News of White House strategist Steve Bannon’s resignation broke Friday afternoon during U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran’s town hall meeting in Topeka.
The second-term Republican was fielding questions about President Donald Trump’s fitness for office when a man in the back of the American Legion hall reading the news on his cell phone shouted that Bannon was out.
“We have breaking news during my town hall meeting,” Moran quipped as many in the crowd applauded.
In an interview after the meeting, Moran said he hoped that Bannon’s departure and the presence of a new chief of staff — former Marine Gen. John Kelly — would bring more order to what to date has been a relatively dysfunctional White House.
“I assume that the president made a decision that his administration will perform better in the absence of Steve Bannon, and I look forward to the administration coming together in a greater level of hope that the country will be less divided,” Moran said.
Moran, one of the few Republican members of Congress to earlier this week directly criticize the president for his ambivalent statements about last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Va., said infighting among Trump’s senior staff had made it difficult to work with the White House.
“We’ve seen the difficult times this White House has had in having a message and knowing what that message is and staying on that message,” he said. “We saw that with Charlottesville. We had three different statements and (it) was therefore hard to know exactly where the president was.”
Prior to joining Trump’s campaign a year ago, Bannon created a platform for the so-called “alt right,” a movement that includes white nationalists and other racist elements.
Though he said he had never met Bannon, Moran said he had seen reports indicating he was leader of one of the warring factions that had created a “very divisive world at the White House.”
Jim McLean is managing director of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio and KMUW covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @jmcleanks.