President-elect Donald Trump is to name Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus as his chief of staff, according to sources.
The news, one of the most important moves of Trump’s new transition, signals a more traditional approach to governing – though it might not be what some of Trump’s millions of anti-establishment supporters were expecting when Trump promised to ‘drain the swamp’ in Washington by taking on entrenched forces.
Priebus, who helped negotiate the ‘pledge’ about supporting the ultimate winner during the contentious GOP primary and who stood by Trump even as other powerful members of the establishment kept their distance, emerged as a leading choice immediately after the election.
Another leading candidate was Steven Bannon, the campaign CEO, former Goldman Sachs banker and chief of Breitbart News.
The selection of Priebus suggests a more conventional approach to governing. With Republicans controlling both the House and Senate, the GOP has an opportunity to ram through an agenda.
In an unorthodox move, the official release named Bannon first.
‘President-elect Donald J. Trump today announced that Trump for President CEO Stephen K. Bannon will serve as Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President, and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus will serve as White House Chief of Staff,’ his office said.
Bannon helped forge Trump’s stunning victory from the inside, and was connected to some of Trump’s brash campaign moves, like bringing Bill and Hillary Clinton accusers to a presidential debate.
Trump is ‘taking the counsel of many people. I think he can’t go wrong with the decision,’ said his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, who herself has been mentioned for a number of prominent roles, speaking to reporters at Trump Tower on Sunday before word broke of the final decision.
Also spotted at Trump Tower Sunday was RNC official Sean Spicer, in another indication of the Priebus pick.
Throughout the campaign, Trump and the Party had complicated relationship. Past presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush didn’t endorse him and didn’t attend the Republican convention.
Prior presidential nominees Mitt Romney and John McCain also kept their distance, while multiple sitting senators and leading elected officials denounced one part of Trump’s agenda or another.
A waive of lawmakers condemned his comments on the infamous ‘p****’ tape, though some ended up coming back his direction.
Through the tense times, Priebus tried to navigate through it all, mindful that if Trump underperformed it could doom Republicans down ballot.
The role of chief of staff is always critical, and even more so in administration that shunned planning for the transition by design, and with a candidate who has no government experience who has taken conflicting positions on an array of issues.
Trump is already experiencing the challenges of trying communicate his priorities now that he faces the challenge of actually assuming office. He told the Wall Street Journal Friday he would ‘amend’ Obamacare, but has also called for repealing and replacing it.
House Republicans have their own plan to replace Obamacare, while Speaker Ryan has put forward a plan to force massive entitlement changes, something Trump has said he wouldn’t do. Part of the chief of staff’s role is selecting priorities, negotiating with Congress, and mapping out a strategy that can work.
Trump held meetings and took calls Sunday as he has for several days – including one from primary rival Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who he labeled ‘low energy,’ and Carly Fiorina, who he got caught ridiculing for her appearance ‘that face’ in a Rolling Stone interview.
‘He’s very busy up there meeting with different people and receiving many different phone calls. He’s taken calls in the last couple of days from Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, from governor Jeb Bush,’ Conway told reporters.
Of the Bush call, she said, ‘They had a very productive call and governor Bush was extremely gracious congratulating Mr. Trump on his victory and wishing him well as our next president.’
Trump also has connected with Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich, who didn’t vote for Trump or have his organization work for him – although Trump won Ohio anyway.
Bannon has been a source of speculation since his name was floated for the job in the New York Times on Friday.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who kept some distance from Trump during the primaries but voted for him, is close to fellow-Wisconsinite Priebus.
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