Donald Trump received praise from the Republican party for choosing Reince Priebus on Sunday as his chief of staff, but things have fallen quiet from the party about his other choice, Stephen Bannon for a top White House position.
Social Media lit up quickly as many critics quickly pointed out the views that Bannon has promoted as chairman of Breitbart News.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations said Mr. Bannon’s selection “sends the disturbing message that anti-Muslim conspiracy theories and white nationalist ideology will be welcome in the White House.”
That view was echoed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that tracks hate groups, which insisted that “Trump should rescind this hire. In his victory speech, Trump said he intended to be president for ‘all Americans.’ Bannon should go.”
Republicans who had long opposed Mr. Trump’s candidacy took to Twitter on Sunday night and Monday morning to warn that his choice to rely on the advice of Mr. Bannon is an indication of the way that he will govern.
“The racist, fascist extreme right is represented footsteps from the Oval Office,” said John Weaver, a Republican strategist who ran the presidential campaign of Gov. John Kasich of Ohio and previously advised Senator John McCain of Arizona. “Be very vigilant, America.”
But people close to Mr. Bannon came to his defense as well. Joel B. Pollak, an author and editor at Breitbart, called him an “American patriot who also defends Israel and has deep empathy for the Jewish people.”
Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and presidential candidate, accused Mr. Bannon’s critics of sour grapes. On Twitter, he wrote that Mr. Bannon should embrace the criticism from CAIR, the Muslim rights group.
“Critics of Steve Bannon know he’s smarter and tougher than they are,” Mr. Huckabee wrote. “When CAIR doesn’t like you that is a good thing. Bannon a good guy.”
Stephen Bannon, a leading force of the far-right, a flame-throwing media mogul and professional provocateur, a man who made a career out of roiling the establishment from the outside, just landed squarely on the inside.
Donald Trump’s pick for chief strategist and senior counselor signals the president-elect has no intention of abandoning his brash, outsider instincts as he puts together his new government. Trump didn’t give Bannon the top White House job – that went to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. Still, Trump made clear Sunday that a man many credit with righting the businessman’s campaign – and one others accuse of amplifying a bigoted fringe – would have a plum position in the West Wing.
Bannon joined Trump’s election team as chief executive late in the campaign, following the departure of Trump’s second campaign team in August. He quickly became a member of Trump’s inner circle, frequently traveling with the candidate and working to re-shape his message to emphasize Trump’s populist and outsider appeal.
Bannon came from Breitbart News, an unabashedly pro-Trump outlet that had declared war on GOP leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, with whom Trump will have to work to pass his agenda if Ryan retains his role.
But other elements of Bannon’s tenure are getting more attention. Under his leadership, the 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 far-right efforts to preserve “white identity,” oppose multiculturalism and defend “Western values.”
The site specializes in button-pushing, traffic-trolling headlines, including one that called conservative commentator Bill Kristol a “Republican spoiler, renegade Jew.” Others asked, “Would you rather your child had feminism or cancer?” and “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy.”
Priebus on Monday said “That wasn’t his writing,” referring to Bannon, although he did not specify which, if any were Bannon’s work. In the months Priebus has known Bannon, the media mogul “has exhibited none of those qualities,” the Republican chairman told NBC’s “Today.”
“Here is a guy who is very, very smart, very temperate, and together we’ve been able to manage a lot of the decision making in regard to the campaign along with Kellyanne (Conway),” he added. “And it’s worked very, very well.”
Bannon has been personally accused of prejudice. His ex-wife said in court papers obtained by media outlets that Bannon made anti-Semitic remarks when the two battled over sending their daughters to private school nearly a decade ago. In a sworn court declaration following their divorce, Mary Louise Piccard said her ex-husband had objected to sending their twin daughters to an elite Los Angeles academy because he “didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.”
Alexandra Preate, a spokeswoman for Bannon, denied he’d ever said such things.
Bannon also faced domestic violence charges following an altercation the pair had on New Year’s Day 1996 following a spat over money. He was charged in 1996 with misdemeanor witness intimidation, domestic violence with traumatic injury and battery. The charges were dropped after Piccard didn’t show up at trial.
A Harvard MBA, Bannon began his career as a Goldman Sachs investment banker. He later capitalized on an entertainment industry deal that left him with a share of “Seinfeld” royalties, founded the Government Accountability Institute to ferret out “crony capitalism” and government corruption, and created a number of his own films, including paeans to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the tea party movement and Ronald Reagan.
Breitbart’s founder, the late Andrew Breitbart, once admiringly described Bannon as the Leni Riefenstahl of the tea party movement, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek profile. Riefenstahl was a filmmaker vilified after World War II for her propaganda pieces about Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.
He was hired by Breitbart News after Breitbart died suddenly in 2012.
Unafraid to play favorites, the website early last year prominently featured positive stories about Trump rival Ted Cruz. But as Trump gained momentum later in the year, the site began pumping out pro-Trump stories – and remained a chief proponent of Trump’s candidacy through the end of the race.
Given his background and reputation, many had expected Bannon’s arrival in August to signal a new, caustic phase for the Trump campaign. There were moments. Trump’s pre-debate news conference with the women who’d accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual assault seemed to be signature Bannon. But largely, Trump appeared more comfortable and willing to stick to the teleprompter under the guidance of Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, who was promoted to the role of campaign manager when Bannon joined the team.
Ultimately, Bannon’s biggest influence appeared to be pushing Trump to adopt more populist rhetoric and paint rival Hillary Clinton as part of a globalist system bent on oppressing the country’s working people.
Trump’s campaign said Bannon will work “as equal partners” with Priebus. The arrangement suggests the president-elect is putting a premium on loyalty and maintaining much of his existing inner circle as he begins to fill thousands of government positions over the coming weeks.
“I want to thank President-elect Trump for the opportunity to work with Reince in driving the agenda of the Trump administration,” Bannon said in a statement.
Reince Priebus defends Bannon pick.
Reince Priebus, who was chosen on Sunday to become Mr. Trump’s White House chief of staff, defended the selection of Stephen K. Bannon to serve as chief strategist on Monday and pushed back against suggestions that Mr. Bannon is racist and anti-Semitic.
“That’s not the Steve Bannon that I know,” Mr. Priebus said on MSNBC, calling him a force for good on the campaign. “I’ve only seen a generous, hospitable, wise person to work with.”
Civil rights groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned the selection of Mr. Bannon, pointing to the divisive views promoted by Breitbart News, the nationalist website that he runs.
Mr. Priebus said that he agreed that Mr. Trump still had more to do to bring the country together and that it would be healthy for him to deliver a unifying speech to tone down some of the things he said in the heat of the campaign battle.
“He wants to make you proud of your country and serve you,” Mr. Priebus said.
Alex Jones claims Donald Trump offered thanks.
Alex Jones, an online broadcast host who has accused the government of grand-scale conspiracies, says that President-elect Trump personally called him to thank him for his support during the campaign.
Mr. Jones made the revelation on a brief clip on his website.
“He said, ‘Listen Alex, I just talked to the kings and the queens of the world,’” Mr. Jones recalled, saying that Mr. Trump added, “I want to thank you, your audience.”
He said the incoming president promised to come on his program again in the next few weeks. He celebrated that Mr. Trump had triumphed over “hoaxes” such as Obamacare.
Mr. Jones was an early booster of Mr. Trump, who appeared on his program during the end of the primaries. Mr. Jones has charged, among other things, that the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut in December 2012 was a hoax.
Paul Ryan Lets Republican Party Know To Hit the Ground Running
House Speaker Paul Ryan told Republican lawmakers Monday that it’s time to “hit the ground running as we join forces with the new Trump administration.”
“We need to seize this moment, and come together like never before,” Ryan told fellow House GOP lawmakers in a letter seeking their support in his re-election for speaker.
The Wisconsin Republican circulated the letter as Congress reconvened for a lame-duck session following Republican Donald Trump’s election as president.
House Republicans were widely expecting to return to Washington this week to plan for life under a Democratic administration and possibly a Democratic-controlled Senate. Instead, they find themselves in full control of Washington and are elated at the opportunity to get their pent-up legislative goals signed into law.
House Republicans will hold closed-door leadership elections on Tuesday and Ryan is expected to be re-elected as speaker – despite mumblings of discontent from a few conservative lawmakers. He has served in the job for a year.
“Serving as speaker is a tremendous honor, and one I do not take for granted,” Ryan wrote. “I am running for re-election so that we can continue what we have started and make 2017 a year of action. I ask for your vote, and I ask for your support at the start of this great undertaking.”
Ryan had clashed with Trump in the course of the campaign, including initially withholding his endorsement, which angered some conservative House members and appeared to irritate Trump. But since the election Ryan has been effusive in his praise for Trump and enthusiasm over their potential joint agenda, even though Trump has shown no enthusiasm for the large-scale overhauls of Medicare and Social Security that Ryan has pushed for years.
As the House was coming back into session Monday, some 50 newly elected House members were arriving in the capital to learn the ropes of their new jobs – much like college freshmen.