McConnell says final decision on Moore awaits Trump

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (R-Ky.) stopped short of calling for a vote to expel Roy Moore from the Senate should he win a special election in Alabama next month and suggested a final decision for the party could depend on President Trump.

McConnell said no final decision had been made and it would await further discussions with Trump.

McConnell told reporters that Trump called him from Vietnam last week to discuss what to do about Moore, who faces multiple sexual accusations — including from one women who said they had a sexual encounter when he was 32 and she was 14. 

"We had a chance to discuss this issue. I talked to Gen. Kelly about it on Saturday, I talked to the vice president about it yesterday. There's no question there's a deep concern here," McConnell said referring to White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE and Vice President Pence.

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McConnell reiterated his call on Moore to withdraw from the race and voiced concern about keeping the seat, currently held by Sen. Luther StrangeLuther Johnson StrangeGOP sen: ‘Just a fact’ Moore will face ethics complaint if elected Trevor Noah: Trump must be ‘morally degenerate’ to back Roy Moore Moore gets boost from Bannon in final days of campaign MORE (R-Ala.), in Republican control. 

"We've looked at all the options," he said of his discussions with White House officials and colleagues. "This close to the election it's a very complicated matter.

"Once the president and his team get back, we'll have further discussions about it," he said.  

A day earlier, McConnell told reporters in Louisville, Ky., that he believed the accounts of five women who have accused Moore of predatory behavior and called for the candidate to step aside.

Asked whether he believed women who have made accusations about Trump, McConnell declined to answer and said it was off-topic.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerDems look to use Moore against GOP McConnell: 'No change of heart' on Roy Moore US trade deficit rises on record imports from China MORE (Colo.) on Monday called for Moore to be expelled from the Senate should he defeat Democrat Doug Jones in the Dec. 12 contest.

Gardner said Moore does not “meet the ethical and moral requirements” of the United States Senate.

But McConnell wouldn't go as far as Gardner on Tuesday

Other Republicans are leery about committing to an expulsion vote before investigating the allegations more carefully.

“Right now we’ve got to get through the election and see if that’s something we even have to deal with,” said Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Grassley offers DACA fix tied to tough enforcement measures We are running out of time to protect Dreamers MORE (R-N.C.).

He said that prior to any expulsion vote, “we have to examine the facts as they exist.”

“We owe that to the integrity of the process,” Tillis said.

GOP lawmakers feel more comfortable calling on Moore to pull out of the race and allow another candidate to run as a write-in.

The latest was Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerDems look to use Moore against GOP Senate hearing shows Fed chair nominee acts the part Senate GOP votes to begin debate on tax bill MORE (R-Nev.), who on Tuesday said “Moore should do what is best for the conservatives of Alabama and step aside.”

Some Democrats are wondering if Republicans would actually go through with an expulsion vote.

“It would be a remarkable step for Republicans to take,” said Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Blumenthal: ‘Credible case' of obstruction of justice can be made against Trump MORE (D-Calif.).