WASHINGTON, U.S - President-elect Donald Trump is facing growing backlash over his appointment of Steve Bannon, a controversial former media executive, as his chief strategist and counselor in ...
• Rudy Giuliani is the top contender to be secretary of state
• SEC chair Mary White to step down
• Online petitions demand reversal of Bannon's appointment
WASHINGTON, U.S - President-elect Donald Trump is facing growing backlash over his appointment of Steve Bannon, a controversial former media executive, as his chief strategist and counselor in the White House.
In this role, Bannon will have the future president's ear and be among the most powerful people in the new administration.
CEO of Trump's presidential campaign, Bannon is the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, an American conservative news site which under his leadership became a forum for the "alt-right" — the umbrella term for a group of Americans who seek to eschew political correctness and break the current political system, and are viewed by critics as a loose online group of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semites.
The appointment of the former Goldman Sachs banker is sending ominous signals of an elevation of the hard-right nationalist movement that Bannon has nurtured for years from the fringes of American politics to its very heart, a remarkable shift that has further intensified concern about the new administration’s direction.
The decision was criticised by progressives who said the selection legitimised racism and intolerance at the top levels of government.
There were also angry demands to reverse the appointment.
Democrats said by picking Bannon, the president-elect had made his first stumble.
Condemnation of the decision was swift and widespread.
“There must be no sugarcoating the reality that a white nationalist has been named chief strategist for the Trump administration,” said House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi.
Some of Bannon’s statements and behavior have also drawn the condemnation of faith leaders and anti-discrimination groups, which reacted to his appointment with alarm on Monday.
Michael Keegan, president of the progressive pressure group People for the American Way, said, “By choosing Steve Bannon as chief strategist, Trump has made clear that he intends to carry the racism and anti-Semitism of his campaign straight into the White House. The website Bannon ran is home for the white nationalist right that elevates racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic tirades and conspiracy theories.”
Jewish groups also pointed to allegations from Bannon’s ex-wife that he had made anti-Semitic comments about the students at his daughter’s school.
Critics have resurfaced other episodes from his past, including a 2011 interview in which he mocked liberals who criticise conservative women as “a bunch of dykes that came from the Seven Sisters schools.”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Trump accused critics and the media of trying to "divide people" following the election when they raise questions about Bannon's views and history.
Jason Miller, communications director for the Trump presidential transition, said Bannon has done a "fantastic job" since joining Trump's inner circle.
The former Breitbart chief was appointed chief executive of the Trump campaign in August and was the mastermind of a stunt at the second presidential debate in which Trump held a press conference with three women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault.
Petitions against Bannon's appointment
So if Bannon's isn't the ideology you want influencing the commander-in-chief, there are a pair of petitions currently circulating online demanding Trump rescind Bannon's appointment.
Both focus on the claim that a self-proclaimed white nationalist is unfit for any job in the White House, let alone such an influential position at the top of the incoming administration.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a progressive legal nonprofit based in Birmingham, Alabama, has launched a petition addressed to the president-elect, bluntly stating that “Steve Bannon Has No Place in the White House."
A second petition, hosted on Change.org, asks the Republican leadership to reject Bannon’s appointment. In just 24 hours, that petition has garnered more than 17,700 signatures, well on its way to its goal of 25,000 signers.
Rudy Giuliani could be next secretary of state
Former New York City Mayor, Rudy Giuliani is the top contender to be secretary of state in the Trump administration, according to reports.
Despite having little foreign policy experience, the 72-year-old is the leading contender for the job.
There are also rumors that ex-UN ambassador, John Bolton may get the role.
If Giuliani does get the position, his hard-line law-and-order views and brusque manner would set a very different tone to previous holders of the job, including Trump's ex-rival Hillary Clinton, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.
SEC Chair White leaving at end of Obama administration
The head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mary Jo White meanwhile will be leaving office at the end of the Obama administration, the agency said on Monday.
Her departure will cap a nearly four-year tenure marked by regulatory and enforcement milestones, as well as internal discord over Wall Street rules.
It also may leave a sharply understaffed and gridlocked commission in her wake.
Her stepping down will also clear the way for president-elect Donald Trump to reshape the way Wall Street is regulated.