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Donald Trump

Trump names Priebus chief of staff and firebrand Bannon top strategist in bid to unite factions

US President-elect Donald Trump is bringing both ends of the Republican spectrum into his White House

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 November, 2016, 7:34am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 November, 2016, 7:34am

US President-elect Donald Trump named Republican Party chief Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff and conservative media owner Stephen Bannon as his top presidential strategist, two men who represent opposite ends of the unsettled GOP.

In bringing Priebus and Bannon into the White House, Trump is making overtures to both traditional Republican circles and the party’s anti-establishment wing, which helped fuel the businessman’s political rise.

Priebus has deep ties to GOP congressional leaders, particularly House Speaker Paul Ryan. Bannon previously ran the Breitbart website, which was fiercely critical of Republican leadership, including Ryan.

Bannon was notably given top billing in the press release announcing the appointments, a curious arrangement giving that White House chief of staff is typically considered the most powerful West Wing job.

Under Bannon’s tenure, the Brietbart site pushed a nationalist, anti-establishment agenda and became one of the leading outlets of the so-called alt-right — a movement often associated with white supremacy and a defense of “Western values.”

Neither Priebus nor Bannon bring significant policy experience to their new White House roles. Chiefs of staff in particular play a significant role in policy making, serving as a liaison to Cabinet agencies and deciding what information makes it to the president’s desk. They’re often one of the last people in the room with the president as major decisions are made.

Together with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, the triumvirate will lead Trump’s transition to the White House and help guide his presidency, Trump said in a statement.

“I am thrilled to have my very successful team continue with me in leading our country,” Trump said. He called Priebus and Bannon “highly qualified leaders who worked well together on our campaign and led us to a historic victory.

Priebus called the appointment “an honour” and predicted the billionaire “will be a great president for all Americans.”

A fixture in Washington and Wisconsin politics since the mid-2000s, Priebus led the so-called “autopsy report” after Republicans failed to win the 2012 election, recommending efforts to win over Hispanic voters and women.

Throughout Trump’s chaotic and divisive campaign, he served as his diplomat to senior Republicans and donors, and as manager of the party resources to elect candidates around the country.

White House chief of staff is considered one of the most powerful positions in Washington, charged with helping the president in almost every task and operating the complicated machinery of government.

Bannon stands on the far right of the party, far from Priebus’ dedication to fiscal issues over social ones. A former Goldman Sachs executive and early investor in the sitcom Seinfeld, he has in the last few years headed Breitbart News, which has been accused by the Anti-Defamation League of antisemitism , and whose stories regularly traffic in racist and sexist stereotypes and conspiracy theories.

Bannon has repeatedly criticized Republicans , including House speaker Paul Ryan, for not moving far enough to the right.

Neither man has served in elected office, although Priebus, 44, has worked in government since 2004 and as Republican National Committee chairman since 2011.

Bannon has shied from the stage since taking over Trump’s campaign this summer, replacing former lobbyist Paul Manafort, who left after reports of his past ties to pro-Kremlin Ukrainian politicians.

Priebus continued to defend Trump throughout his many controversies this summer, and the businessman praised him during his victory speech on Tuesday.

“I never had a bad second with him,” Trump said. “He’s an unbelievable star.”

Additional reporting by Bloomberg