CHICAGO — Former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus delivered a defense of his former boss, President Donald Trump, in Chicago on Tuesday night and said the media should stop reporting on gossip and minutia and focus on Trump's successes.
Priebus keynoted a major fundraising event for Illinois House Republican leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs at a Magnificent Mile hotel, an event that also drew GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner and Chicago mayoral candidate Garry McCarthy.
Priebus, who served a six-month stint as chief of staff when Trump was inaugurated before being ousted in favor of former Gen. John Kelly, urged Republicans not to be distracted by criticism of the White House or the president's style and instead concentrate on results.
"I've had the honor of serving our president, and while all the books are being written and all of the issues that people want to talk about on 24/7 cable, I just gotta say, you know, you look at the results of this president," said Priebus, a former Republican national chairman from Wisconsin before entering the Trump White House.
"You look at the economy. You look at jobs. You look at wage growth. You look at ISIS. You look at regulation. You look at the courts and what he's doing on the Supreme Court, the federal court, the circuit courts. If you're a Republican or even an independent, you've got to love the results of what President Trump is doing," he said.
Priebus, noting the release Tuesday of Bob Woodward's book, "Fear, Trump in the White House," said media reports of chaos in the White House are "wrong."
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"The president of the United States makes decisions through the Socratic method, allows people to argue it out and makes his decisions. And what don't you like?" Priebus asked, citing arguments over trade policy at the Resolute Desk involving Gary Cohn, Wilbur Ross, Steve Bannon and Steve Miller.
Cohn was Trump's chief economic adviser and Bannon was chief strategist. Ross, the Commerce secretary, and Miller, a senior policy adviser, remain.
"I think it's about time the press give the president his due and look at the results and quit reporting on the daily gossip-and-grind minutia and really look at what's happening in this country because it's a good thing," he said.
Listening to Priebus and occasionally applauding was McCarthy, the city's former police superintendent, who is among the myriad candidates or possible contenders running to replace Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel, who fired McCarthy, is not seeking a third term.
Durkin introduced McCarthy to the audience as someone who is "not thinking of running for mayor" but actually is "running for mayor." Durkin said he's known McCarthy for a number of years and considers him "a good friend of our family."
Asked by a reporter if his appearance at a Republican fundraising event was any cause of concern over partisan alliances in a heavily Democratic city, McCarthy said, "It's not a concern for me."
"I go where I'm invited. I'll go anywhere, talk to anybody, anytime about anything," he said. The mayoral race is officially nonpartisan.
In a March interview, McCarthy described himself to the Tribune as a lifelong "conservative Democrat." McCarthy has denounced Trump's politics and last month on a national Fox News interview said his opposition to the president was, "not so much about the policies and it's more about the polarization that's happening in this country."
Rauner, the re-election-seeking governor who has used his campaign wealth to heavily subsidize Durkin's candidates for the Illinois House, called the House "the barricade" against Democratic plans to approve a proposed state constitutional amendment that would ask voters to approve a graduated-rate income tax to replace the currently mandated flat tax. The proposal is backed by Rauner's Democratic challenger, J.B. Pritzker.
"The only way they can get that done is by having a super-majority back in the General Assembly. And the barricade, the wall, the barrier against that happening is the House of Representatives. Hold the House. Pick up seats in the House. That's what it's all about," Rauner said.
Democrats hold a 67-51 majority in the House, led by Rauner's chief political nemesis, House Speaker Michael Madigan, who also chairs the state Democratic Party. It takes 71 votes in the House to approve a proposed constitutional amendment and 36 votes in the Senate, which Rauner is not heavily contesting this election. Democrats have a 37-22 Senate majority.