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Trump chief Reince Priebus defends Steve Bannon as 'very smart' and 'temperate'

The incoming chief of staff to President-elect Donald Trump discusses next steps for the transition team.
/ Source: TODAY

Reince Priebus, the incoming White House chief of staff, defended President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to tap controversial Breitbart News leader Steve Bannon as his chief strategist.

“He’s very, very smart, very temperate,” Priebus told TODAY's Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie in a live interview Monday.

The president-elect’s decision to name Bannon as his chief strategist and senior counselor has courted controversy. Bannon is the executive chair of Brietbart News, which he once described as “the platform of the alt-right.”

Bannon has been accused by the Southern Poverty Law Center as being the driver behind a resurgence in white supremacist propaganda. But Priebus tried to cast doubt he will bring such controversial philosophies to the White House

“The guy I know is a guy that isn’t any of those things,” he said, describing his close work with Bannon during the general election campaign.

“In the last few months, he’s exhibited none of those qualities,” he said.

Meanwhile, Trump’s selection of Priebus, viewed as a Washington insider, was seen as a nod to cooperating with the Republican faithful and the lawmakers he will be charged to work with in office.

Priebus said he and Bannon will have different roles in the White House. The chief of staff, he explained, is "generally responsible for the day-to-day operations.”

He also pointed out that Trump typically gathers opinions from different advisers before making any key decisions.

“He’s not a person who just listens to one person and does whatever that one person says,” he said.

Priebus said that in addition to him and Bannon, Trump also will be relying on the guidance of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who played a key advising role during his campaign.

“You’re going to find In a few months, as people see the agenda roll out in the first 28 days and the first 100 days, that he’s going to be a president for all Americans and he’s going to make you proud,” Priebus said.