White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Thursday suggested that filling out financial disclosure forms and having them released to the public discourages qualified people from serving in government ― despite the fact that the procedure is a basic measure of transparency in government.
"There are so many qualified men and women who wanted to serve this president, this administration and their country who have been completely demoralized and completely, I think, disinclined to do so, based on the paperwork that we have to put forward, divesting assets, the different hoops you have to run through," Conway said. "This White House is transparent and accountable, and we've all complied with those rules, but it has disincentivized good men and women. I hope it doesn't disincentivize Anthony."
Accusing reporters of "covering the style and not the substance here," Conway defended Scaramucci, who has pledged to tamp down on leaks.
On Wednesday night, the new White House communications director, responding to a Politico story about his finances, claimed his financial disclosure form had been leaked. But its reporters noted that the form was publicly available by request from the Office of Government Ethics.
Incorrectly referring to it as a leak, Conway said it represented a threat against Scaramucci, noting that he included the FBI, in a tweet raising the issue.
"He's making clear that even though the documents are eventually procurable publicly, that somebody doesn't want him here, and somebody is trying to get in his way and scare him off from working here, which is a huge mistake," Conway said of the supposed leak.
Scaramucci and Conway's comments come as the White House plans to crack down on leaks of information, an issue that has been of paramount concern to their boss, President Donald Trump.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has drawn the repeated ire of Trump in recent days, is planning to announce further investigations into leaks.
The president has expressed frustration that Sessions recused himself from the investigations into whether Trump's campaign colluded with Russia. Trump told reporters this week that he wants Sessions to be "much tougher on the leaks from the intelligence agencies."