HOW GOP REVIVED EFFORT TO KILL HEALTH LAW MANDATE
So close to election, it’s complicated, McConnell says.
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.”
Moore has denied abusing the women but has not ruled out dating teenagers at the time, when he was in his early 30s.
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.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan joined the pile of congressional Republicans saying Moore should drop out.
“These allegations are credible,” Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters. “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.
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.”
With a political brand as an unrepentant outsider, Moore has signaled no intention of dropping out. Underscoring his defiance, he tweeted Tuesday, “Alabamians will not be fooled by this #InsideHitJob. Mitch McConnell’s days as Majority Leader are coming to an end very soon. The fight has just begun.”
Despite the building pressure from national Republicans, state GOP office holders have taken a measured response or avoided commenting on the accusations against Moore.
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.
U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore remains defiant in the face of allegations he had inappropriate relationships with teenage girls in his 30s.