BOSTON (State House News Service) – Attorney General Maura Healey, who campaigned vigorously for Democrat Hillary Clinton, took umbrage Wednesday with Gov. Charlie Baker’s reaction to the appointment by President-elect Donald Trump of Steve Bannon to a senior White House role.
Bannon’s appointment as senior counselor and chief strategist to Trump has ignited a firestorm among both Democrats and some traditional conservatives. The former executive chairman of Breitbart News, who will stand on equal footing with chief of staff Reince Priebus in the new administration, has called the website a platform for the alt-right, which has been linked to white supremacism.
“It’s concerning for me to see the governor, who sat out this election, now take a wait-and-see approach on something like an appointment of Steve Bannon,” Healey told the News Service in an interview Wednesday night.
She continued, “For me, Bannon isn’t a wait-and-see situation. He is a white supremacist now named to a top White House position to advise the president-elect and that is something that needs to be denounced and rejected. I don’t think it’s prejudging to look at Bannon’s record of vile behavior and say there’s any situation to have him anywhere near the White House, let alone advising the president.”
Baker, who was highly critical of Trump and his rhetoric during the campaign, returned from a conference in Florida this week ready to give the new administration a chance. After he and other GOP governors met with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, Baker said he was optimistic that Trump’s team would be willing to listen to the states and thought he could find common policy ground with the new White House.
Asked about his biggest concern with a Trump administration, Baker said it lies in seeing who gets appointed to key posts and how policy proposals get developed.
“I’ve said many times, and it was certainly true in the development of our own administration, that people are policy, and the folks you choose to serve in key roles in your administration represent, for many people sort of the first step in how you plan to govern and what you think is important and how you plan to build a policy agenda and go forward,” Baker said.
Concerning Bannon and other Trump positions being harshly scrutinized just a week after the election, Baker said there was “too much prejudging going on here.”
“Based on some of Bannon’s previous remarks and activities that was a concern to me, but I’m going to take a page from President Obama’s book on this one who said the other day that he thinks the Trump administration’s team should be judged by the totality of its appointments. Let’s see what else happens,” Baker said told reporters on Wednesday.
Obama held a wide-ranging press conference on Monday during which he was asked specifically about Bannon and declined to enter the fray.
“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, according to a transcript. “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.”
Healey said that Obama is in a much different position than other elected officials like herself and the governor, with the president’s top priority being a peaceful transition of power.
“This is a situation where there is a bright line between what’s right and wrong. If you want to talk about the totality of the work, I’ve looked at Steve Bannon’s totality of work and it’s all about hate and really dangerous conduct and behavior that’s been bad for society throughout the course of history,” Healey said.
In a statement in response to Healey’s criticism, Baker deputy communications director Brendan Moss said, “The president-elect has stated that he will focus on unifying the country after a divisive campaign and the Governor is concerned that this selection runs counter to that important goal. Governor Baker was pleased to appoint a bipartisan group of experts to head up his administration and hopes President-elect Trump focuses on qualifications first and foremost when it comes to staffing his administration.”