Toomey: Moore should step aside over sex al­le­ga­tions


WASH­ING­TON — Repub­li­can Sen. Pat Toomey urged Alabama Sen­ate can­di­date Roy Moore on Sun­day to drop out of the race, adding to the party’s grow­ing dis­avowal of the con­tro­ver­sial judge in a piv­otal elec­tion fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions that he ini­ti­ated sex­ual con­tact with a 14-year old girl decades ago.

Toomey said Moore’s ex­pla­na­tions have been in­ad­e­quate so far in re­sponse to The Wash­ing­ton Post re­port last week and that Repub­li­cans should con­sider current Sen. Luther Strange as a write-in can­di­date to run against Moore.

“You know, this is a ter­ri­ble sit­u­a­tion, nearly 40-year-old al­le­ga­tion, we’ll prob­a­bly never know for sure ex­actly what hap­pened,” said Toomey, R-Pa. “But from my point of view, I think the ac­cu­sa­tions have more cred­i­bil­ity than the de­nial. I think it would be best if Roy would just step aside.”

Toomey did not rule out the pos­si­bil­ity that Sen­ate Repub­li­cans might work to un­seat Moore if he wins the spe­cial elec­tion against Demo­crat Doug Jones on Dec. 12.

Moore on Sun­day re­sponded to the in­creased pres­sure by try­ing to raise money be­cause of the sex claims.

“The vi­cious and sleazy at­tacks against me are grow­ing more vi­cious by the minute,” Moore wrote in his fundrais­ing pitch. “I’m count­ing on you to stand with me at this crit­i­cal mo­ment by chip­ping in a do­na­tion to help me bust through the vi­cious lies and at­tacks and get the truth out to as many vot­ers as pos­si­ble be­fore De­cem­ber 12.”

The White House, point­edly not­ing that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump did not back Moore dur­ing the pri­mary, said Trump will likely weigh in on the Sen­ate race when he re­turns from Asia later this week. The White House has al­ready made clear that Moore should step aside if the al­le­ga­tions are proven to be true.

“I think there’s a spe­cial place in hell for those who ac­tu­ally per­pe­trate th­ese crimes,” White House leg­isla­tive aide Marc Short said Sun­day.

“But, hav­ing said that, he hasn’t been proved guilty,” Short added. “We have to af­ford him the chance to de­fend him­self.”

Moore, an out­spo­ken Chris­tian con­ser­va­tive and former state Supreme Court judge, has at­tacked the Wash­ing­ton Post re­port that he had sex­ual con­tact with a 14-year-old girl and pur­sued three other teenagers decades ear­lier as “com­pletely false and mis­lead­ing.” Still, in an in­ter­view with con­ser­va­tive ra­dio host Sean Han­nity, he did not wholly rule out dat­ing teenage girls when he was in his early 30s.

Asked if that would have been usual for him, Moore said, “Not gen­er­ally, no.”

The story has stirred con­cern among anx­ious GOP of­fi­cials in Wash­ing­ton in a key race to fill the Sen­ate seat once held by Jeff Ses­sions, now the U.S. at­tor­ney gen­eral. Los­ing the spe­cial elec­tion to a Demo­crat would im­peril Repub­li­cans’ al­ready slim 52-48 ma­jor­ity in the Sen­ate, which is hop­ing to pass a tax over­haul later this year.

But a Moore vic­tory also would pose risks if he were to join the Sen­ate GOP with a cloud of sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions.

In the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the Post re­port Thurs­day, a wave of na­tional Repub­li­can lead­ers called for Moore to drop out of the race if the al­le­ga­tions are true. They in­cluded the head of the House Free­dom Cau­cus, Rep. Mark Mead­ows of North Carolina, Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Over the week­end, more Repub­li­cans dis­tanced them­selves from Moore.

“Look, I’m sorry, but even be­fore th­ese re­ports sur­faced, Roy Moore’s nom­i­na­tion was a bridge too far,” tweeted Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., on Satur­day.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., on Sun­day said Moore’s de­nials seemed to raise more ques­tions.

“Cer­tainly, the al­le­ga­tions are very, very strong. The de­nial was not as strong as the al­le­ga­tions,” Scott said. “If the al­le­ga­tions are true, there is no doubt he should step aside. And not for the party, but for the Amer­i­can peo­ple. We have to find a way to re­store trust and con­fi­dence in our elected of­fi­cials in our govern­ment, and this goes in the wrong di­rec­tion.”

Even if Moore were to step aside, his name would likely re­main on the bal­lot. And any ef­fort to add Strange as a writein can­di­date would threaten to di­vide the GOP vote in a way that would give the Demo­cratic can­di­date a greater chance of win­ning. Moore beat Strange in the Repub­li­can pri­mary in Septem­ber.

Mind­ful of the stakes, Democrats on Sun­day ap­peared largely con­tent to let Repub­li­cans de­bate whether Moore should be their stan­dard bearer in the race.

“Look, we all know that Alabama is a very tough state po­lit­i­cally for Democrats, but this is a spe­cial sit­u­a­tion where we have a great can­di­date,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Mary­land, the chair­man of the Demo­cratic Se­na­to­rial Cam­paign Com­mit­tee.

“On the other hand, you have a very, very flawed can­di­date in Roy Moore, which is why many peo­ple are call­ing upon him to step down, but I’m go­ing to leave this to the peo­ple of Alabama. This is their de­ci­sion,” he said.

Toomey and Short ap­peared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Scott spoke on CBS’ “Face the Na­tion,” and Van Hollen was on “Fox News Sun­day.”

The As­so­ci­ated Press

EARTH­QUAKE: Peo­ple stand in the street after feel­ing af­ter­shocks from an earth­quake Sun­day in Bagh­dad, Iraq. The deadly earth­quake hit the re­gion along the border be­tween Iran and Iraq on Sun­day. The U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey said the quake was cen­tered 19 miles (31 kilo­me­ters) out­side the eastern Iraqi city of Hal­abja.

The As­so­ci­ated Press

MOORE: Former Alabama Chief Jus­tice and U.S. Sen­ate can­di­date Roy Moore waits to speak the Ves­tavia Hills Pub­lic li­brary, Satur­day in Birm­ing­ham, Ala. Ac­cord­ing to a Thurs­day 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.

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