So far, 120 members of Congress have signed a petition asking president-elect Donald Trump to drop Steve Bannon from his administration. Trump announced on Monday that Bannon would be appointed to serve as his chief strategist and senior counsel. Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, has drawn sharp criticism for his ties to the alt-right movement, which many see as alarmingly close to the white supremacist movement. The letter, which continues to receive more signatures at the time of writing, states: "Unfortunately, your appointment of Stephen Bannon, whose ties to the White Nationalist movement have been well-documented, directly undermine your ability to unite the country."
Bannon has been working with the Trump campaign since August, when he was brought in as campaign CEO. Prior to officially joining the Trump campaign, Bannon was already showing support for him, with Breitbart appearing to many to be rather unabashedly pro-Trump. Breitbart, by Bannon's own admission, has a reputation of being a "platform for the alt-right," a movement that appears to have some white supremacist elements. Bannon told Mother Jones:
Look, are there some people that are white nationalists that are attracted to some of the philosophies of the alt-right? Maybe. Are there some people that are anti-Semitic that are attracted? Maybe. Right? Maybe some people are attracted to the alt-right that are homophobes, right? But that's just like, there are certain elements of the progressive left and the hard left that attract certain elements.
The letter from Congress speaks to Bannon's time at Breitbart and his not-so-secret controversial views as why he should be disqualified from serving in the Trump administration.
The letter also points to who has applauded the appointment, and who has condemned it. Those in favor of Bannon's position have been David Duke, a former KKK leader; the chairman of the American Nazi Party; and other leading white nationalists. In contrast, civil rights groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center have opposed the appointment. The letter argues that looking at who is in favor of Bannon's role and who is not is an indicator of what kind of message this sends to the American people:
Since the election there have been a number of incidents across the country in which minorities, including Muslim-Americans, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and Jewish-Americans have been the targets of violence, harassment and intimidation. Mr. Bannon's appointment sends the wrong message to people who have engaged in those types of activities, indicating that they will not only be tolerated, but endorsed by your administration. Millions of Americans have expressed fear and concern about how they will be treated by the Trump administration, and your appointment of Mr. Bannon only exacerbates and validates their concerns.
It is unclear at this time which Congress members have signed the letter, but it seems to have been written and circulated by Rep. David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island. Other representatives have shared their support of the letter on Twitter, like Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.).
Such widespread condemnation of Brannon should elicit a response from Trump, but it stands to be seen whether he will buckle under the pressure of Congress.