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Senate Minority Leader Reid pleads with Trump to dismiss Bannon: 'Don't do it'

"As long as a champion of racial division is a step away from the Oval Office, it will be impossible to take Trump's efforts to heal the nation seriously," Reid said Tuesday.

By Doug G. Ware
Senate Minority Leader Reid pleads with Trump to dismiss Bannon: 'Don't do it'
During a speech Tuesday on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Harry Reid pleaded with President-elect Donald Trump to revoke his controversial appointment of Steve Bannon to the post of White House chief strategist and senior counsel. Bannon's assignment has been heavily criticized by Democrats and some Republicans due to claims by opponents that the former Breitbart News chief is a supporter of white supremacy and anti-Semitism. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- The Democrats' top lawmaker in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday leveled another attack on President-elect Donald Trump -- this time calling for him to rescind the controversial appointment of his top White House strategist.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., made the plea on the floor of the upper chamber Tuesday, which follows already staunch opposition from the senator in the wake of Trump's surprise victory last week.

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Friday, Reid issued a stern rebuke of Trump's election in a powerfully worded statement.

RELATED Monday: Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon named to White House roles

"The election of Donald Trump has emboldened the forces of hate and bigotry in America," he said in the statement. "White nationalists, [Russian President] Vladimir Putin and [the Islamic State] are celebrating Donald Trump's victory, while innocent, law-abiding Americans are wracked with fear."

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Four days later, on Tuesday, Reid adjusted his tune to attack Trump's appointment of Steve Bannon as his top White House strategist and senior counselor. Critics have panned the decision, calling Bannon -- the former head of conservative-leaning Breitbart News -- a supporter of the white supremacy movement and anti-Semitism.

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"I have been in politics for five decades, and I have not seen anything like what we are seeing today in America," Reid said in his opening remarks Tuesday. "The man who lost the popular vote by 2 million votes is now the president-elect.

"It raises a critical question for us as a country -- how do we respond to the election of Donald Trump?"

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Reid, who is retiring in January, went on to say that Democrats on Capitol Hill are willing to work with the president-elect in a pragmatic manner, but also have a responsibility to uphold the values of the constituents they represent.

"We have a responsibility to be the voice of the millions of Americans sitting at home afraid that they are not welcome anymore in Donald Trump's America," he said, before setting his sights on Bannon.

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"When asked to comment on Bannon's hiring, KKK leader David Duke told CNN, quote, 'I think that's excellent.' ... A court filing stated that Bannon said that he doesn't like Jews and that he doesn't like the way they raise their kids to be 'whiny brats' and that he didn't want [his] girls to go to school with Jews," Reid vented.

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"If Trump is serious about seeking unity, the first thing he should do is rescind his appointment of Steve Bannon," he continued. "Rescind it. Don't do it. Think about this. Don't do it.

"As long as a champion of racial division is a step away from the Oval Office, it will be impossible to take Trump's efforts to heal the nation seriously."

Some Democrats on Capitol Hill agreed with Reid's sentiments.

"Quite frankly it's sad that we are having a debate about whether a white supremacist should serve as a senior counselor to the president elect," Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said in a news conference after Reid's speech.

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Trump appointed Bannon to the post Sunday, along with his naming of RNC Chair Reince Preibus as White House chief of staff.

Reid's remarks Tuesday continued a verbal assault on Trump's qualifications. In his rebuke last week, he called the billionaire a "sexual predator" for the comments he made when he thought his microphone was off before a television interview a decade ago.

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Some Republicans have also found it difficult to defend Bannon's appointment, but Preibus told NBC News this week that the Harvard Business School graduate "isn't any of those things."

"He's a guy who is very, very smart," he added.

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