Donald Trump, President Elect, has appointed two people to be his Chiefs of Staff. He appointed Reince Priebus as his Chief of Staff and Stephen Bannon as chief strategist and senior counsellor, saying the two would share the task of steering his administration as “equal partners”.
Priebus’s appointment was seen as a conciliatory signal of Trump’s willingness to work with Congress when he takes office on Jan. 20. Critics, however, blasted the selection of Bannon, who spearheaded a shift of the Breitbart News website into a forum for the “alt-right,” a loose online group, they say, of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semites, although there is no evidence to support this.
Many prominent Democrats have blasted the appointment of Stephen Bannon saying that it sent “an alarming signal that President-elect Trump remains committed to the hateful and divisive vision that defined his campaign.”
Priebus defended Bannon on Monday, calling him a wise and well-educated former naval officer and saying he had not encountered the sort of extremist or racist views that critics are assailing.
“He was a force for good on the campaign,” Priebus said on Fox News, adding they were in agreement on “almost everything” in terms of advising the president-elect.
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s former campaign manager and a senior adviser, told reporters in New York she was offended by the reaction to Bannon. She described him as a “brilliant tactician” who was the general in charge of Trump’s campaign.
Trump backers counting on the wealthy real estate developer to keep his campaign promise to “drain the swamp” of business-as-usual Washington insiders may be disappointed he has named Priebus as chief of staff, a position that serves as gatekeeper and agenda-setter for the president.
Throughout his career Trump has often pitted competing staff factions against each other to get a wide range of views.
“He likes taking opinions from a lot of different people. He’s not a person who just listens to one person and does whatever that one person says. He decides,” Priebus said on NBC’s “Today Show.”
Since the election, Trump has softened one of his major campaign promises of building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants. In an interview with the CBS program “60 Minutes” on Sunday, Trump said he would accept some fencing instead of a brick-and-mortar wall.
Trump also sought to play down the divisive nature of his candidacy and said Americans alarmed by his election had nothing to fear.
“Don’t be afraid. We are going to bring our country back. But certainly, don’t be afraid,” he said.
Stephen Bannon, a former Goldman Sachs banker, over the past year led Breitbart News in a charge against the Republican Party establishment, including Priebus’ friend Paul Ryan, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Breitbart attacks on Ryan continued on Sunday, with an article denouncing Ryan’s comment on CNN that “we are not planning on erecting a deportation force.”
“Speaker Ryan is now telling voters that he will not enact a central part of Trump’s mandate,” a Breitbart article said.
In the “60 Minutes” interview, Trump said he would move to deport up to 3 million immigrants who are in the country illegally and have criminal records.
The president-elect, a businessman who has never held public office, and his transition team are working on picking members of his Cabinet and the heads of federal agencies.
Among those reported to be under consideration for top posts are former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, as a possible secretary of state or secretary of health and human services; Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser under President George W. Bush, as a possible defence secretary; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani as attorney general; and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as interior secretary.
Links to Stephen Bannon’s News Sites.
Brietbart News, under Bannon’s leadership since March 2012, pushed a nationalist, anti-establishment agenda and became one of the leading outlets of the so-called alt-right – a movement often associated with far-right efforts to preserve “white identity”, oppose multiculturalism and defend “Western values”.
Raheem Kassam, former aide to Nigel Farage and who has just stood down from the UKIP leadership contest runs Breitbart UK news. He worked for the former UKIP leader in the year before the general election on strategy and communications and recently accompanied him to the USA where they both had a meeting with Donald Trump.