Saturday, November 18, 2017
Politics

Sexual misconduct accusations against Roy Moore transform Alabama Senate race

RECOMMENDED READING


WASHINGTON — Republicans weren’t supposed to have to worry about Alabama.

Yet in the span of a tumultuous afternoon, a low-profile special election became a Republican nightmare that threatens a once-safe Senate seat — and offers a new window into ugly divisions that continue to plague the GOP in the age of President Donald Trump.

Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, a 70-year-old former state Supreme Court justice, defiantly denied allegations of decades-old sexual misconduct with minors published Thursday in a Washington Post story. The revelations, a month before the Dec. 12 special election, triggered a sharp backlash from would-be Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill, who called on Moore to quit the race if the allegations were true.

It was a bittersweet moment for some in the Republican establishment who argued that Moore, a Christian culture warrior twice removed from his state’s Supreme Court for judicial misconduct, never should have been the party’s Senate nominee in the first place. Some blamed Steve Bannon, Trump’s former senior strategist, who broke from most GOP leaders — including Trump himself — by cheering Moore’s candidacy earlier in the year.

"Dear GOP, send your thank you cards to the Breitbart embassy attn: Steve Bannon," tweeted a sarcastic Josh Holmes, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Moore is the latest soldier in Bannon’s self-described war on the Republican establishment. Frustrated that GOP leaders haven’t quickly executed Trump’s agenda, Bannon has vowed to defeat every Senate Republican up for re-election next year, save for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Bannon referenced Moore only briefly during an appearance Thursday night in New Hampshire, attacking The Washington Post — an "apparatus of the Democratic Party," he called it — for also being among the first to report the "Access Hollywood" tape that caught Trump using sexual predatory language before the 2016 election.

"The Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post that dropped that dime on Donald Trump, is the same Bezos-Amazon-Washington Post that dropped the dime this afternoon on Judge Roy Moore," Bannon said. "Now is that a coincidence? That’s what I mean when I say ‘opposition party.’"

The White House said Trump believes Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore "will do the right thing and step aside" if sexual misconduct allegations against him are true. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters traveling with Trump in Asia that the president believes a "mere allegation" — especially one from many years ago — shouldn’t be allowed to destroy a person’s life.

But Sanders said: "The president also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside."

Moore’s challenge in Alabama comes the same week that Republicans suffered sweeping election losses across several states, none more significant than Virginia, where Democrats seized the governor’s office and may have changed the balance of power in the state legislature.

Across Washington, the calls from anxious Republicans for Moore to step aside if the allegations proved true grew as the hours passed on Thursday. They included Trump, McConnell and Cruz, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and Alabama’s own senior senator, Richard Shelby.

Moore showed no signs of going quietly, vowing in a fundraising message distributed in the midst of Thursday’s chaos to "NEVER GIVE UP the fight!" as he cast his struggle as a "spiritual battle."

It’s too late for Moore’s name to be removed from the ballot before the Dec. 12 special election even if he withdraws from the race, according to John Bennett, a spokesman for the Alabama secretary of state. A write-in campaign remains possible, Bennett added.

Sen. Luther Strange, the Trump-backed interim senator who lost to Moore in a September primary contest, wouldn’t immediately say whether he’d re-enter the race.

"Well, that’s getting the cart ahead of the horse. But I will have something to say about that. Let me do some more research," Strange told The Associated Press.

On the ground in Alabama, however, many responded with a collective shrug.

"Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus," Alabama state Auditor Jim Ziegler told The Washington Examiner.

Alabama resident Becky Ashley dismissed the situation as a ploy by Democratic candidate Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney. "I don’t believe them at all," Ashley told the AP. "I believe this is Doug Jones, some of his doings, you know. I just don’t believe Roy Moore would do that."

The disbelief stemmed, in part, from Moore’s reputation as a conservative Christian.

He was twice removed from his state Supreme Court position, once for disobeying a federal court order to remove a 5,200-pound granite Ten Commandments monument from the lobby of the state judicial building, and later for urging state probate judges to defy the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage.

He said more recently that Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., should not be allowed to serve in Congress because he’s a Muslim. Asked about those comments during a Washington visit last week, Moore said only, "I’ll address that later."

The Post reported that Moore, then a 32-year-old district attorney, approached 14-year-old Leigh Corfman in early 1979 outside a courtroom in Etowah County, Alabama.

After phone calls and meetings, he drove her to his home some days later and kissed her, the Post quotes Corfman as saying. On a second visit, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes except for his underwear before touching her over her bra and underpants, Corfman told the Post. He also guided her hand to touch him over his underwear, she said.

"I wanted it over with — I wanted out," she told the Post. "Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over."

Three other women interviewed by the Post said Moore approached them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s. All four women spoke on the record to the Post.

Jones, Moore’s Democratic opponent, released only an eight-word statement from his campaign: "Roy Moore needs to answer these serious charges."

Comments
As sex scandals topple the powerful: Why not Trump?

As sex scandals topple the powerful: Why not Trump?

WASHINGTON — "You can do anything," Donald Trump once boasted, speaking of groping and kissing unsuspecting women. Maybe he could, but not everyone can. The man who openly bragged about grabbing women’s private parts — but denied he really did so — w...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Allegations against Alabama’s Roy Moore dividing GOP women

Allegations against Alabama’s Roy Moore dividing GOP women

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Standing on the white marble steps of Alabama’s Capitol, Kayla Moore surrounded herself with two dozen other women Friday to defend husband Roy Moore against accusations of sexual misconduct that are dividing Republicans, and women...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Franken apologizes to woman who says he kissed, groped her

Franken apologizes to woman who says he kissed, groped her

WASHINGTON — Minnesota Sen. Al Franken personally apologized to the woman who has accused him of forcibly kissing her and groping her during a 2006 USO tour, saying he remembers their encounter differently but is "ashamed that my actions ruined that ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Negative mailers trace back to campaign of state House candidate who denies them

Negative mailers trace back to campaign of state House candidate who denies them

An 87-year-old widow from Melbourne, a mysterious direct mail company in tiny Buffalo, Wyo., and a tangled web of political committees all were linked to the onslaught of negative mailers that helped Lawrence McClure win the Republican primary in Pla...
Updated: 5 hours ago

10,000 more FBI records unsealed from JFK assassination files

DALLAS — Yet again, the National Archives released a trove of records from the Kennedy assassination files on a Friday afternoon, another strange stream of loose ends, dead ends and tangents with little apparent connection to the assassination of the...
Updated: 6 hours ago
William March: Why Jose Vazquez had to campaign from a prison cell

William March: Why Jose Vazquez had to campaign from a prison cell

Jose Vazquez, Democratic nominee in the Dec. 19 state House District 58 special election, doesn’t seem like a criminal. He’s 43, divorced with six children, and has worked as a security guard and in auto recycling. He was a high-level political field...
Published: 11/17/17
Selective outrage: Trump criticizes Franken, silent on Moore

Selective outrage: Trump criticizes Franken, silent on Moore

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is displaying selective outrage over allegations of sexual harassment against prominent men in politics, as his own tortured past lingers over his response. Trump moved quickly Thursday to condemn accusations again...
Published: 11/17/17
In struggling upstate New York cities, refugees vital to rebirth

In struggling upstate New York cities, refugees vital to rebirth

UTICA, N.Y. — Pat Marino pulled into the shop on a cold, wet Thursday and stood close as a young mechanic with gelled-up hair and earrings lifted the truck and ducked underneath."You need a little bit more oil," the mechanic said."Five quarts wasn’t ...
Published: 11/17/17
Franken draws swift condemnation in Congress after woman claims he groped her

Franken draws swift condemnation in Congress after woman claims he groped her

WASHINGTON — Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., faced swift condemnation and bipartisan calls for an ethics investigation Thursday after he was accused of forcibly kissing and groping a broadcaster and model while traveling overseas in 2006.The allegations ag...
Published: 11/16/17
Alabama GOP stands by Roy Moore; Trump declines to urge him to quit Senate race

Alabama GOP stands by Roy Moore; Trump declines to urge him to quit Senate race

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Roy Moore won a reprieve in his struggle to survive as a U.S. Senate candidate Thursday when the Alabama Republican Party affirmed it would continue backing him despite allegations that he sexually assaulted teenagers."Judge Moore ...
Published: 11/16/17