Wash­ing­ton GOP boosts pres­sure on Alabama party on Moore

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - NEWS - By Alan Fram and Kim­berly Chan­dler

WASH­ING­TON » 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 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’d be con­ver­sa­tions about the anti-es­tab­lish­ment fire­brand af­ter Trump re­turns 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!” and said he would ad­dress the God Save Amer­ica Con­fer­ence later Tues­day in Jack­son, Alabama.

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 teen-agers, 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, R-Wis., 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.”

De­spite the build­ing pres­sure from na­tional Repub­li­cans, state GOP of­fice hold­ers have taken a mea­sured re­sponse.

It’s al­ready too late to re­move his name from the bal­lot. That leaves the state party with 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, but it re­mains pos­si­ble.

In an in­ter­view, 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.

A spokesman for GOP Gov. Kay Ivey re­it­er­ated that she would not post­pone the elec­tion to give Moore’s op­po­nents more time to or­ga­nize. That would spark a le­gal chal­lenge, but a pos­si­ble de­lay re­mains an op­tion, Repub­li­cans say.

Also pos­si­ble is a write-in cam­paign, but na­tional and Alabama Repub­li­cans con­sider that a long­shot to suc­ceed. Alabama Sec­re­tary of State John Mer­rill said no write-in can­di­date has ever won a statewide elec­tion in the state.

McCon­nell praised Ses­sions Tues­day as a pos­si­ble con­tender who is “to­tally well-known and is ex­tremely pop­u­lar in Alabama,” but con­ceded Ses­sions might not run.

Ses­sions held the Se­nate seat be­fore join­ing Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion this year. Some Repub­li­cans said they be­lieve Ses­sions is re­luc­tant to run but ex­pressed hope that Trump — who’s soured on him af­ter he ap­pointed a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor to in­ves­ti­gate Trump’s 2016 cam­paign’s ties to Rus­sia — might urge him to en­ter the race.

Repub­li­cans think GOP Sen. Luther Strange, whom Moore de­feated in a Septem­ber party pri­mary, would have lit­tle chance against Moore. Strange has called such a move un­likely.

If Moore is elected, top Se­nate Repub­li­cans al­ready are threat­en­ing to vote to ex­pel him as soon as he’s elected. That risks leav­ing the seat un­filled for a pe­riod of time.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., joined at rear by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., tells re­porters that he has spo­ken to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and other lead­ers about the Alabama Se­nate race and the al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct against GOP can­di­date Roy Moore, on Capitol Hill in Wash­ing­ton, Tues­day. McCon­nell and other Repub­li­cans have called for Moore to step aside.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

For­mer Alabama Chief Jus­tice and U.S. Se­nate can­di­date Roy Moore waits to speak at the Ves­tavia Hills Pub­lic li­brary, Satur­day in Birm­ing­ham, Ala. Ac­cord­ing to a Nov. 9 Wash­ing­ton Post story, an Alabama woman said Moore made in­ap­pro­pri­ate ad­vances and had sex­ual con­tact with her when she was 14. Moore is deny­ing the al­le­ga­tions.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Bev­erly Young Nel­son, the lat­est ac­cuser of Alabama Repub­li­can Roy Moore, reads her state­ment at a news con­fer­ence, in New York, Mon­day. Nel­son says Moore as­saulted her when she was 16 and he of­fered her a ride home from a restau­rant where she worked. Moore says the lat­est al­le­ga­tions against him are a “witch hunt.”

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