President Trump broke his silence Monday on the accusations of sexual misconduct against Roy Moore to bestow a virtual endorsement on the embattled Republican candidate in Alabama’s race for Senate.
The president noted that Mr. Moore “totally denied” accusations that years ago he pursued relationships with teenage girls while in his 30s.
He also slammed Democratic candidate Doug Jones, who has taken the lead in polls in the deeply conservative state.
“We don’t need a liberal Democrat in there,” Mr. Trump said. “I’ve looked at his record. It’s terrible on crime, it’s terrible on the border, it’s terrible on the military.”
He added, “We don’t need somebody who is going to be bad on crime, bad on the borders, bad with the military, bad for the Second Amendment.”
The message to Alabama voters couldn’t have been clearer: Despite the unsettling accusations against Mr. Moore, he was still the better man to send to the Senate.
Nine women have come forward to accuse Mr. Moore of pursuing them or making inappropriate sexual contact. Most of the women were teens, although of legal age in Alabama, when the incidents occurred in the 1970s.
One of the women, Leigh Corfman, was 14 in 1977 when, she said, the 32-year-old Mr. Moore asked her out on a date, took her to his house and attempted to initiate sex.
“I was a 14-year-old child trying to play in an adult’s world and he was 32 years old,” she said Monday on NBC’s “Today.”
Accusations by Ms. Corfman and several other women first appeared in a Washington Post report Nov. 9. Other women then made charges to the news site AL.com.
Mr. Moore has denied all the accusations. He also has accused the news media and establishment Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of trying to knock him out of a race that he had been widely expected to win in deeply conservative Alabama.
The scandal vexed the GOP on numerous fronts. It complicated the party’s weak outreach to female voters, threatened the loss of an usually safe seat in deeply conservative Alabama and potentially endangered the tax reform bill by reducing the Senate majority to a single vote.
The 40-year-old accusations against Mr. Moore surfaced during a flood of sexual harassment allegations that began with those against movie producer Harvey Weinstein. It spread though Hollywood to journalism and to Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are now being scrutinized for using taxpayer dollars to settle harassment claims.
Mr. Trump said he was glad to see sexual harassment issue getting attention.
“I think that is good for our society. It is very, very good for women and I am happy that these things are coming out and I’m very happy that it is being exposed,” said Mr. Trump.
Last week, the White House said Mr. Trump thought the accusations against Mr. Moore were “deeply troubling” but that it was up to Alabama voters to pick their senator.
The president’s remarks Tuesday contradicted many Senate Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who have condemned Mr. Moore and threatened to block seating him or subject him to investigation if he manages to win the Dec. 12 special election.
In Montgomery, Alabama, Moore campaign officials Tuesday intensifying the pushback against the new media and the female accusers. The pro-Trump Republican’s campaign took a cue from the president and dismissed the allegations as “fake news.”
In Washington, Mr. Trump left open the possibility that he would campaign for Mr. Moore. He said he would make an announcement on it next week.
Mr. Trump had mostly kept himself out of the political inferno engulfing the Moore campaign. He could have stayed out of it through the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Instead, he stopped to answer reporters’ questions as he boarded Marine One to head to his estate in Florida.
At a news conference in Montgomery, Moore campaign officials challenged details given by Ms. Corfman and by Beverly Nelson who said Mr. Moore assaulted her in 1977 when she was 16 years old and working as a server.
In the case of Ms. Nelson, they said former restaurant employees and a former customer don’t remember Ms. Nelson working there or Mr. Moore eating there.
Moore campaign strategist Dean Young called the accusations “fake news” and part of a Washington political smear job.
“Mitch McConnell has spent over $30 million dollars trying to stop Judge Roy Moore. The Washington Post and all of the fake media for the last two weeks has said everything they can say about Judge Moore,” he said. “They’re trying to dig people up, put them on TV and say ‘Judge Moore’s a bad guy.’ Alabamians, we cannot send anyone like that to Washington.”
A couple polls last week showed Mr. Moore trailing Mr. Jones. He was back 5 points in a Gravis poll, 47 percent to 42 percent, and 8 points in a Fox News poll, 50 percent to 42 percent.
American voters overwhelmingly oppose Mr. Moore, with 60 percent saying he should be expelled from the Senate if he wins the election, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.
Just 28 percent of American overall think Mr. Moore shouldn’t be expelled. However, 49 percent of Republican voters say he should keep the seat if he wins it, compared to 33 percent of Republicans who want to toss him out.
Every other listed party, gender, education, age and racial group says expel him, according to the poll.
“Roy Moore may make it to the Senate chambers, but an overwhelming majority of American voters would like to rip the welcome mat out from under him and send him packing back to Alabama,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.
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