Top U.S. Repub­li­cans look to Trump to re­con­fig­ure Alabama Se­nate race

Times Colonist - - Canada / World -

Wash­ing­ton Repub­li­cans tight­ened pres­sure Tues­day on Alabama’s GOP to keep a de­fi­ant Roy Moore from be­ing elected to the Se­nate next month, with many voic­ing hope that U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump could use his clout to re­solve a prob­lem that Repub­li­cans say leaves them with no easy op­tions.

With Alabama Repub­li­cans re­luc­tant to block Moore and en­rage his le­gions of loyal con­ser­va­tive sup­port­ers, na­tional GOP lead­ers were turn­ing to Trump as their best chance of some­how turn­ing the tide. Two women by name have said Moore mo­lested them in the 1970s when one was 14 and the other 16 and he was a lo­cal district at­tor­ney, and three oth­ers said he pur­sued ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships with them around the same time.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, in all-out war­fare with Moore, said there would be con­ver­sa­tions about the anti-es­tab­lish­ment fire­brand af­ter Trump re­turned Tues­day night from Asia. He said he’d al­ready spo­ken about Moore to the pres­i­dent, Vice-Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and White House chief of staff John Kelly.

“He’s ob­vi­ously not fit to be in the United States Se­nate and we’ve looked at all the op­tions to try to pre­vent that from hap­pen­ing,” said McCon­nell, who Mon­day said he be­lieved Moore’s ac­cusers. “This close to elec­tion, it’s a com­pli­cated mat­ter.”’

Main­tain­ing his po­lit­i­cal brand as an un­re­pen­tant out­sider, Moore again de­nied abus­ing the women in an email that re­minded vot­ers of their loy­alty to him: “He’s the same man you’ve al­ways known him to be.” It added: “On to vic­tory!”

Twice re­moved from his post as state Supreme Court chief Jus­tice, Moore’s can­di­dacy in the Dec. 12 special elec­tion con­fronts Repub­li­cans with two dam­ag­ing po­ten­tial out­comes. A vic­tory sad­dles GOP sen­a­tors with a col­league ac­cused of abus­ing and ha­rass­ing teenagers, a trou­bling li­a­bil­ity head­ing into next year’s con­gres­sional elec­tions, while an up­set vic­tory by Demo­crat Doug Jones would slice the al­ready nar­row GOP Se­nate ma­jor­ity to an un­wieldy 51-49.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions told Congress he has “no rea­son to doubt” the women. Ses­sions, a for­mer Alabama sen­a­tor and still one of the GOP’s most in­flu­en­tial voices in the state, didn’t rule out a Jus­tice Depart­ment probe of the al­le­ga­tions, telling the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee: “We will eval­u­ate ev­ery case as to whether or not it should be in­ves­ti­gated.”

The na­tional Repub­li­can Party ended a fundrais­ing ar­range­ment with Moore’s cam­paign, Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion doc­u­ments showed. And House Speaker Paul Ryan joined the pile of con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans say­ing Moore should drop out, say­ing: “If he cares about the val­ues and peo­ple he claims to care about, then he should step aside.”

Two Wash­ing­ton Repub­li­cans, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity to de­scribe pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions, said they didn’t know what Trump would do, but said the White House shares McCon­nell’s con­cerns about Moore. While few think Trump could per­suade Moore to step aside, sev­eral are hop­ing he can con­vince the Alabama state party to take some ac­tion.

At a fo­rum Tues­day or­ga­nized by the Wall Street Jour­nal, McCon­nell said Trump is dis­cussing what to do in the Alabama race “in great de­tail.”

So far, the state GOP has taken a mea­sured re­sponse. It’s too late to re­move Moore’s name from the bal­lot. That leaves lim­ited op­tions.

The 21-mem­ber party steer­ing com­mit­tee could vote to re­voke Moore’s GOP nom­i­na­tion and ask elec­tion of­fi­cials to ig­nore bal­lots cast for him Elec­tion Day, but that would risk a law­suit and back­lash from Moore sup­port­ers. The party has lit­tle in­ter­est in alien­at­ing Moore’s fol­low­ers a year be­fore elec­tions in which the gov­er­nor’s of­fice and en­tire state leg­is­la­ture will be in play.

Moore cam­paign chair­man Bill Ar­mis­tead said he’d seen no in­di­ca­tion the state party will “back off in any way.” He said some in the party want it to pass a res­o­lu­tion em­brac­ing Moore.

If Moore is elected, top Se­nate Repub­li­cans are threat­en­ing to vote to ex­pel him.


U.S. Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., on Tues­day. McCon­nell and other Repub­li­cans have called for Alabama Se­nate GOP can­di­date Roy Moore to step aside in the wake of sex­ual-mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions.

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