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Rep. Charlie Dent On Steve Bannon's Ouster

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Steve Bannon is out of the White House - says he's going to war for his nationalist agenda and President Trump. Within hours, Mr. Bannon was back at the helm of Breitbart News and told the Weekly Standard, quote, "the Trump presidency that we fought for and won is over." Joined this morning by Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. Mr. Dent, thanks for being with us.

CHARLIE DENT: Hey, thank you for having me. Really great to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: Are you glad to see the back of Steve Bannon?

DENT: Yeah. All I can say is this is a very positive development that he has departed the White House. And I would have never - certainly, I don't think he should have been hired in the first place. But now that he's gone, I think it's all for the best. I guess I was a bit stunned by this interview that he had with this Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect, where he went on and said a lot of very disparaging things about his colleagues - you know, his own world view that seemed to contradict many of the president's policy objectives. And I thought, how could you keep the man after he made those statements - or other reasons, obviously. But that was just glaring. And now this - I'm not sure what he means by this declaration of war - the presidency is over with - but it is what it is. But the at least General Kelly seems to be, you know, fully in charge of the staff now. And that's a positive development.

SIMON: Well, do you - I understand that people in the Beltway get all excited about White House staff changes - journalists and politicians - but isn't all that really matters who's president? And that hasn't changed.

DENT: Well, I've always said that the - General Kelly, you know, I think he will bring focus and discipline and order to the White House staff. Whether or not he can bring focus and discipline to the president is another matter. And obviously, the events of Charlottesville, I think, you know, cost us all a great deal of concern and alarm, you know, based on the response - the failed initial response and then the subsequent response. The one that - it was a better response on, I guess, Monday and then the meltdown on Tuesday. And so I think that many of us are deeply concerned about the, you know, the president's behavior in recent days.

SIMON: Well, and - then - let me go through the door you just opened, of course, because Senator Corker of Tennessee raised - you think he used pretty blunt language raising questions about President Trump's moral and mental fitness for office. Do you share those - do you share those anxieties?

DENT: Now let me say this. I have been critical of the president on a number of issues over the years, and I didn't - I did not endorse him during the campaign. And I felt that Senator Corker issued some strong words, clearly. But some of our military leaders - you know, the Joint Chiefs of Staff - I mean, all made statements on nondiscrimination that I felt were a bit of a rebuke of the president's response and - as did corporate leaders - many corporate. So the bottom line is many of the leaders of this country, whether it be political, military or business leaders, have been distancing themselves from the president over the past - over the past week. I know Ken Frazier at Merck. A lot of my constituents work at Merck. And he's good man.

SIMON: Who resigned from the president's council.

DENT: That's correct. He was on the President Business Council and resigned. And so - and I guess that's what - I think there's just this lack of moral clarity when it comes to these white supremacist groups - the neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan or whatever other ones are out there. I think it was important that - I think it's important that the president be very clear about this. And he shouldn't have been equivocating so much. It's not to say there aren't left-wing groups out there that are violent. I'm sure that they are. But that's not what we saw in Charlottesville last week. It was this group of supremacists who were responsible for the violence and inciting that violence.

SIMON: Mr. Dent, I'm afraid - but thank you very much for being with us, but I'm afraid we got to move on with more news in this run. But thanks so much for being with us.

DENT: OK. You take care now.

SIMON: Republican Congressman Charlie Dent, Pennsylvania's 15th District. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.