Trump picks Priebus as White House chief of staff

President-elect Donald Trump named Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus as his White House chief of staff Sunday, suggesting an increased willingness by Trump to work within Washington's system to accomplish his agenda.At the sam...

President-elect Donald Trump and Chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus address supporters during his election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

President-elect Donald Trump named Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus as his White House chief of staff Sunday, suggesting an increased willingness by Trump to work within Washington’s system to accomplish his agenda.
At the same time, however, Trump announced that Stephen Bannon, his campaign CEO who helped amplify some of Trump’s most incendiary rhetoric about Muslims, immigrants and other minority groups, will be his chief strategist, according to a statement that called Priebus and Bannon “equal partners.”
Priebus was viewed as a choice who could bring order and experience to Trump’s inner circle, which consists largely of family members and advisers with little experience in Washington. He also serves as a bridge to Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, including House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
Trump is known to value loyalty. Even as Trump’s outsider candidacy split the Republican Party during the primaries, Priebus was one of the first party leaders to accept and promote Trump once it became clear that he was the likely nominee.
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.
The choice of Priebus as chief of staff could anger some Trump supporters counting on him, as he said during the campaign, to “drain the swamp” of business-as-usual Washington insiders.
Trump and his advisers already have signaled he may hedge on some of his major campaign promises, including on immigration, health care and appointing a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton.
Priebus is a longtime Wisconsin political operative who was credited with marshaling party resources for Trump’s White House bid. The Republican National Committee 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.
Bannon, who took leave from his job running the conservative Breitbart News site to run Trump’s campaign, is a divisive figure. Breitbart, which had long promoted Trump’s candidacy, has also given a platform to the so-called alt-right, a loose collective of openly racist and anti-Semitic activists.
Bannon is a firebrand outsider who as head of Breibart repeatedly attacked the Republican Party establishment including Ryan, alienating many veteran Republicans. 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.
Bannon’s new West Wing assignment immediately drew criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.
“Be very vigilant America,” said John Weaver, a strategist for Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s presidential campaign.
Trump backed away on Sunday from his promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border, saying some areas could instead be “fencing,” and added he would move to deport up to 3 million immigrants in the country illegally who have criminal records.
Trump, whose pledge to force Mexico to pay for a border wall was a centerpiece of his White House, said in “certain areas” he would accept fencing instead of a brick-and-mortar wall, according to excerpts of his interview with the CBS program “60 Minutes.”
“But certain areas, a wall is more appropriate. I’m very good at this, it’s called construction, there could be some fencing,” the New York real estate developer said.
During the campaign, Trump said he would deport the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally, most of whom are Hispanic. Trump said Mexico was sending criminals and rapists into the United States.
Ryan, who like Priebus is from Wisconsin and will play a key role in getting Trump’s agenda through the Republican-led Congress, on Sunday backed away from Trump’s promise during the campaign of a “deportation force” to round up and deport immigrants in the country illegally.
Kevin McCarthy, the No. 2 House Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday” the wall with Mexico could in parts be a “virtual” wall patrolled by drones.

The Los Angeles Times and Reuters contributed to this report.

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