President-elect Donald Trump, in a likely nod to congressional Republicans, has tapped Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus as his White House chief of staff.
Other than a day trip to Washington, Trump has been holed up in his Manhattan penthouse discussing the presidential transition and taking calls from national and world leaders while also mulling whether Priebus or conservative news executive Stephen Bannon would be his right-hand man once he is sworn in.
The decision means Priebus will be a critical conduit each time Trump makes a major decision. But it does not mean Bannon will be on the outside: The Trump transition operation also announced Bannon, who was chief executive of Breitbart News, will be the 45th president’s chief strategist and senior counselor.
In a statement, the Trump team described the duo as “equal partners” once they go to work at the White House. In the meantime, both will work with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who is leading Trump’s transition team, to fill out the Cabinet and staff.
“I am thrilled to have my very successful team continue with me in leading our country,” Trump said in the 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 as we work to make America great again.”
Bannon’s prepared comment notably came first in the statement. “We had a very successful partnership on the campaign, one that led to victory,” he said of Priebus. “We will have that same partnership in working to help President-elect Trump achieve his agenda.”
Priebus offered some clues about Trump’s top priorities, saying the incoming president plans to “create an economy that works for everyone, secure our borders, repeal and replace Obamacare and destroy radical Islamic terrorism.”
Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, told reporters staking out Trump Tower that the president-elect felt he had two solid candidates for the chief of staff position.
As leader of the RNC, Priebus is much more plugged into the Washington establishment, which includes the Republican Party’s congressional leaders. With a majority in both chambers, Trump and his inner circle appear to have decided Priebus’ relationships on the Hill would help ensure his legislative whims make it through both chambers so he can sign them into law.
At the RNC, Priebus helped ensure Trump’s nomination would not be contested at the party’s national convention in Cleveland. Priebus, 44, was first elected chairman of the national Republican Party in 2011. The former RNC general counsel and Wisconsin Republican Party chairman is close to Speaker Paul D. Ryan.
Ryan, R-Wis., told CNN that he trusted Trump’s judgement.
“I think he’s going to pick who he thinks will best serve him,” said Ryan, noting he has never met Bannon. “And I’m sure we will work well with whoever his chief of staff is.”
“I believe that Donald is going to have a great set of choices to make for staffing,” Ryan said. “I’m also very encouraged by the fact that my friend, a great conservative … a man who’s shown he’s a true leader, Mike Pence, is going to be running the transition team.”