A turbulent week in Donald Trump’s presidency led to U.S. Sen Jerry Moran being peppered with questions about the nation’s leader during a town hall Friday.
Moran seemed to be caught off guard when, in the midst of the meeting, an audience member yelled out that chief strategist Steve Bannon was leaving the Trump administration.
The Kansas Republican told reporters after the event that he assumed Trump made a decision that his administration would perform better without Bannon.
Moran said there has been division within the White House, “which I assume has made it very difficult for decisions to be made by the president.”
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When asked after the town hall about the impact of the continued White House dysfunction, he said “There needs to be more certainty. But every day there is something new that creates an issue.”
Some in the crowd at a Topeka American Legion post yelled criticisms of the president as Moran sometimes switched between answering questions from the audience and picking from a bowl of handwritten ones submitted by the people in attendance.
The president has drawn bipartisan criticism for his response to violence in Virginia last weekend involving white supremacists protesting the removal of a Confederate monument. The hate groups in Charlottesville later clashed with counterprotesters, and Trump said earlier this week there was blame on “both sides.”
Moran was critical of the president’s comments and further denounced hate groups during the town hall Friday.
But he said he’s also been asked in the past by some Kansans about why he hadn’t tried to impeach former President Barack Obama.
Moran said his reasoning against that move was the same he would use if people asked him about impeaching Trump.
“We just had an election,” Moran said. “The American people spoke. We need to bring ourselves together, not pull us apart. Why do we not have the faith in the American people to make a decision?”
Moran also answered questions about the nation’s health care system, a debate that has consumed Congress this year.
Moran has said he supports repealing the Affordable Care Act but helped derail one GOP effort to do that. He said Friday he hopes there is a chance for a bipartisan solution on health care.
“I was critical of the passage of the Affordable Care Act with no Republican votes,” Moran said. “And it would be hypocritical for me to say that it is a good way to do it again with only Republican votes.”
After the event ended, Evelyn Davis, a 73-year-old retired teacher from Wakarusa, Kan., said Moran’s comments about Trump weren’t strong enough.
“I would like to see him and the rest of the Republican Party get Trump out of office,” she said. “And I think they can do that. Yeah, it’s extreme. But our president is pretty damned extreme.”
But 77-year-old retiree Jack Sossoman said he supported Trump.
The Topeka resident said he didn’t think Republican lawmakers should publicly criticize Trump on what he’s trying to do, and said he had problems with Moran’s criticism of Trump earlier this week.
“I don’t agree with President Trump on a lot,” he said. “I don’t like his tweeting. There’s a lot of things I don’t like ... but what he’s trying to do, I agree with him almost 100 percent.”
Town halls should probably be about health care and replacing or fixing the Affordable Care Act, Moran said after the room had emptied, but the conversation often ends up on what the president said, what the president tweeted.
“It makes it very difficult for Congress to have an agenda that we can stay on track,” Moran said. “And we get sidetracked by the things that is said about the White House.”