Sen. Moran faces fervent anti-Trump backlash during his stop in Baldwin City
BALDWIN CITY – U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas on Friday faced a backlash of criticism against President Donald Trump and his own reluctance to criticize the president, as a number of Douglas County residents asked why he, as a Republican, wasn’t doing more to hold Trump accountable for his actions or even help remove the president from office.
“The last year and a half, we’ve been going through this circus of crises and self-made messes all over this world,” one man in the audience said. “I’ll ask you, as a Republican representative, have you confronted Trump on any of these crazy things he’s come up with?”
That was greeted by a loud outburst of applause from the estimated 75-100 people who turned out for the event at the Baldwin City Library on Friday.
Another man in the audience seemed equally frustrated, combining his frustration with the president, reports of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and his dismay over Moran’s own trip to Russia over the July 4th holiday.
“As a member of the party that represents graft, corruption, nepotism, possible treasonous action (and) sexual assault, why do you not have a larger voice and any response to the election question?” he asked. “Why do you even believe you had any moral compass speaking to (Russian Foreign Affairs Minister) Sergey Lavrov, because you do not speak against this authoritarian president?”
“We have a constitutional crisis that has been moving through our system,” another man said. “The only way out that will be least disruptive is for Congress itself to ask the president to resign, for the good of the country.”
Nobody in the audience expressed support for Trump or urged Moran to support his policies.
Throughout the more than hourlong event, Moran kept his composure and insisted that he has confronted Trump on a number of issues, including his support for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling and for the escalating trade war with North American and European allies.
I’ve been vocal from the day that Mueller was appointed that we should leave him in place to do his work,” Moran said to applause. “Everything I know about Mueller is that he is straightforward. He is doing his job as he should be. … And we need to have a conclusion to this investigation that has to be done in a way that when it’s over, Americans, regardless of who they voted for, can be satisfied with the result.”
Moran also noted that as recently as Thursday, he gave a speech on the floor of the Senate raising concerns about the impact that retaliatory tariffs are having on the Kansas agricultural economy.
“I am worried and have expressed to the president and to my colleagues and people within the administration as recently as (Thursday) … that we are on a path that is very damaging to Kansas and the country,” Moran said. “I’ve explained to the president and others, we are an export state. We earn a living by what we sell around the globe.”
Moran also said he believes Russian officials interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections, something Trump has been inconsistent about in recent days.
“I would have hoped that the president, in the setting in Helsinki, would have said to Putin, we know you intruded on our elections. Stop it,” Moran said of Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland. “Do not do it in 2018, do not do it in 2019, and do not expect any significant change in our relationship until we see a change in your behavior — not just elections, but Syria, Crimea, Ukraine.”
Even in his public statements, however, Moran has been careful not to say directly that he believes the president is wrong or that he disagrees with Trump’s policies or that he holds Trump personally responsible for the consequences of his policies.
Speaking separately with the Journal-World after the event, Moran said he doesn’t believe that would accomplish anything.
“The goal here is to get something accomplished that the president will support,” he said. “In the case of trade, attacking the president, I don’t think brings about a result. We’re going to have to get the president to make a different decision in regard to his trade policy, and that’s hard to do on a position he has held longer than he’s been president, longer than he was a candidate.”
Not all of the questions at Friday’s event were about Trump. Several individuals came there to express their support for a single-payer, national health insurance system, what some referred to as “Medicare for all.”
Moran, however, repeated his long-standing opposition to that idea, saying Medicare as it is known now faces long-range financial problems because as more and more of the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, there won’t be enough people paying into the system to cover the cost of those who will be drawing down benefits.
Afterward, Moran said he wasn’t surprised by the tone of the Baldwin City event.
“Not in today’s environment,” he said. “There are differences depending on what community you’re in and what part of the state you’re in, what the issue of the day is. The atmosphere of every town hall meeting — this is different than it used to be — is affected by what’s in the news today. And what’s in the news today changes so rapidly, it generates a different crowd, depending on the issue.”