White House

Ex-Bush aide: Bannon-Priebus setup does not seem ‘traditional or workable’

Awaiting Trump appointments

President-elect Donald Trump's appointments of Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon to comparably senior roles in his administration could create tense battles over the commander in chief's ear when in office, said Josh Bolten, former chief of staff to President George W. Bush.

"It doesn't seem either traditional or workable to me," Bolten said. "I was concerned when I saw that the announcement of Bannon as senior advisor and Priebus as chief of staff suggested that they would be co-equals."

Judging by his own experience, Bolten said the White House can be properly run by one person — in Trump's case, Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

"Only one person can really set the president's calendar, can say who does and doesn't get access, what issues he considers and very importantly, only one person can speak for the president when he's made a decision, and I think that needs to be the chief of staff," Bolten said.

As senior advisor and chief strategist for the White House, a nontraditional role in a presidential administration, Bannon, former president of Breitbart News, could serve as an unnecessary countervailing force, Bolten said.

The relationship is "not workable if Reince Priebus is not fully empowered to be chief of staff and do the job that I believe he's very capable of doing," Bolten said.

Overall, Bolten said Trump's process of choosing his administration was "refreshing" relative to Bush, which Bolten said was much more secretive.

Bolten said Trump's approach of "parading people in the front door and showing a wide diversity of views" should come as a comfort to people, as the president-elect sets aside the most extreme rhetoric from his campaign and considers well-qualified candidates for posts within his administration.

The key is to keep in mind the impression a fresh administration sends, Bolten said.

"If it's all old white men, that's going to undermine confidence in the administration from a lot of places," Bolten said. "Clearly in the way that they're handling the interviews with the potential Cabinet officers now, they are thinking about the impression they're giving."

As former chief of staff, Bolten was known for recruiting banker Hank Paulson to be Bush's secretary of the treasury.

While he does not know Steven Mnuchin, who is said to be in the running for the treasury secretary position in the Trump administration, Bolten said it is critical for the candidate to have experience dealing with Wall Street.

"I think it's good news that they're giving serious consideration to people with real experience in the markets," Bolten said.

"That doesn't mean they're going to give Wall Street banks a pass on regulation or anything else," he said. "It does mean that they know what kind of regulation is appropriate and, most importantly, folks like Paulson and I hope, Mnuchin, know how to handle a crisis."

The Trump transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.