Election 2020

Priebus: Bannon 'a Force for Good' During Campaign

Campaign CEO Steve Bannon, third from left, and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus listen to President-elect Donald Trump along with other members of the campaign team Nov. 9, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, the incoming White House chief of staff, argued that incoming White House chief strategist and special adviser Steve Bannon was “a force for good on the campaign at every level that I saw, all the time.”

The appointment of the Breitbart chief has drawn concern from Congress and nonprofit organizations, with the Anti-Defamation League saying Sunday is “strongly opposes” the Bannon pick. “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,'” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “We call on President-elect Trump to appoint and nominate Americans committed to the well-being of all our country’s people and who exemplify the values of pluralism and tolerance that make our country great.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told MSNBC today that Bannon’s appointment “says basically that the same kind of anti-Semitic efforts by Breitbart, the nationalist type things that they’ve been talking about, now he has that person that will be in the White House, being paid with taxpayer dollars, and basically espousing things that go against our nation’s unity and really are divisive.”

But Priebus said separately on MSNBC “that’s not the Steve Bannon that I know and I’ve spent a lot of time with him.”

“But look, you know, this is all about achieving President-elect Trump’s agenda and I can assure you — and I think it’s really important and I know that President-elect Trump wants everyone to understand this — that all Americans out there, no matter your race, your gender, your ethnic background, he wants to make you proud of our country. He wants to serve you,” Priebus added.

He said Trump “listens to a lot of people” and “if anyone thinks that I’m the only one that’s going to walk into that office and say this is what you have to do — I think in a lot of cases he takes the advice but he likes to listen to a lot of people and that’s a good thing. That’s what you want from a president.”

Priebus also insisted that “the conflicts aren’t as great as you’re outlining” between House Republican leadership and Trump, such as Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) rejection of mass deportations and support of free trade.

“As far as trade is concerned, look, Paul Ryan and I come from Janesville, Wisconsin, and Kenosha, two places decimated by the car industry leaving our country and going to Mexico and China. You know, I wouldn’t say that this free trade obsession is something that can’t get looked in regard to making things more fair,” he said.

“And so, I’m telling you, there’s a lot of common ground and he’s going to make you proud of this country, and that’s what we want every American to feel in about three months when they see it happen.”