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Foul-mouthed Scaramucci lights blue touch paper of White House fireworks

Donald Trump's new communications director has exploded smouldering tensions at the White House into a wildfire, angrily daring the US president's chief of staff to deny he was a "leaker" and exposing West Wing backstabbing in language more suited to a gangster movie.

In a pull-no-punches impromptu CNN interview that he said was authorised by Mr Trump, Anthony Scaramucci went after chief of staff Reince Priebus in graphic terms.

"The fish stinks from the head down," he said.

"I can tell you two fish that don't stink, and that's me and the president."

Not even a week into his new job, Mr Scaramucci accused unidentified senior officials of trying to sabotage him and committing an offence by leaking information.

But the personal financial information that he said someone had "leaked" about him had simply been obtained through a public records request.

Then, in an interview published by The New Yorker late on Thursday, an angry Mr Scaramucci accused Mr Priebus of being a "f***ing paranoid schizophrenic" and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon of trying to burnish his own reputation.

He also threatened to sack White House staffers who leaked information about a dinner he had with the president.

"They'll all be fired by me," Mr Scaramucci told the magazine.

"I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I'll fire tomorrow. I'll get to the person who leaked that to you.

"Reince Priebus - if you want to leak something - he'll be asked to resign very shortly."

But by the end of the day, Mr Scaramucci sounded calmer, though not regretful.

"I sometimes use colourful language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for @realDonaldTrump's agenda. #MAGA," he tweeted.

The tag at the end stands for Mr Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan.

He also blamed the reporter, Ryan Lizza.

"I made a mistake in trusting in a reporter," he added later. "It won't happen again."

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders referred reporters to the first tweet.

The president's senior counsellor Kellyanne Conway had earlier speculated in a Fox News interview that unnamed forces were out to get Mr Scaramucci, saying: "Somebody is trying to get in his way and scare him off."

"There are leaks and then there are people using the press to shiv each other in the ribs."

Meanwhile, no-one in the White House championed Mr Priebus - including Mr Priebus himself.

Ms Sanders avoided giving a direct answer when asked whether Mr Trump has confidence in Mr Priebus.

The past 24 hours provided the clearest evidence yet that Mr Scaramucci and Trump, both brash New Yorkers, are cut from the same cloth.

One of their shared techniques is publicly shaming members of their own team.

Mr Scaramucci's goading of Mr Priebus came as Mr Trump continued to fume publicly and privately about his attorney general Jeff Sessions.

Mr Trump has been critical of Mr Sessions for recusing himself from the Justice Department investigation into whether the president's campaign had anything to do with Russian interference in the US election last year.

"It hasn't been my best week ... for my relationship with the president," Mr Sessions acknowledged in El Salvador, where he was on a mission to increase international co-operation against gangs.

He said he would stay in his post and fight for Mr Trump's agenda "as long as he sees that as appropriate".

Newt Gingrich, a former House of Representatives speaker and frequent outside adviser to Mr Trump, said Mr Scaramucci's attacks on Mr Priebus were problematic.

"They've got to get this sorted out between the two of them, and it would be nice if they didn't do it in public," he said.

Yet after Mr Scaramucci's call-in CNN performance - a move lifted from his boss' playbook - it was difficult to see how the two could mend fences.

"I don't know if this is repairable or not - that will be up to the president," Mr Scaramucci said on air.

He compared their relationship to that of brothers who are "rough on each other", invoking Cain and Abel.

The bad blood stems from Mr Scaramucci's view that Mr Priebus was insufficiently supportive of Mr Trump at the end of the election campaign and his belief that Mr Priebus persuaded the president to keep him out of the White House in January.

Six months later, Mr Scaramucci's close relationship with the president trumped the opposition of Mr Priebus and Mr Bannon.

His arrival in the West Wing last Friday marked the first in a series of falling dominoes that seemed to be leading towards Mr Priebus.

Press secretary Sean Spicer, a close ally of Mr Priebus, resigned last week and Mr Scaramucci forced out another communications aide close to Mr Priebus.

Mr Scaramucci then tweeted that someone had illegally leaked financial information about him, conspicuously mentioning Mr Priebus' Twitter handle.

Mr Scaramucci later deleted that tweet and said he had mentioned Mr Priebus only to show that all senior leaders were taking leaks seriously.

"In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony, I will be contacting @FBI and the @JusticeDept #swamp @Reince45," his since-deleted tweet read.

Mr Scaramucci's financial disclosure form was not leaked at all. It was released after a public records request by a Politico reporter.

In the CNN interview, Mr Scaramucci said he would be reaching out to his "buddies" in the FBI about the matter.

If Mr Scaramucci tries to direct the FBI to conduct a leak investigation, that could conflict with the Justice Department's obligation to function independently from the White House, said Mark Zaid, a national security lawyer in Washington.

"It starts to potentially smell and approach an inappropriate line," he said.

AP

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