Sunday, September 23, 2018
Politics

Trump picks Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee and a loyal campaign adviser, to be his White House chief of staff, turning to a Washington insider whose friendship with the House speaker, Paul Ryan, could help secure early legislative victories, according to people involved in Trump's transition effort.

In selecting Priebus, the president-elect would pass over Stephen Bannon, the right-wing media mogul who oversaw his presidential campaign. If Trump had appointed Bannon, a fierce critic of the Republican establishment, it would have demonstrated a continued disdain for a party that Trump fought throughout his campaign.

Trump's choice is certain to anger some of his most conservative supporters, many of whom expect him to battle the Washington establishment over issues like taxes, immigration, trade, health care and the environment. They view Priebus as a deal-maker who will be too eager to push the new president toward compromise.

Priebus is expected to have multiple deputies, including Katie Walsh, the chief of staff of the Republican National Committee, who is close to Priebus and helped ensure a tight working relationship between the party's operational infrastructure and Trump's campaign.

Other advisers in Trump's inner circle will also have his ear, including Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, who is likely to wield great influence over the new president regardless of whether he holds a formal title. Kushner, who has no experience in politics or government, is often the last person Trump turns to for counsel.

Bannon — the longtime chairman of Breitbart News, a site distinguished by its nationalist, conspiracy-laden coverage — will probably hold a role as a top White House adviser, as well. He is likely to serve as a conduit to the populist right and conservative media outlets.

A onetime Goldman Sachs banker, Bannon has transformed himself into a media figure who favors a scorched-earth style of politics and views the corporate elite and the government establishment with disdain.

Breitbart News regularly traffics in racially charged accusations about President Barack Obama, provocative comparisons between abortion providers and Holocaust killers, and contempt for feminism. Many of its articles tap into a fierce populism not unlike the voter sentiment that helped fuel Trump's victory.

Despite his image as a bomb-thrower, Bannon is also savvy at cutting deals to achieve his goals.

But as chief of staff, Priebus would be the one who has several hundred White House staff members reporting to him. He would be the primary gatekeeper for Trump and the person most responsible for steering the president's agenda through Congress. That role will be especially critical for Trump, who has never served in government and has few connections to important political figures.

The expected selection of Priebus comes at the end of a roller-coaster year for the Republican Party, which saw Trump rewrite many of its policy orthodoxies, clash with its leaders in Congress and denigrate the Bush political dynasty.

As Trump denounced the Republican primary process as rigged and, on occasion, threatened to quit the party and run on his own, Priebus remained neutral. And when Trump secured the nomination, Priebus stood by his side.

Priebus worked with Trump on the nuts and bolts of presidential politics, trying to smooth his rough edges and staying in close contact as a bare-bones campaign prepared to go up against the Clinton machine.

On the surface, the two men could hardly be more different. While Trump, 70, is known for his brashness and at times his viciousness, the much younger Priebus, 44, is regarded for his low profile and humility.

A Wisconsin native and lawyer by training, Priebus has never held elected office. But he served as state treasurer and worked his way up through the Wisconsin Republican Party to become chairman, putting him on the Republican National Committee, where he eventually became general counsel to the chairman at the time, Michael Steele.

Now the longest-serving Republican National Committee chairman, Priebus was elected to the job in 2011, unseating Steele on the promise of modernizing the party and refilling its coffers. With his focus on fundraising and fiscal issues, Priebus let Republican leaders in Congress be the voices of the party during the early part of his tenure. His profile rose as the 2016 election got into gear.

At times, Priebus, whose first name rhymes with "pints," struggled to defend Trump's antics, but he showed his loyalty by supplementing the campaign's resources and by urging Republicans to fall in line behind the candidate in spite of their reservations.

When Trump emerged onstage to give his victory speech early Wednesday, Trump made his appreciation clear, dismissing rumors of tension with Priebus and singing his praises.

"I never had a bad second with him," Trump said. "He's an unbelievable star."

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