WASHINGTON — Stephen Bannon, an ultra-conservative provocateur accused of having made anti-Semitic remarks, was rumored Thursday to be a leading candidate for White House chief of staff, as President-elect Donald Trump and his team moved swiftly to prepare to assume power and fill key administration roles.
Amidst Trump’s hectic day in Washington meeting with President Barack Obama and other congressional leaders, his transition team — headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — is beginning to assemble the makeup of what will form a Trump administration.
Bannon’s name was mentioned by several US media organizations, alongside a list of other top names from the Trump camp.
Bannon, who became the Trump campaign’s CEO last August, is best known for his role as past executive chairman of Breitbart News, a popular online destination for alt-right readers that is also known to promulgate conspiracy theories.
The alt-right is an amorphous designation that encompasses an array of white supremacist groups, “white nationalists” and neo-Nazis. A recent Anti-Defamation League report found a dramatic spike in anti-Semitic harassment of journalists during the election was carried out by self-identified alt-right Trump backers.
Other names that are reported to be in the running include Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s deputy campaign manager David Bossie and Trump’s first campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who is now a CNN commentator.
According to The New York Times, Priebus is being pushed heavily by Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, married Ivanka in 2009. She underwent a rigorous conversion process before their wedding.
Kushner played a major role on the campaign, advising his father-in-law on a myriad of issues, including the selection of a running mate and his speech at this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference.
Bannon, who would undoubtedly be the most controversial selection of the names under consideration, has been accused of anti-Semitism.
Court documents from 2007 revealed his ex-wife Mary Louise Piccard said that Bannon did not want their daughters attending a private school in Los Angeles — the Archer School for Girls — because he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.
According the court filings, Piccard stated: “He said he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiny brats.'”
Bannon denied the veracity of Piccard’s claim. “Mr. Bannon never said anything like that and proudly sent the girls to Archer for their middle school and high school education,” he said through a spokesperson in a statement issued to The Guardian.
The team that will make final recommendations to Trump about appointments has created a website for the process.
They are on a tight deadline to make a host of crucial decisions about the incoming president’s top staff, including a cabinet consisting of 15 executive departments. They must also select roughly 1,000 other positions that require Senate confirmation. The president’s chief of staff is typically the first announcement for a new administration.