President Obama dodged a question on Monday about Donald Trump’s decision to appoint former campaign CEO Steve Bannon — a man celebrated by white nationalists — as his chief strategist and senior counselor.
“Without copping out, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on every appointment that the president-elect starts making if I wanna be consistent with the notion that we’re gonna try to facilitate a smooth transition,” Obama said during his first post-election White House briefing.
“Look, the people have spoken. Donald Trump will be the next president, the 45th president of the United States. And it will be up to him to set up a team that he thinks will serve him well and reflect his policies.”
Trump has been widely criticized by Democrats and some Republicans for tapping Bannon and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who will serve as Trump’s chief of staff, to top positions in his new administration. Trump, who ran as an outsider candidate, vowed to shake up the Washington establishment while on the campaign trail, promising to “drain the swamp.”
Democrats were particularly angered by Bannon’s appointment, arguing that Trump is trying to appease his white nationalist supporters.
Bannon was the executive chairman of the alt-right media outlet Breitbart News, which has been criticized for racist, misogynist and anti-Semitic headlines, when Trump tapped him as his campaign CEO in August.
Obama made it clear that while some may not approve of Trump’s new hires, that’s what happens in a Democracy.
“Those who didn’t vote for him have to recognize that that’s how democracy works. That’s how this system operates,” Obama said. “When I won, there were a number of people who didn’t like me and what I stood for. And, you know, I think that whenever you’ve got an incoming president of the other side, particularly in a bitter election like this, it takes a while for people to reconcile themselves with that new reality.”
Obama also said that he offered Trump advice, particularly when it comes to finding trusted aides, insisting it should be the new administration’s top priority.
On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump seemed surprised by the scope of the duties of the president. The WSJ went on to say that Trump’s staff was unaware that the entire administration staff had to be replaced.
Obama also stressed the need to give Trump the “rope and space” for a “reset.”