Fall­out from new as­sault claim

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY SEAN SUL­LI­VAN, MICHAEL SCHERER AND PAUL KANE sean.sul­li­van@wash­post.com michael.scherer@wash­post.com paul.kane@wash­post.com Matea Gold, Mike DeBo­nis, Damian Paletta, Matt Zapo­to­sky and David Weigel con­trib­uted to this re­port.

The cho­rus of GOP lead­ers sound­ing the alarm about Se­nate can­di­date Roy Moore grew.

The cho­rus of na­tional Repub­li­can lead­ers speak­ing out against Alabama GOP nom­i­nee Roy Moore af­ter al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct grew louder Tues­day, with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan join­ing the ef­fort to oust him from the Se­nate race and At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions voic­ing con­fi­dence in Moore’s ac­cusers.

But this grow­ing crit­i­cism has yet to sweep over key Repub­li­cans in Alabama, many of whom are stand­ing by the for­mer judge or stay­ing silent on the con­tro­versy.

The sharply con­trast­ing re­ac­tions com­ing out of Wash­ing­ton and Alabama un­der­score the chal­lenge Repub­li­can lead­ers face as they try to force Moore out of the race and en­list a can­di­date who can de­feat his Demo­cratic op­po­nent, Doug Jones, so nei­ther of the cur­rent can­di­dates winds up join­ing the Se­nate. The di­vi­sion only ap­pears to be hard­en­ing Moore’s re­solve to push for­ward with his can­di­dacy as he por­trays his crit­ics as the es­tab­lish­ment fig­ures he has made the vil­lains of his cam­paign from the be­gin­ning.

“The good peo­ple of Alabama, not the Wash­ing­ton elite who wal­low in the swamp, will de­cide this elec­tion! #DitchMitch,” Moore tweeted Tues­day, mak­ing a ref­er­ence to Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell (R-Ky.), who on Tues­day again called on him to drop out of the race.

Repub­li­can of­fi­cials in Alabama con­tin­ued to ex­press skep­ti­cism about the ac­cu­sa­tions made against Moore, say­ing that they are still wait­ing for the ev­i­dence to back up the al­le­ga­tions.

“As of today, with the in­for­ma­tion that’s been in­tro­duced to me, and if these charges are not proven to be true, then I would con­tinue to sup­port and vote for Judge Moore,” Alabama Sec­re­tary of State John Mer­rill (R) said Tues­day in an in­ter­view with CNN.

Oth­ers in the state said that there is lit­tle that can be done, as the Dec. 12 elec­tion to fill the seat va­cated by Ses­sions ear­lier this year ap­proaches.

“I don’t see any­thing the party can do,” said Alabama state Rep. Mike Ball, a Repub­li­can from Madi­son County. “It’s too damn late.”

Party of­fi­cials in Wash­ing­ton this week have ramped up ef­forts to get Moore to drop out, in hopes that a write-in can­di­date can save the seat for Repub­li­cans.

“He should step aside,” Ryan (R-Wis.) told re­porters at the Capi­tol on Tues­day. “Num­ber one, these al­le­ga­tions are cred­i­ble. Num­ber two, if he cares about the val­ues and peo­ple he claims to care about, then he should step aside.”

Speak­ing at a House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee hear­ing Tues­day morn­ing, Ses­sions said he had “no rea­son to doubt” the women who have made the al­le­ga­tions against Moore.

The Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee on Tues­day pulled out of a joint fundrais­ing com­mit­tee with Moore’s cam­paign, ac­cord­ing to a doc­u­ment filed with the Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion. The de­ci­sion by the na­tional party fol­lows a sim­i­lar move Fri­day by the Na­tional Repub­li­can Se­na­to­rial Com­mit­tee, which ended its fi­nan­cial re­la­tion­ship with Moore.

Now, the Alabama Repub­li­can Party is the only other GOP en­tity that is par­tic­i­pat­ing in Moore’s fundrais­ing ef­forts.

McCon­nell also sug­gested Tues­day at event hosted by the Wall Street Jour­nal that Moore faces the threat of be­ing ex­pelled from the Se­nate if he is elected — a process that would be­gin with a Se­nate Ethics Com­mit­tee in­quiry in which both he and his ac­cusers would give sworn tes­ti­mony.

“It would be a rather un­usual be­gin­ning, prob­a­bly an un­prece­dented be­gin­ning,” McCon­nell said.

Two women have ac­cused Moore, 70, of ini­ti­at­ing un­wanted sex­ual en­coun­ters with them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Leigh Corf­man told The Wash­ing­ton Post that she was 14 at the time of the al­leged en­counter. Bev­erly Young Nel­son said at a news con­fer­ence Mon­day that she was 16 when Moore al­legedly sex­u­ally as­saulted her and bruised her neck. Moore has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions.

Three other women in­ter­viewed by The Post in re­cent weeks said that Moore pur­sued them when they were be­tween the ages of 16 and 18, while he was in his early 30s. None of the three women said that Moore forced them into any sort of re­la­tion­ship or sex­ual con­tact. Moore has de­clined to rule out that he may have dated girls in their late teens when he was in his 30s, but he has said that he did not re­mem­ber any en­coun­ters.

Nei­ther Corf­man nor any of the other women sought out The Post. While re­port­ing a story in Alabama about sup­port­ers of Moore’s Se­nate cam­paign, a Post re­porter heard that Moore al­legedly had sought re­la­tion­ships with teenage girls. Over the en­su­ing three weeks, two Post re­porters con­tacted and in­ter­viewed the four women. Nel­son made her al­le­ga­tions against Moore af­ter the Post ar­ti­cle was pub­lished.

On Tues­day night, a de­fi­ant Moore spoke in Jack­son, a small city in ru­ral south Alabama, be­fore a sup­port­ive church au­di­ence. The at­tacks he’d faced — “28 days be­fore an elec­tion,” he added — came from a po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment that was out to get him.

“Ob­vi­ously I’ve made a few peo­ple mad,” said Moore. “I’m the only one who can unite Democrats and Repub­li­cans, be­cause I’m op­posed by both. They’ve done ev­ery­thing they could, and now they are to­gether to try to keep me from go­ing to Wash­ing­ton.”

But Moore never sug­gested that he might leave the race. Moore left the crowd at Walker Springs Road Bap­tist Church with a pa­tri­otic poem, a standby in his cam­paign speeches.

Ses­sions did not say whether Moore should be seated if he wins the special elec­tion to fill the seat he held be­fore he joined Pres­i­dent Trump’s Cab­i­net, even as some law­mak­ers in both par­ties have said that he should be ex­pelled from the Se­nate. Ethics per­son­nel at the Jus­tice Depart­ment have ad­vised him not to in­volve him­self in the cam­paign, he said.

Still, a grow­ing num­ber of Repub­li­cans be­lieve that the best way to sal­vage the seat is for Ses­sions to run as a write-in can­di­date.

At the event hosted by the Wall Street Jour­nal, McCon­nell said Ses­sions fits the “mold” of some­one who could win as a write-in con­tender.

It is too late to re­move Moore’s name from the bal­lot. The state party has the abil­ity to dis­qual­ify him, thereby pre­vent­ing any votes for him from be­ing cer­ti­fied. Na­tional GOP strate­gists be­lieve that if they can per­suade lo­cal of­fi­cials to take that step, an 11th-hour write-in cam­paign might be suc­cess­ful.

But if that doesn’t hap­pen, some Repub­li­cans are pes­simistic that a write-in ef­fort would have a re­al­is­tic chance, even with a pop­u­lar and well-known fig­ure such as Ses­sions. In­stead, it could have the ef­fect of split­ting the GOP vote and open­ing the door for Jones to win, which would nar­row the Repub­li­can ad­van­tage in the Se­nate to 51 to 49.

For now, Alabama GOP lead­ers, in­clud­ing Gov. Kay Ivey and state Repub­li­can Party Chair Terry Lathan, are not try­ing to shove Moore aside, and some Repub­li­can mem­bers of Alabama’s con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion have been re­luc­tant to opine on the sit­u­a­tion.

“Not go­ing to say any­thing about it right now,” said Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.), as he left a meet­ing of House Repub­li­cans on Tues­day morn­ing.

Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), who has said Ses­sions would make a “strong” write-in can­di­date, sug­gested Tues­day it was likely that there are many Alabama vot­ers who are “just as con­cerned” with Moore’s al­leged be­hav­ior as there are staunch de­fend­ers of the for­mer judge.

Hugh McIn­nish, a for­mer Madi­son County GOP chair­man, said he care­fully watched the Mon­day news con­fer­ence with at­tor­ney Glo­ria Allred and Nel­son three times on YouTube, even call­ing his wife over be­cause, he said, she is “fre­quently more per­cep­tive than me.”

“It was all a put-on,” McIn­nish con­cluded. He said that any “sane, ma­ture per­son” who looked at the facts of the al­le­ga­tion would have ques­tions. “A man try­ing to make time with a woman pro­ceeds to choke her? It makes not one iota of sense.”

“I don’t think it’s go­ing to fly in Alabama,” he added, though he said that he knew of other Repub­li­cans who had been con­cerned by the al­le­ga­tions.

Sev­eral Repub­li­cans with a close eye on the race said Tues­day that they be­lieved key mem­bers of the state party might meet to for­mally dis­cuss Moore’s cam­paign this week. A spokes­woman for the state party did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

McCon­nell told re­porters Tues­day that he spoke with Trump by phone Fri­day to dis­cuss Moore’s cam­paign, and in sub­se­quent days talked about it with White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and Vice Pres­i­dent Pence.

“Ob­vi­ously this close to the elec­tion, it’s a very com­pli­cated mat­ter. And I think once the pres­i­dent and his team get back, we’ll have fur­ther dis­cus­sions about it,” McCon­nell said.

Trump, who has been trav­el­ing in Asia, has been rel­a­tively quiet on Moore. He was set to re­turn to Wash­ing­ton late Tues­day.

BRYNN AN­DER­SON/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY IMAGES

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), at a news con­fer­ence Tues­day, told re­porters that Roy Moore “should step aside.”

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