 re-election bid.
"This guy always gets what he wants," Scaramucci told CBS.
— Pledged to play up the economy in promoting Trump's agenda, and will rely on the president's own communications ability. Scaramucci said he would not try to change Trump's style, from early morning tweets to outspoken comments at public rallies, but would look at new ways the White House can present the president.
"We need to deliver the messaging a little bit differently," he told CNN.
— Waved off his past criticisms of Trump that he made when he supported other candidates during the 2016 campaign.
During his appearance on Fox, Scaramucci said he loves Trump, and "I spent the last 18 months supporting him unyieldingly because he’s a great person and he’s going to be a phenomenal — he is a phenomenal president, and he’s going to be a better president."
Scaramucci announced over the weekend that he has deleted his old tweets, particularly those critical of Trump.
"Past views evolved & shouldn't be a distraction," he said. "I serve @POTUS agenda & that's all that matters."
Full transparency: I'm deleting old tweets. Past views evolved & shouldn't be a distraction. I serve @POTUS agenda & that's all that matters— Anthony Scaramucci (@Scaramucci) July 22, 2017
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