More than 15,000 US lawyers sign letter asking Donald Trump to rescind appointment of Steve Bannon

'His contempt for our governmental institutions has no place in a crucial leadership position'

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The Independent US

Thousands of senior US lawyers have signed a letter asking President-elect Donald Trump to rescind his recent appointment of Breitbart News chief Steve Bannon as head strategist for his transition team.

More than 15,000 attorneys and legal experts from across the United States have so far given their signatures to the letter penned by Professor Nancy Leong from the University of Denver law school, highlighting Mr Bannon’s “opposition to a stable, democratic form of government”.

It was circulated to all members of Congress, days after Mr Trump was forced to defend the appointment against widespread accusations Mr Bannon was a white nationalist with racist views, which he denies.

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“We are attorneys whose political views span the ideological spectrum. We write to ask that you call upon President-elect Trump to rescind his appointment of Stephen Bannon as White House Chief Strategist,” the letter read.

“As attorneys, we swore an oath to uphold the Constitution. We committed to protect the institutions upon which our democracy depends. We committed to provide zealous representation for all our clients, regardless of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic.

“Mr Bannon has demonstrated his opposition to the stable, democratic form of government that our profession embraces and strives to maintain…Mr Bannon has also enabled and promoted white supremacy.

“Mr Bannon has intentionally legitimised racism, anti-Semitism, and other hate-based ideologies. Such bigotry runs counter to the values enshrined in the Constitution we promised to defend.

“President-elect Trump has promised to be 'a President for all Americans'. The selection of Mr Bannon as a key advisor communicates exactly the opposite.”

“Many of the signatories to the letter self-identify as conservative or libertarian,” Professor Leong told Huffington Post. “Opposing the appointment of someone who has enabled white nationalism and other hate-based ideologies is not a partisan issue.”

As the executive chairman of Breitbart News, Mr Bannon has referred to the website as “the platform for the alt-right” and praised the group as a “populist, nationalist movement” of “right, young people, young activists”. 

In an interview with the New York Times, Mr Trump defended the decision and said he had known Mr Bannon “for a long time”. He confirmed he would not have considered hiring him “if I thought he was a racist”.

Read the letter to Congress members in full below

Dear members of Congress,

We are attorneys whose political views span the ideological spectrum. We write to ask that you call upon President-elect Trump to rescind his appointment of Stephen Bannon as White House Chief Strategist.

As attorneys, we swore an oath to uphold the Constitution. We committed to protect the institutions upon which our democracy depends. We committed to provide zealous representation for all our clients, regardless of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic.

Mr Bannon has demonstrated his opposition to the stable, democratic form of government that our profession embraces and strives to maintain. His words could not be more clear: 'Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too . . . I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment'. His contempt for our longstanding governmental institutions has no place in a crucial leadership position.

Mr Bannon has also enabled and promoted white supremacy. Under his leadership, Breitbart News has become what Mr Bannon himself describes as "a platform for the alt-right" - another term for white nationalism. Through Breitbart, Mr Bannon has intentionally legitimised racism, anti-Semitism, and other hate-based ideologies. Such bigotry runs counter to the values enshrined in the Constitution we promised to defend. Indeed, it threatens democracy itself by undermining the equality of all citizens.

Of course we do not dispute that Mr Bannon has the right to voice his opinions. Indeed, some of us have devoted our careers to safeguarding a robust First Amendment that protects individuals, the media, and other organisations. But these extreme and hateful views do not belong in the White House.

This is not a partisan issue. The white supremacy and political insurgency that Mr Bannon has embraced and amplified contradicts everything we stand for as attorneys and as Americans.

President-elect Trump has promised to be "a president for all Americans." The selection of Mr Bannon as a key adviser communicates exactly the opposite. We call upon you to take all possible measures to ensure that Mr Trump rescinds his appointment of Mr Bannon.

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