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Trump to pick Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff

(Photo credit: CNN)

(Photo credit: CNN)

NEW YORK –  President-elect Donald J. Trump today announced that Trump for President CEO Stephen K. Bannon will serve as Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President, and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus will serve as White House Chief of Staff.

“I am thrilled to have my very successful team continue with me in leading our country,” said President-elect Trump. “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.”

“I want to thank President-elect Trump for the opportunity to work with Reince in driving the agenda of the Trump Administration,” noted Bannon. “We had a very successful partnership on the campaign, one that led to victory. We will have that same partnership in working to help President-elect Trump achieve his agenda.”

“It is truly an honor to join President-elect Trump in the White House as his Chief of Staff,” added Priebus. “I am very grateful to the President-elect for this opportunity to serve him and this nation as we work to create an economy that works for everyone, secure our borders, repeal and replace Obamacare and destroy radical Islamic terrorism. He will be a great President for all Americans.”

Priebus should be a reassuring presence to establishment Republicans still uncertain about what a Trump White House will look like. The pick signals that Trump may look to build bridges in Washington and keep continuity with longtime Republican agendas, as opposed to make waves from the beginning.

Priebus is among the longest serving chairmen of the Republican Party, and has generally been popular amid different factions within the party. He is largely credited with building the ground game that elected Trump and with helping to unite his party after a divisive primary that resulted in many Republicans shunning Trump’s nomination.

Trump’s choice was believed to come down to Priebus and Bannon, the Trump campaign CEO and executive chairman of Breitbart News. In a repeat of the tumultuous process that led Trump to tap Indiana Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana as his running-mate, GOP officials pressed the President-elect to go with Priebus for the chief of staff job.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged Trump on Thursday to pick Priebus, a source told CNN on Friday. Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, has also said privately he is supportive of that decision.

Priebus has served as a negotiator between the party and Trump. When Ryan did not initially endorse Trump, Priebus organized meetings and helped diffuse tension between the two when Ryan criticized Trump and Trump hit back.

Sources say Priebus and Trump have grown very close over the course of the campaign. Priebus had a leadership role in Trump’s debate prep and traveled with him in the latter days of the campaign. Many of the RNC’s top operatives were installed in Trump Tower to work closely with the campaign.

During the campaign, Trump often said he would look to politicians to help him govern, including his selection of Pence — another Ryan friend and ally — as vice president. But he also ran a campaign as an outsider, saying he would “drain the swamp” of Washington.

Priebus earned Trump’s trust in the final months of the campaign, as he steered the RNC’s resources behind Trump’s candidacy despite Republican officials urging Priebus to abandon Trump and instead help down-ballot candidates.

As Trump’s candidacy was engulfed in the controversy stemming from a 2005 tape in which he boasted about being able to grope and kiss women without their consent, and as sexual assault allegations surfaced the next week, Priebus stood fast behind Trump and worked to salvage his campaign.

Trump’s debate over the selection demonstrated how he was once again being pulled between a more pragmatic selection with a pick who will enable his outsider persona and bellicose instincts.

Bannon, the very embodiment of those two characteristics, would likely steer Trump toward enacting some of his most controversial and far-right policy proposals. The demands of the chief of staff job, which requires keeping the wheels spinning and priorities aligned in the complex organization that is a presidential administration, may not have been best suited for him.

But he will likely be involved in the White House on some level. As the head of Breitbart News, Bannon has helped shape the alt-right movement for which the site heralds itself as a home and has helped drive hardline positions on immigration, terrorism and cultural issues to the center of the Republican Party.