Senate

GOP hopes Trump will save Alabama Senate seat

Republicans are looking for President Trump to get them out of a jam and convince Roy Moore to drop out of the Senate race in Alabama.

So far, their calls for Moore to step aside over allegations of sexual misconduct have fallen on deaf ears.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that he has talked with the president about Moore, and that the conversations would continue once Trump returns to Washington on Wednesday.

{mosads}It’s not clear whether Trump will pressure Moore to drop out, or if he has any interest in getting involved in a fight that pits McConnell against his former White House chief strategist, Stephen Bannon.

 

But Senate Republicans think Trump may be their best hope for stopping Moore, who is alleged to have had a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl in 1979, when he was 32.

A senior Senate GOP aide said leaders want Trump to join them in pressing Moore to drop out of the race and see the president as their most effective advocate.

“If he doesn’t have Trump, who does he have?” the aide said of Moore, whose support in the party has eroded since the allegations became public last week.

A Decision Desk HQ-Opinion Savvy poll on Friday showed Moore tied with his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, at 46 percent.

Another poll over the weekend by JMC Analytics showed Jones leading Moore 46 percent to 42 percent, with 9 percent undecided.

A source close to the Senate GOP leadership said Trump could tip the balance.

“The president is uniquely positioned to influence the outcome because of his own popularity in Alabama among Republican voters,” said the source.

“The best surrogate for Washington Republicans in Alabama is Donald Trump. His point of view would carry a lot of weight down there.”

But Trump’s influence over Moore is diminished by the fact that he endorsed his opponent, incumbent Sen. Luther Strange (R), in the Alabama GOP primary in September.

Trump, for his part, was reportedly furious after he backed Strange and he lost, a blow to his perceived power over the Republican base.

Trump deleted his tweets supporting Strange and may not be willing to risk another loss by pressing Moore unsuccessfully to quit his bid.

McConnell, however, told reporters Tuesday that the president and his senior advisers are alarmed by the emergence of five women who have accused Moore of predatory behavior.

“The president called me from Vietnam on Friday. We had a chance to discuss this issue. I talked to General Kelly about it on Saturday, I talked to the vice president about it yesterday,” McConnell said, referring to White House chief of staff John Kelly and Vice President Pence.

“There’s no question that there’s a deep concern here,” he added, calling Moore’s accusers “entirely credible.”

The leader stopped short of endorsing a vote to expel Moore if he wins the seat in next month’s special election.

“He’s obviously not fit to be in the United States Senate and we have looked at all the options to prevent that from happening,” he said. “Obviously this close to the election it’s a very complicated matter, and I think once the president and his team get back we’ll have further discussions about it.”

Moore struck back on Twitter, calling on McConnell to resign instead.

“The good people of Alabama, not the Washington elite who wallow in the swamp, will decide this election! #DitchMitch,” he wrote.

McConnell said at an event sponsored by The Wall Street Journal later in the day that he wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions to run for his old Senate seat as a write-in candidate. Allies of Sessions have reportedly said he is not interested.

A few Republicans on Monday called for a vote to expel Moore from the Senate if he wins the special election.

“The Senate should vote to expel him because he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate,” National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner (Colo.) said in a statement.

That could be a messy process, however.

The Senate has voted on several occasions by majority vote to unseat a senator because the results of an election were contested.

If Moore wins the race and the state of Alabama certifies the results, it would likely require an expulsion vote — which requires a supermajority of 67 votes — to kick him out of the Senate.

Senate Republicans and Democrats on Tuesday said the Senate Ethics Committee or another investigative body should examine the facts thoroughly before taking action.

“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 Tillis (R-N.C.).

Prior to an expulsion vote, Tillis said, “we have to examine the facts as they exist.”

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said Moore or anyone accused of criminal behavior is “innocent until proven guilty.”

It could take weeks of investigation by the Ethics Committee before a vote on expulsion is held, and there is no clear legal justification to block him from being seated if Alabama’s secretary of State certifies his victory.

Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) declined to comment on any action his committee might take.

Alabama voters began casting absentee ballots on Oct. 18, so there’s no way to get Moore off the ballot, according to Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill.

However, if the Alabama Republican Party disqualifies Moore as its nominee before the election and he still wins the race, the election results would be nullified.

Tags Alabama Senate race Cory Gardner Donald Trump Jeff Sessions John Kelly Johnny Isakson Jon Tester Luther Strange Mitch McConnell Roy Moore Thom Tillis
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