Donald Trump insisted that his White House transition to power is going on smoothly despite reports of chaos and disarray.
Bannon, 62, a former naval officer and Goldman Sachs banker, will have Trump’s ear as his chief strategist and senior counsellor. In Augus, he was appointed chief executive of the Trump campaign, and he 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.
Bannon also encouraged Trump to paint rival Hillary Clinton as part of a global conspiracy made up of the political, financial and media elite, a message that many felt carried anti-semitic overtones.
Problem with Bannon
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 a home for the white nationalist right that elevates racist, xenophobic, anti-semitic tirades and conspiracy theories.”
Most notoriously, he is executive chairman of Breitbart News, an online linchpin of the so-called “alt-right” movement, associated with efforts to preserve “white identity”, defend “western values” and oppose multi-culturalism. Its headlines have included Would You Rather Your Child had Feminism or Cancer?, Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy and There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck at Interviews.
One of the key men behind Donald Trump’s transition to power is a 35-year-old real estate mogul, businessman and publisher called Jared Kushner. He is also married to Trump’s influential daughter Ivanka, and is in line to be arguably the most powerful son-in-law to ever set foot in the White House. During the latter stages of the campaign it was Kushner who effectively functioned as Trump’s campaign manager. He drafted his speeches and ran the candidate’s digital media campaign.
But eight days after Trump’s unexpected victory, Kushner is now at the centre of a messy and Shakespearean body-strewn transition process, variously described as infighting, a “Stalinist purge”, and a “knife fight”.
On Friday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was abruptly sacked as head of the transition team and replaced with Trump’s vice-president-elect, Mike Pence.
Good-looking, tall and patrician, Kushner studied at Harvard and New York universities. (According to Daniel Golden, author of The Price of Admissions: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges, he was admitted to Harvard after his father donated $2.5m to the university.) At age 26, he was conducting his own mega-deals. In 2007, he bought an office building on Fifth Avenue for a record $1.8bn.
Kushner has one characteristic which sets him apart from Trump’s alt-right entourage: He’s Jewish. (Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism when they married in 2009; the couple have three children who they’re raising as Orthodox Jews.) Kushner has defended his father-in-law against persistent accusations of anti-semitism, including in a notable piece published by the New York Observer, which he owns.