Donald Trump picks Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff, Stephen Bannon as chief strategist

US President-elect Donald Trump made the first top appointments of his new administration on Nov 13, 2016, naming Reince Priebus (L) his White House chief of staff and Steve Bannon as his chief strategist and senior counselor.
US President-elect Donald Trump made the first top appointments of his new administration on Nov 13, 2016, naming Reince Priebus (L) his White House chief of staff and Steve Bannon as his chief strategist and senior counselor. -- PHOTO: AFP
Republican President-elect Donald Trump and Mr Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, embrace during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early hours of Nov 9, 2016.
Republican President-elect Donald Trump and Mr Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, embrace during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early hours of Nov 9, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) -  President-elect Donald Trump picked Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus, the favourite of the party’s establishment and a low-key Washington insider, to serve in the influential position of White House Chief of Staff.

The choice of Mr Priebus, a loyal campaign ally to Mr Trump who has close ties with House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, signaled a willingness to work with Mr Ryan and the Republican-led Congress to get his agenda passed.

The other front-runner for the job had been Mr Stephen Bannon, Mr Trump’s campaign chairman and former head of the conservative Breitbart News. Mr Trump named him as his chief strategist and senior counselor.

The chief of staff position, which serves as a gatekeeper and agenda-setter for the president, is typically one of the most important early choices for an incoming president.

“I am thrilled to have my very successful team continue with me in leading our country,” Mr Trump said in a statement. “Steve and Reince are highly qualified leaders who worked well together on our campaign and led us to a historic victory. Now I will have them both with me in the White House.” 

Mr Trump, who will succeed Democratic President Barack Obama on Jan 20, has been contemplating the candidates for top jobs in the White House and in various Cabinet positions since last Tuesday’s election win over Democrat Hillary Clinton. 

 
 

The selection of Mr Priebus as chief of staff could anger some hardline Trump supporters who were counting on Mr Trump to keep his campaign promise to “drain the swamp” of business-as-usual Washington insiders.

Mr Trump and his advisers already have hedged on some of his major campaign promises, including on immigration, healthcare and appointing a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton.

Mr Priebus is a longtime Wisconsin political operative who was credited with marshaling party resources for Mr Trump’s White House bid. The RNC stepped in and ran most of the party’s get-out-the-vote effort this year in the absence of such an operation by the Trump campaign.

He frequently travelled with Mr Trump on the campaign trail and was seen as a positive force who helped rein in the unpredictable tycoon in the closing weeks. Mr Trump made his high regard for Mr Priebus known on election night when he pulled him to the microphone to take a bow for his campaign efforts.

Mr Bannon is a firebrand outsider who as head of Breibart, repeatedly attacked the Republican Party establishment including Mr Ryan, alienating many veteran Republicans. 

Mr Bannon showed his willingness to engage in brutal political tactics when he instigated the appearance before a presidential debate of three women who said they had been sexually abused by his Democratic rival’s husband, former President Bill Clinton.