Thu, 18 Oct 2018

McConnell says he trusts accusers, tells Moore to step aside

By Sheetal Sukhija, Philadelphia News
14 Nov 2017, 05:30 GMT+10

ALABAMA, U.S. - With the uproar over allegation made against GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore getting louder, now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has called on Moore to “step aside.”

While several prominent Republicans have disowned him, many others have called the allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore a conspiracy and a lie. 

However, soon after a report in the Washington Post quoted women accusing Moore of engaging in sexual conduct with underage women appeared late last week, Moore and the Republicans have faced a tough situation.

The report alleged that Moore initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl when he was 32. 

It also quoted three other women as saying that Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s.

Responding to the report initially, Moore said, "These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign."

He then called the story “lies” and a “filthy and sleazy” attack, which his brother compared the allegations against his brother to the persecution of Jesus Christ.

Jerry Moore suggested the women who have made accusations against his brother are being paid by the Democratic Party to come forward.

Even as Moore continued to deny the accusations, claiming they were intended to derail his Senate bid, GOP lawmakers asked Moore to step aside if there was any truth in the sexual allegations made against him.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, initially said in a statement, “If these allegations are true, he must step aside.”

On Monday, McConnell repeated his call to Moore and told the GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore to "step aside."

Speaking during a tax reform press conference in Louisville, Ky., McConnell said, "I think he should step aside. I believe the women."

Moore has faced increasing pressure from Republicans to drop out of the Senate race.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona too released a statement and said, "The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying. He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of."

Further, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said, "I find it deeply disturbing and troubling. It's up to the governor and the folks of Alabama to make that decision."

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins meanwhile took to Twitter and said, "If there is any truth at all to these horrific allegations, Roy Moore should immediately step aside as a Senate candidate."

National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Cory Gardner responded to the report and said, "If these allegations are found to be true, Roy Moore must drop out of the Alabama special Senate election."

According to the Alabama Secretary of State's office, Moore or the Alabama Republican Party can withdraw his nomination for the Senate seat - however that there's no process to replace him outside of a write-in candidate.

The office earlier said in a statement, “We do not have the process of how the state party would decide that yet. Should the party decide to do withdraw his nomination, the state chairman will notify the Secretary of State.”

The deadline for the party to remove Moore's name from the ballot passed in October. 

McConnell said on Monday that the party is exploring a write-in challenge, but declined to say specifically who would be the candidate.

He said, “That's an option we're looking at, whether or not there is someone who could mount a write-win successfully.”

When asked if Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.), who Moore defeated in the GOP primary runoff, would be the write-in candidate, McConnell said, "We'll see."

The special election, scheduled to be held on December 12, is to fill the seat that was vacated by Jeff Sessions when he took the Attorney General position in Trump's cabinet.

Republicans have reportedly also floated trying to move back the December election date.

If his nomination is withdrawn, the state canvassing board would not certify votes for him. 

The allegations against Moore came amid a national uproar over sexual harassment by high-profile personalities in entertainment, business, sports, media and politics.

While Moore has denied wrongdoing, on Monday, he threatened to sue the Post, arguing the story is politically motivated and aimed at damaging him ahead of the December special election.

The allegations and the drama surrounding it has also affected Trump's agenda, which is now at stake.

Allegations against Moore has turned the Alabama race into a tossup that is threatening Trump’s agenda in Congress.

The controversy has split Republicans over how far they’re willing to go to save the seat from a Democrat.

Republicans only have a slim, 52-seat majority in the Senate and have struggled to unite the caucus behind key agenda items, including repealing ObamaCare and a pending tax cut bill.

While Moore has railed against Senate leadership as part of his campaign, losing the seat to a Democrat would likely make it harder for McConnell to get major legislation through the chamber. 

If they fail to deliver, they risk being rejected by Trump voters in the coming midterm election.

Republicans are increasingly retreating from the Alabama Senate candidate after he said during an interview on Sean Hannity's radio show that he may have dated girls in their late teens at that time in his life.

During the interview, Moore added that he did not “remember anything like that" and maintained that there was no inappropriate sexual behavior.

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