President-elect Donald Trump announced on Sunday that he has tapped Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus as his White House chief of staff, appointing a consummate political insider expected to repair Trump’s relationships with party leaders and lawmakers.
Trump’s selection of Priebus, who has served as RNC chairman since January 2011, will provide the incoming president with a bridge to top Republicans who Trump often found himself at odds with during his controversial campaign.
At the same time, the president-elect, who billed himself as a political outsider looking to overhaul D.C.’s beltway politics, also named the fiery operative who ran his campaign, Stephen Bannon, as his chief strategist and senior counselor.
Bannon, who took over the Trump campaign in the final three months of the race as its CEO, is also executive chairman of conservative news outlet Breitbart News, which has often taken aim at Republican officials who have been unsupportive of Trump’s campaign.
Trump, in a statement, said he was “thrilled to have my very successful team continue with me in leading our country.”
Priebus’ appointment follows the GOP leader’s unwavering support of Trump during the presidential campaign — even as other prominent Republicans called on the real estate mogul to withdraw from the race. Priebus directed the national party’s resources to build Trump’s ground game in key battleground states.
“I am very grateful to the president-elect for this opportunity to serve him and this nation as we work to create an economy that works for everyone, secure our borders, repeal and replace Obamacare, and destroy radical Islamic terrorism,” Priebus said in a statement.
Bannon, whose news outlet has been regarded as a leading platform for the “alt-right” movement, said in a statement he and Priebus “had a very successful partnership on the campaign, one that led to victory. We will have that same partnership in working to help President-elect Trump achieve his agenda.”
Priebus has no governing experience in Washington. Yet his extraordinary ability to build and maintain relationships with his party’s power brokers and grass roots sets him apart from other prospective chiefs of staff. The affable and slow-talking Priebus maintains a particularly close relationship with House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is also from Wisconsin.
Priebus also served as the chief fundraiser for the Republican National Committee, a job he did very well. He used the tens of millions of dollars he helped raise to create a nationwide voter outreach operation that fueled Trump’s stunning victory.
The chairman favors a “big-tent” political philosophy that encourages the GOP to welcome voters of all shapes and sizes. He condemned Trump’s plan to ban Muslim immigrants in December. “I think it’s the party for everybody. It’s for everyone.”
But his status as a party insider caught the attention of Trump supporters such as tea party leader Jenny Beth Martin. She warned on Saturday that, “No Washington insider, regardless of who it is, should serve as President Trump’s chief of staff.”
“It’s time to drain the swamp — not promote insiders beholden to the Washington establishment who helped create it,” she said.
Ryan, who has routinely come under fire by Bannon for not being supportive enough of Trump’s campaign, said earlier in the day, he had no concerns about Bannon playing a top role in Trump’s administration.
“I trust Donald’s judgment. I think he will pick who will best serve him, and I’m sure we will work well with whomever his chief of staff is,” Ryan said on CNN.