Right-wing firebrand named chief strategist

Mr Bannon is likely to be Mr Trump's chief ideologue and spokesman for an agenda that includes curbing immigration. Mr Priebus, who will be chief of staff, has been a bridge between Mr Trump and those in the Republican Party torn over supporting the
Mr Priebus, who will be chief of staff, has been a bridge between Mr Trump and those in the Republican Party torn over supporting the brash tycoon.
Mr Bannon is likely to be Mr Trump's chief ideologue and spokesman for an agenda that includes curbing immigration. Mr Priebus, who will be chief of staff, has been a bridge between Mr Trump and those in the Republican Party torn over supporting the
Mr Bannon is likely to be Mr Trump's chief ideologue and spokesman for an agenda that includes curbing immigration.

Appointment of Stephen Bannon draws wave of criticism; Reince Priebus picked as chief of staff

US President-elect Donald Trump has signalled an aggressive agenda by picking right-wing firebrand Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist, placing him on a par with his other top appointee, chief of staff Reince Priebus.

Mr Priebus, 44, chair of the Republican National Committee, will take a top-ranking office in the Cabinet and a position that has the president's ear at all times.

But he will share it with Mr Bannon, 62, former chairman of the strident "alternative right" online media vehicle Breitbart News.

"Bannon and Priebus will continue the effective leadership team they formed during the campaign, working as equal partners to transform the federal government, making it much more efficient, effective and productive," said Mr Trump in a statement.

The appointments were hailed by former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich of the Republican Party, who tweeted: "Bannon for key strategies, Priebus for daily management. Great team."

As the White House chief of staff, Mr Priebus will supervise staff, set the agenda, ensure decisions are executed across a sprawling bureaucracy and, importantly, control access to the president.

But as chief strategist and counsellor, Mr Bannon will also have unfettered access to the president. He is inheriting the role of Mr David Axelrod for President Barack Obama, and Mr Karl Rove for President George W. Bush, though Mr Axelrod and Mr Rove both had the title of senior adviser.

Analysts said there is potential for the strategist and the more conservative Mr Priebus to clash.

Mr Bannon, whose career has spanned the navy, banking and movie production, is likely to be Mr Trump's chief ideologue and spokesman for an agenda that includes curbing immigration and putting conservative judges in the Supreme Court with the aim of rolling back legislation legalising abortion.

In comparison, Mr Priebus is a Washington insider. His appointment runs counter to Mr Trump's pledge to "drain the swamp" of the corrupt Washington elites he had railed against in his campaign.

But being an outsider himself, the President-elect may need someone like Mr Priebus, who has been a bridge between Mr Trump and those in the Republican Party torn over supporting the brash tycoon.

Mr Priebus is also friends with House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose support would be key to Mr Trump's legislative agenda.

While Mr Priebus' appointment has generally been welcomed, that of Mr Bannon - who was once charged with domestic violence - drew a wave of criticism.

The Southern Poverty Law Centre, an independent organisation that tracks hate groups, said "Stephen Bannon was the main driver behind Breitbart (News) becoming a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill".

Mr John Weaver, a Republican strategist who worked for Ohio Governor John Kasich's campaign in the primaries, tweeted: "Just to be clear news media, the next president named a racist, anti-semite as the co-equal of the chief of staff."

Mr Bannon ran Breitbart News from March 2012 to August this year, when he left to join Mr Trump as chief executive of his campaign.

Mr Priebus defended Mr Bannon yesterday, saying: "I haven't seen any of these things that people are crying out about, but look, it's a good team. It works."

Mr Gingrich also defended Mr Bannon, saying in an interview: "Steve Bannon is a naval officer, he was a managing partner at Goldman Sachs, he was a Hollywood movie producer."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2016, with the headline 'Right-wing firebrand named chief strategist'. Print Edition | Subscribe