McConnell says final decision on Moore awaits Trump

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSunk judicial pick spills over into Supreme Court fight Hillicon Valley: Trump's Russia moves demoralize his team | Congress drops effort to block ZTE deal | Rosenstein warns of foreign influence threat | AT&T's latest 5G plans On The Money: Trump 'ready' for tariffs on all 0B in Chinese goods | Trump digs in on Fed criticism | Lawmakers drop plans to challenge Trump ZTE deal 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 StrangeRoby wins Alabama GOP runoff, overcoming blowback from Trump criticism Once a Trump critic, Ala. rep faces runoff with his support Crowley surprise tops huge night for left 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 GardnerMcConnell calls for Senate hearings on Russia sanctions GOP seeks separation from Trump on Russia Republican bill aims to deter NATO members from using Russian pipeline 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 TillisKey GOP senator says ‘no question’ Russia is meddling in U.S. affairs GOP Senator: 'Very inappropriate' for Trump to discuss allowing Russia to question US citizens Anti-Trump protesters hold candlelight vigil by White House 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 HellerSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Jacky Rosen hits Dean Heller over health care in first negative ad GOP moderates hint at smooth confirmation ahead for Kavanaugh 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 FeinsteinSunk judicial pick spills over into Supreme Court fight Senate GOP breaks record on confirming Trump picks for key court Deal to fix family separations hits snag in the Senate MORE (D-Calif.).