The top Republican in the Senate said Monday GOP candidate Roy Moore should quit his Alabama race amid allegations he had an inappropriate relationship with a 14-year-old girl and pursued relationships with other teenage girls decades ago. “I believe the women,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Also Monday, the head of the Senate Republican campaign committee said if Roy Moore wins his race in Alabama, the Senate should vote to expel him.
McConnell’s remarks came days after the Washington Post report that rocked the campaign for what the GOP had considered an inevitable special election win on Dec. 12. When the story first broke last Thursday, the Kentucky Republican had said Moore should step aside if the allegations were true.
McConnell, questioned at a tax event in Louisville, said a write-in effort by another candidate was a possibility.
“That’s an option we’re looking at … whether or not there is someone who can mount a write-in campaign successfully,” McConnell said. Asked specifically about current Sen. Luther Strange, the loser to Moore in a party primary, he said, “We’ll see.”
Shortly after McConnell made his remarks Monday, Moore tweeted his response.
— Judge Roy Moore (@MooreSenate) November 13, 2017
Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado says in a statement that he believes the women who accused Moore and that they spoke with “courage and truth.” Gardner says what they recounted proves Moore is unfit to serve in the Senate and should not run for office.
Gardner says if Moore refuses to withdraw from the Alabama race and wins, “the Senate should vote to expel him, because he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate.”
Meanwhile, a new accuser said Monday that Roy Moore assaulted her when she was a 16-year-old waitress in the 1970’s. Beverly Young Nelson described the assault, which she said took place in Moore’s locked car as he tried preventing her from leaving. She added that Moore had warned her no one would believe her because he was a county district attorney.
Even before Nelson’s news conference, Moore’s campaign released a statement saying that attorney Gloria Allred – who’s representing Nelson – “is a sensationalist leading a witch hunt.” It said Moore is innocent and “has never had any sexual misconduct with anyone.
Standing by his wife’s side at a hastily called news conference Monday evening, Moore said the latest claim is “absolutely false.” He said he did not even know Beverly Young Nelson and “never did what she said I did.”
Moore says the accusations against him are a “political maneuver.”
Moore says he is unfamiliar with the restaurant where the woman said Moore was a regular customer. Nelson had shown reporters her high school yearbook that she said Moore signed in 1977.
Kayla Moore defended her husband, saying he is the “most gentle, most kind man that I have ever known.”
Moore did not take questions from reporters.
On the Democratic side, one of the Senate’s moderate members is helping Moore’s challenger raise campaign funds, underscoring the party’s wary approach in an Alabama race that until recently was viewed as a virtually certain win for the GOP.
In fact, the fundraising bid by Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., doesn’t mention allegations about Moore.
“Doug’s opponent, Roy Moore, is an extremist with a record of putting political ideology above the rule of law,” Donnelly wrote in a weekend email soliciting contributions for Democrat Doug Jones. Moore and Jones face a Dec. 12 special election to replace Strange, who was appointed to replace Jeff Sessions when Sessions was named U.S. attorney general.
Donnelly’s email also cites Jones’ background as “the son of a steelworker” and a prosecutor who “worked to lock away members of the KKK and terrorists for despicable acts of violence.”
Donnelly faces re-election next year in Indiana and is considered one of his party’s most endangered incumbents.
In a further indication of Democrats’ caution, the party’s No. 2 Senate leader, Richard Durbin, dodged a question Sunday about what the Senate should do if Moore is elected. He tried to shift the focus back to Republicans.
“President Trump is the leader of the Republican Party in America. It’s his responsibility to step forward and say more and do more when it comes to the situation in Alabama,” Durbin, D-Ill., said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Moore said a lawsuit will be filed over the Post report that detailed the allegations against him.
While pressure to quit the race four weeks before Election Day intensified from within the Republican Party, Moore assured supporters Sunday night at a Huntsville, Alabama, gym that the article was “fake news” and “a desperate attempt to stop my political campaign.”
Moore said allegations that he was involved with a minor child are “untrue” and said the newspaper “will be sued,” drawing a round of applause. The former judge also questioned why such allegations would be leveled for the first time so close to the special election in spite of his decades in public life.
“Why would they come now? Because there are groups that don’t want me in the United States Senate,” he said, naming the Democratic Party and the Republican establishment and accusing them of working together. He added, “We do not plan to let anybody deter us from this race.”
The Post story quoted four women by name, including the woman who alleged relationship at 14, and had two dozen other sources.
Moore, too, has tried to raise money from the controversy, writing in a fundraising pitch that the “vicious and sleazy attacks against me are growing more vicious by the minute.”
Even if Moore were to step aside, his name would likely remain on the ballot. And any effort to add Strange as a write-in candidate would threaten to divide the GOP vote in a way that would give the Democratic candidate a greater chance of winning.
Moore is an outspoken Christian conservative and former state Supreme Court judge.
While he has called the allegations “completely false and misleading,” 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 situation has stirred concern among anxious GOP officials in Washington in a key race to fill the Senate seat once held by Sessions. Losing the special election to a Democrat would imperil Republicans’ already slim 52-48 majority. But a Moore victory also would pose risks if he were to join the Senate GOP under a cloud of inappropriate underage allegations.