Team Trump – what we know so far

By on 16/11/2016
Reince Priebus, appointed as White House chief of staff. Photo by Gage Skidmore

Since last week’s surprise election of Donald Trump, the focus has moved on to the likely composition of the US president-elect’s Cabinet and White House team.

Reports emerged on Tuesday that the presidential transition process, during which Trump will choose his new cabinet, was in disarray following the departure of former Republican congressman Mike Rogers from his role as national security adviser in the transition team.

CBS news has linked Roger’s exit to the demotion of his ally Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor who ran the team until he was moved into the vice-chair’s role last week. Trump insisted on Twitter that the transition is “very organised”.

Meanwhile, Trump has confirmed two key appointments: Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff, and Stephen Bannon as chief strategist and senior counsel to the president.

Priebus was a key figure in Trump’s initial nomination and eventual victory in the presidential race. He has been the chairman of the Republican National Committee since 2011, and is expected to bring his experience and knowledge of the machinations of Washington political life to the role.

The appointment of Bannon, who is executive chairman of the so-called ‘alt-right’ media outlet Breitbart News, has been more controversial. Breitbart has been criticised for its extreme stances, particularly on race, with the Anti-Defamation League campaign group describing the website’s views – and those of Bannon himself – as “hostile to core American values”.

The Anti-Defamation League’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt has been one of the few to openly oppose Bannon’s appointment, saying in a statement: “The ADL strongly opposes the appointment of Stephen Bannon… It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the ‘alt-right’ – a loose group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists – is slated to be a senior staff member in the ‘people’s house’.”

A statement from the Trump transition team said the two appointees would work as “equal partners” in the new administration. However, observers have suggested that having two figures in almost equally influential roles could create two rival centres of power in the White House – weakening decision-making.

Bannon’s associations with Breitbart have prompted concerns over the possible stance of the Trump administration on race issues. John Weaver, a Republican strategist who worked on the presidential campaign of Ohio governor John Kaisch, said on Twitter: “The racist, fascist extreme right is represented footsteps from the Oval Office. Be very vigilant America.”

However, Bannon’s appointment does not necessarily provide clear signals over the direction of a Trump presidency. For another key Trump adviser is Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and an Orthodox Jew.

Kushner is a real estate developer from New Jersey and a key member of Trump’s inner circle, having played various roles in the president-elect’s campaign. Before marrying him, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, converted to Judaism.

Although anti-nepotism laws mean Kushner will be unable to hold office in a Trump administration, he sits on the transition committee and is reported to be a close confidant of the president-elect. According to one report put out by NBC News on Wednesday morning, Trump has requested security clearance for Kushner so that his son-in-law can sit in on presidential briefings.

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See also:

What a Trump presidency means for other governments

About Ben Willis

Ben Willis is a journalist and editor with a varied background reporting on topics including public policy, the environment, renewable energy and international development. His work has appeared in a variety of national newspapers including the Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Times, as well as numerous specialist business, policy and consumer publications.

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