Sunday 19 November 2017

Trump's new political team is causing chaos

A couple look at the post-its posted on the subway in New York following the election of Donald Trump. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
A couple look at the post-its posted on the subway in New York following the election of Donald Trump. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Susan Cornwell and Alana Wise

Democrats, civil rights groups and even some Republicans slammed US president-elect Donald Trump yesterday over his choice of right-wing firebrand Stephen Bannon as a key aide, saying it would elevate the white nationalist movement into the top levels of the White House.

Making his first appointments since last week's upset win over Democrat Hillary Clinton, Mr Trump picked Mr Bannon as his chief strategist and Washington insider Reince Priebus as his chief of staff on Sunday, saying the two would share the task of steering his administration as "equal partners".

The choice of Mr Priebus was seen as a conciliatory signal of Mr Trump's willingness to work with congress after he takes office on January 20. But critics blasted the selection of Mr Bannon, who spearheaded a shift of the Breitbart News website into a forum for the "alt-right", a loose online group of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semites.

Democrats and advocacy groups on the left called Mr Bannon a promoter of racism and misogyny who is backed by the Ku Klux Klan.

"It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the 'alt-right' - a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists - is slated to be a senior staff member in the 'people's house'," said Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League.

Even some conservatives and Republicans voiced dismay. Evan McMullin, who ran as a conservative independent presidential candidate, wondered on Twitter if any national Republican leaders would condemn the pick of Mr Bannon.

Stephen Bannon. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo
Stephen Bannon. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

John Weaver, a top strategist for Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich, tweeted that the "racist, fascist extreme right is represented footsteps from the Oval Office. Be very vigilant America".

Read more: Planned Parenthood flooded with donations in Mike Pence's name after Donald Trump says abortion could be restricted

Read more: Steve Bannon: Who is Donald Trump's chief strategist and why is he so feared?

Mr Priebus defended Mr Bannon yesterday, calling him a wise and well-educated former naval officer and saying he had not encountered the sort of extremist or racist views that critics are assailing.

Demonstrators chant slogans in New York during a protest against the election of Donald Trump (AP)
Demonstrators chant slogans in New York during a protest against the election of Donald Trump (AP)
Protesters are stopped by Los Angeles Police officers during a protest and march against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 11, 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian
Protesters are surrounded by Los Angeles Police Department officers before they were detained in Grand park across Los Angeles City hall after a march and rally against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Los Angeles, California, U.S. Photo: REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian
Protesters are detained by Los Angeles Police Department officers after a march and rally against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 12, 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian
California Highway Patrol officers are deployed at the entrances of the 110 freeway in an attempt to stop protesters getting on the freeway to block traffic during a march and rally against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 12, 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian
Protesters march in the streets of Downtown Los Angeles during march and rally against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Los Angeles, California. Photo: REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian
Protesters take part in a march and rally against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States on the streets of Downtown Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 12, 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian
Protesters march in the streets of Downtown Los Angeles during march and rally against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Los Angeles, California. Photo: REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian
Several hundred protesters are arrested by Los Angeles Police Department officers after a march and rally in protest to the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 12, 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian
Protesters march in the street to demonstrate against the election of President-elect Donald Trump in Atlanta, Friday. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Michael Moore joins demonstrators in New York during a protest against the election of Donald Trump (AP)
Police detain a demonstrator at a protest in Portland, Oregon, against the election of Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters
People gather at Portland City Hall to protest of the election of president-elect, Donald Trump. Photo: Mark Graves/The Oregonian via AP

"He was a force for good on the campaign," Mr Priebus said on Fox News, adding they were in agreement on "almost everything" in terms of advising the president-elect.

Hardline Trump backers counting on the wealthy real estate developer to keep his campaign promise to "drain the swamp" of business-as-usual Washington insiders may be disappointed he has named Mr Priebus as chief of staff, a position that serves as gatekeeper and agenda-setter.

Marchers approach a freeway onramp guarded by police during a protest against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Portland, Oregon, U.S. November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Cole Howard
Marchers approach a freeway onramp guarded by police during a protest against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Portland, Oregon, U.S. November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Cole Howard
Police detain a demonstrator during a protest against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Portland, Oregon, U.S. November 11, 2016. REUTERS/William Gagan
People take part in a protest against Republican president-elect Donald Trump at the Washington Square park in the neighborhood of Manhattan in New York, U.S., November 11, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
People take part in a protest against Republican president-elect Donald Trump at the Washington Square park in the neighborhood of Manhattan in New York, U.S., November 11, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
People take part in a protest against Republican president-elect Donald Trump at the Washington Square park in the neighborhood of Manhattan in New York, U.S., November 11, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Protesters lock arms during a standoff with a police car along the pipeline route during a protest against the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in St. Anthony, North Dakota, U.S. November 11, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
People take part in a protest against Republican president-elect Donald Trump at the Washington Square park in the neighborhood of Manhattan in New York, U.S., November 11, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Paul Watts, of Graffiti Removal Services, works for free on clean up after a protest to the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Portland, Oregon, U.S. November 11, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola
People take part in a protest against Republican president-elect Donald Trump at the Washington Square park in the neighborhood of Manhattan in New York, U.S., November 11, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Paul Watts, of Graffiti Removal Services, works for free on clean up after a protest to the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Portland, Oregon, U.S. November 11, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola TEMPLATE OUT
A pedestrian walks by a boarded up business after a protest to the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Portland, Oregon, U.S. November 11, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola
Pedestrians walk by a boarded up business after a protest to the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Portland, Oregon, U.S. November 11, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola
A motorist who was caught in the middle of a riot threatens a demonstrator with detergent during a protest against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Portland, Oregon, U.S. November 10, 2016. REUTERS/William Gagan
A motorist who was caught in the middle of a riot threatens a demonstrator with detergent during a protest against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Portland, Oregon, U.S. November 10, 2016. REUTERS/William Gagan
Demonstrators push over a fence during a protest against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Portland, Oregon, U.S. November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Cole Howard
A demonstrator sits in the street during a protest against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Portland, Oregon, U.S. November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Cole Howard
A demonstrator sprays graffiti during a protest against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Portland, Oregon, U.S. November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Cole Howard
A demonstrator performs a burnout during a protest against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Portland, Oregon, U.S. November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Cole Howard ES
A demonstrator sets a news rack on fire as another wields a baseball bat (R) during a protest against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Portland, Oregon, U.S. November 11, 2016. REUTERS/William Gagan
Demonstrators break a shop window during a protest against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Portland, Oregon, U.S. November 11, 2016. REUTERS/William Gagan
Police block a freeway entrance during a protest against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Portland, Oregon, U.S. November 11, 2016. REUTERS/William Gagan
Smoke rises during a protest against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Portland, Oregon, U.S. November 10, 2016. REUTERS/William Gagan
Interstate 84 eastbound into the city is shut down as a result of protests against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States, in Portland, Oregon, U.S. November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola

Throughout his career Mr Trump has said he often pits competing staff factions against each other to get a wide range of views.

Mr Trump said in his statement Mr Priebus and Mr Bannon were "highly qualified leaders" .

Since the election, Mr Trump has softened one of his major campaign promises of building a wall along the US border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants. In an interview with the CBS programme '60 Minutes' on Sunday, Mr Trump said he would accept some fencing instead of a brick-and-mortar wall.

In the interview, Mr Trump also sought to play down the divisive nature of his candidacy and said Americans alarmed by his election had nothing to fear.

Among those reported to be under consideration for top posts are former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich, as a possible secretary of state or secretary of health and human services; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani as attorney general; and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as interior secretary.

Mr Priebus is a long-time Wisconsin political operative who was credited with marshalling party resources for Mr Trump's White House bid.

Mr Bannon could hardly be more different. The former Goldman Sachs banker over the past year led Breitbart News in a charge against the Republican Party establishment, including Mr Priebus's friend Paul Ryan, the speaker of the US House of Representatives.

The Breitbart attacks on Ryan continued on Sunday, with an article denouncing Mr Ryan's comment on CNN that "we are not planning on erecting a deportation force".

"Speaker Ryan is now telling voters that he will not enact a central part of Trump's mandate," a Breitbart article said.

Ryan, who had a tense relationship with Mr Trump during the election campaign, praisedMr Trump's choice of Mr Priebus for his White House chief of staff as the best choice for getting things done.

In the '60 Minutes' interview, Mr Trump said he would move to deport up to three million immigrants who are in the country illegally and have criminal records.

Demonstrators in major US cities took to the streets for a fifth straight day on Sunday to protest against Mr Trump.

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