In Trump's White House drama, Priebus is favorite target

During the Republican primary, Priebus, 45, often remarked to colleagues that he spoke with Trump more than any of the other 17 GOP candidates. The president likes to make good-natured digs at Priebus in public remarks, joking about his “crazy name” and telling a meeting of auto industry executives that his chief of staff might end up running a car company someday.

For laughs, Trump will sometimes recount a tense exchange with Priebus at one of the campaign’s lowest moments: the release of a video in which Trump is heard making predatory comments about women. During an emergency campaign meeting, Priebus told Trump he should either drop out of the race or risk dragging down Republican candidates across the country.

Steve Bannon, Trump’s senior adviser, said it’s not Priebus’ grim — and ultimately inaccurate — warning that stuck with the president. It’s the fact that Priebus showed up at all, given the intense pressure at the time for Republican leaders to abandon the party’s nominee.

“Reince had the courage to get on a train in Washington, D.C., go to Penn Station, go to Trump Tower and come to the meeting,” Bannon said. “That’s courage.”

Bannon, who was also considered for the chief of staff job, has grown unexpectedly close to Priebus and has distanced himself from the criticism by Breitbart News, the far-right website Bannon ran before joining Trump’s campaign.

“They’ve got their heroes, they’ve got their villains, it’s never going to change,” Bannon said of Breitbart. He vouched for Priebus’ populist credentials, saying, “When left to his own devices, he’s not really that establishment.”