Who Is Reince Priebus, Trump's Newly Named Chief Of Staff? | KERA News

Who Is Reince Priebus, Trump's Newly Named Chief Of Staff?

Nov 14, 2016
Originally published on November 14, 2016 5:19 pm

Reince Priebus once joked about his job as chairman of the Republican National Committee that people assumed he must be miserable. But Priebus said he didn't see it that way. "I'm not pouring Bailey's in my cereal," he told CNN.

Now, as newly named chief of staff to President-elect Donald Trump, Priebus has his work cut out for him.

Priebus will have a large say in hiring West Wing staff, and will "be in charge of day to day operations," he told Fox News on Monday morning. He'll also have the president-elect's ear as a top adviser.

It's also the chief of staff's job to make sure there is time for the President to look at the big picture. That's what Josh Bolten advises. Bolten was Chief of staff during the final three years of the George W. Bush White House "The biggest challenge that anyone in the chief of staff's role faces," Bolten says,"is to make sure that the urgent does not drive out the important."

As head of the RNC, Priebus saw that the party's apparatus and organization were in place to shore up the bare-bones Trump campaign. And while Trump clashed with many in the GOP establishment, he remained on good terms with the party chairman, and in his victory speech early Wednesday called Priebus "a superstar."

The appointment of Priebus, an insider, was announced at the same time as Trump named as senior adviser Steve Bannon, chairman of the far right Breitbart website that has been sharply critical of establishment figures like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

Bolten says it could be a problem if Priebus and Bannon don't have distinct roles in the White House. "The announcement made it sound like they were co equals," Bolten says. "That will not work well in any White House that I know of, to have ambiguity about who is in charge."

Bolten says its good for the President to have the views of many advisers, but that only one person can be seen as directing the activities of the White House and the rest of the staff.

As chief of staff, Priebus is expected to play a role in managing President-elect Trumps legislative priorities. Priebus, who grew up in Kenosha Wis., shares a home state and a close relationship with Speaker Ryan, who today said Priebus brings to the table "hard work, determination and trust" from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Priebus, 44, has been the longest-serving RNC chairman, winning the job in 2011 after serving as its general counsel. He unseated his boss, Michael Steele, and took over a party that was some $24 million in debt.

Priebus led the famous "autopsy" of the GOP after its loss in the 2012 election, which recommended shortening the primary season and endorsing immigration reform as a way of reaching out to Latino voters.

Priebus made an unsuccessful run for the Wisconsin state senate and in 2007 became chairman of the state GOP. In 2010, he helped elect Republican Scott Walker as governor and a GOP majority in the state Legislature, and it was clear his star was on the rise.

In a statement Sunday, Priebus said, "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."

Oh, and the name? Reince is short for Reinhold.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

We're getting more clues as to how Donald Trump might govern as president with some of his first appointments. He has named Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus as his White House chief of staff. Priebus is seen as an establishment figure with close ties to the House speaker, Paul Ryan, as NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Interviewed this morning on Fox News, Priebus described the scope of his new job as he sees it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

REINCE PRIEBUS: It's an operations role and it's an advisory role. So running the White House, everything from protocol to the daily routine to communications policy, the president's agenda and Congress. It's all of those things. But it's really running the operation so that the right people are getting in front of the president, giving the president the right advice at the right time.

NAYLOR: It's also the chief of staff's job to make sure there is time for the president to look at the big picture. That's what Josh Bolten advises. Bolten was chief of staff during the final three years of the George W. Bush White House.

JOSHUA BOLTEN: The biggest challenge that anyone in the chief of staff's role faces is to make sure that the urgent does not drive out the important.

NAYLOR: Priebus is 44. He's been the longest serving RNC chairman, first winning that job in 2011. He's credited with pulling the organization out of the red. He also led the so-called autopsy after the 2012 election that called on the party to reach out to Latinos and other minorities, and to modernize its use of data to identify voters.

The organization that Priebus built helped Trump win his election last week. And in his victory speech, Trump called Priebus a superstar. As chief of staff, Priebus is expected to play a role in managing president-elect Trump's legislative priorities. Priebus shares a home state and a close relationship with House speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who today said Priebus brings to the table hard work, determination and trust from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Bolten says that's crucial, given Trump's ambitious agenda that includes repealing Obamacare.

BOLTEN: This first eight months of the Trump administration I think are going to be very heavily focused on how well they can work with the Republican majorities in the Congress. And the chief of staff can be a big player in making that possible.

NAYLOR: The appointment of Priebus, an insider, was announced at the same time as Trump named as senior adviser Steve Bannon, chairman of a far-right website that's been sharply critical of establishment figures like Paul Ryan. Bolten says it could be a problem in the White House if Priebus and Bannon don't have distinct roles.

BOLTEN: My concern for the announcement in a way that made it sound like they were co-equals is that it will not work well in any White House that I know of to have ambiguity about who's in charge of running the White House and who's in charge of the staff.

NAYLOR: Bolten says it's good for the president to have the views of many advisers, but that only one person can be seen as directing the activities of the White House and the rest of the staff. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.