Trump Advisor Scaramucci Faces a Hostile Crowd at Davos

January 17, 2017, 7:37 PM UTC
Photo by Stephen Gandel

Anthony Scaramucci, a Davos regular, hasn’t always gotten a warm reception at the confab of global leaders.

Five years ago, he was confronted at the World Economic Forum by journalist and fellow Davos regular Felix Salmon for pushing overpriced investment products. (Scaramucci, until recently, ran an investment firm Skybridge Capital that buys and sells hedge funds.) And Scaramucci’s annual party featuring expensive wines and celebrities has in the past served as a symbol of the excess of the global confab. Last year, Kevin Spacey showed up to croon for the crowd.

But as the only official member of the incoming U.S. administration in attendance this year, Scaramucci says he feels like he is in hostile territory more than ever before. “I brought a poison tester along with me,” Scaramucci joked.

Trump and his likely economic policies have been a big part of the discussion at this year’s Davos. And at a conference that has long been known for promoting coordination of global leaders particularly on economic issues, Trump’s populist policies have received criticism. Harvard economist and debt hawk Ken Rogoff said that Trump’s proposed policies—particularly tariffs—could end up backfiring. “I think lower income people will be hurt the most from higher prices and lower trade,” says Rogoff.

China’s President Xi Jinping, meanwhile, used the first-ever appearance of a Chinese leader at Davos to seemingly warn Trump against starting a trade war.

But the divide between the Trump administration and the Davos crowd might not be as large as it appears. Trump has never been to Davos, but former Goldman Sachs banker Gary Cohen, who will head Trump’s National Economic Council, is a regular at the conference though won’t attend this year. Blackstone’s CEO Steven Schwarzman, who’s head of Trump’s CEO advisory forum, will make an appearance, as will J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Blackrock CEO Larry Fink, who are both on the advisory forum. Scaramucci has been nine times.

Goldman executive Dina Powell, whom Trump appointed as an assistant economic advisor last week, was scheduled to attend Davos this year but isn’t expected to show.

And Scaramucci is in high demand, both officially and by other attendees. On Tuesday alone he appeared onstage twice. In a one-on-one billed as an outlook for America, every seat of a large auditorium was filled, leaving some attendees waiting to get in. He also conducted an off-the-record session with select members of the press. And he’s often been trailed by a small crowd through the conference center, which is not lacking in boldface business names and world leaders.

“I like Anthony a lot,” says Joshua Friedman, who runs hedge fund Canyon Partners and is attending Davos this year. “He’s a good communicator and an even-minded guy. He’s a good pick for Trump.”

And many CEOs who are attending the conference this year have said that they believe Trump’s policies will be good for the economy. PricewaterhouseCoopers released a study that showed CEO confidence in the economy had grown since Trump was elected.

Even still, Scaramucci has spent much of his short time in Davos—he’s leaving early to attend the inauguration— defending Trump.

On the potential for Trump’s policies causing inflation, Scaramucci argued that deflation was much worse. On Trump’s criticism of the Federal Reserve and Janet Yellen, Scaramucci said he believes in a strong independent central bank. Scaramucci said the Trump administration will succeed if it focuses on the working class, and he took a shot at the Davos crowd. “‘Global elites’ is a pejorative [term] in a lot of places, and maybe it should be here, too,” said Scaramucci. “We will focus on the average Americans.”

One moderator, remarking on Scaramucci’s repeated defense of Trump, asked whether Scaramucci will be needed to play translator-in-chief for the next four years.

“I see Trump very differently than you see him,” Scaramucci said, addressing the crowd. “And I think there will be an arbitrage between…the way you see [Trump] and the way I see him.”


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