Trump Faces Backlash After Naming Breitbart’s Bannon Top Aide

(CN) – President-elect Donald Trump on Monday morning faced a growing backlash over his naming campaign chairman and former Breitbart News publisher Stephen Bannon his chief White House strategist.

As head of Breitbart News, Bannon was seen as having close ties to white nationalists and the so-called “alt-right” movement, which is associated with white supremacist ideas that oppose multiculturalism and defend “Western values.”

After he became the Trump campaign’s chief executive in August, Bannon pushed Trump to paint rival Hillary Clinton as part of a global conspiracy made up of the political, financial and media elite, bankers bent on oppressing the country’s working people.

Immediately after Bannon’s appointment was announced Sunday, Weaver, a Republican strategist who worked for Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s presidential campaign, tweeted, “The racist, fascist extreme right is represented footsteps from the Oval Office. Be very vigilant, America.”

The chorus of unease grew louder Sunday night and Monday, as Democratic officials and civil rights organizations weighed in with their discontent.

“It is easy to see why the KKK views Trump as their champion when Trump appoints one of the foremost peddlers of White Supremacist themes and rhetoric as his top aide. Bannon was ‘the main driver behind Breitbart becoming a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill,’ according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

The Anti-Defamation League also  criticized Donald Trump’s choice on Sunday, its CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, issuing a statement Sunday that said, “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.'”

These sentiments were echoed by Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D- Nev., who said the “choice of Steve Bannon as his top aide signals that white supremacists will be represented at the highest levels in Trump’s White House.”

But the Trump campaign stood firmly behind Bannon Monday, insisting the controversy was evidence the president-elect’s critics and the media were trying to “divide the people.”

Appearing on CNN’s “New Day” program Monday morning, Jason Miller, the spokesman for Trump’s presidential transition team, said Bannon has done a “fantastic” job since becoming part of the Trump team.

He also said that Trump himself has adopted a “measured tone” since his election last Tuesday and that the president-elect has “made it very clear that he’s going to get to work for the American people right away and that he’s moved past the election. What I think is frustrating is when we see so much news coverage … on the issues that divide us following the election. I think that’s irresponsible.”

The controversy over Bannon overshadowed Trump’s other appointment Sunday — his naming Republican party chairman Reince Priebus as his White House chief of staff.

Hoping to talk about how he intended to help Trump advance his legislative agenda, Priebus instead spent Monday morning explaining that inflammatory headlines on the website were written by unspecified staffers, and not Bannon himself.

Priebus is seen as an uncontroversial choice for chief of staff, and his appointment something of an olive branch to the Republicans who control both houses of Congress.

Among other things, Priebus has  close ties to House Speaker Paul Ryan, a fellow Wisconsinite.

In a written statement, Trump said Priebus and Bannon “will continue the effective leadership team they formed during the campaign, working as equal partners to transform the government.”

“Steve and Reince are highly qualified leaders who worked well together on our campaign and led us to a historic victory,” the statement continued. “Now I will have them both with me in the White House as we work to make America great again.”

While the fallout over Bannon continued Monday, Trump was said to be considering a woman and an openly gay man to fill major positions in his new leadership team.

Individuals privy to the deliberations, said Richard Grenell is being considered to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. If he’s chosen and confirmed by the Senate, he would be the first openly gay person to fill a Cabinet-level foreign policy post.

Grenell previously served as U.S. spokesman at the U.N. under former President George W. Bush’s administration.

Trump is also considering a woman to fill Priebus’s former position as chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Michigan GOP chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, a former sister-in-law of 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, told the AP on Monday that she’s planning to seek the state chairmanship again, but added, “I’ll be interested in whatever Mr. Trump wants.”

In other presidential transition news, Trump is said to be considering Harold Hamm, a self-made billionaire best known for pioneering the development of the Bakken shale oil formation in North Dakota, to lead the U.S. Energy Department.

Hamm’s name appears on a shortlist of the candidates for the job included in a presidential planning document obtained by the Associated Press.

Also on the list are Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, a state that experienced an economic boom due to the expansion of oil extraction from the Bakken formation, and Robert Grady, a venture capitalist who worked in the George H.W. Bush administration.

During the presidential campaign, Trump frequently questioned the direction of US energy policy under President Barack Obama and vowed to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.

He has also promised to “unleash” the nation’s energy potential by increasing its development of oil, coal and natural gas resources.

Hamm, a self-made billionaire who entered the energy business pumping gas at a filling station in his hometown of Lexington, Oklahoma, would certainly be seen as being of like mind as far as Trump’s fossil fuel ambitions are concerned.

Last summer, Forbes magazine listed him as the 39th richest person in the US, and the 98th richest person in the work. His estimated net worth is $11.3 billion.

Among his more controversial moves was reportedly telling the dean of the University of Oklahoma’s College of Earth and Energy that he wanted certain earthquake researchers at the university fired because they were studying the connection between oil and gas development and the increase in earthquake activity in the state.

According to the Associated Press, the Trump transition document includes a list of energy and environmental priorities, including the repeal of Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which, among other things, placed limits on the carbon pollution emitted by power plants.

The Clean Power Plan, which is part of the Clean Air Act, requires states to submit proposals to lower their carbon emissions or sign on to a federally crafted plan. The Obama administration hails the plan for addressing climate change, while opponents say it could cripple economies in coal-producing states and raise energy costs.

The plan is currently being challenged in court and has yet to go into effect. Several Us states have challenged the plan on the basis that it would have an unprecedented, transformative impact on the energy industry — especially the coal industry.

A divided US Supreme Court issued a stay of the plan in February. The lawsuit is currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The planning document reportedly says if the appellate court doesn’t rule by the time Trump takes office in January, he will ask that the case be dismissed due to his planned scraping of the initiative.

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