WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump reportedly privately expressed doubts about the veracity of sexual harassment claims levied against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore in the days leading up to what appeared to be a tacit endorsement of Moore Tuesday.
In conversations with senior White House officials and top Republicans Trump has expressed skepticism about the allegations that Moore pursued and behaved inappropriately with teen girls and questioned why the accusers came forward weeks before Alabama’s special election, two White House advisers and two other people familiar with the conversations toldPolitico.
Trump reportedly compared the allegations facing Moore to those he dealt with in the final weeks of the 2016 election, when a host of women came forward to accuse then-candidate Trump of sexual harassment.
Trump’s private doubts about the allegations were expressed in the days leading up to his Tuesday comments on the situation, in which he seemed to entertain the possibility of Moore’s innocence.
“Let me just tell you, Roy Moore denies it. That’s all I can say. He denies it. And, by the way, he totally denies it,” Trump toldreporters before departing the White House for Mar-a-Lago.
Moore, a former Alabama state supreme court justice, stands accused of making sexual advances toward a number of teen girls when he was in his 30’s.
“I mean, if you look at what is really going on, and you look at all the things that have happened over the last 48 hours, he totally denies it,” Trump said. “He says it didn’t happen. And, you know, you have to listen to him also. You’re talking about, he said 40 years ago this did not happen.”
Trump’s Tuesday comments represent a departure from the administration’s initial statement, which indicated Moore should remove himself from the race if the allegations are true. This endorsement of Moore’s continued participation in the race also breaks with statements issued by a number of prominent Republican lawmakers, who have said they would vote to expel Moore should he defeat his opponent, Democrat Doug Jones.
Kellyanne Conway’s Tuesday comments on “Fox & Friends,” which were personally approved by Trump, indicate his refusal to condemn Moore is likely motivated by a desire to protect the slim Republican Senate majority. During the segment, Conway responded to questions about Moore’s fitness for office by noting the importance of retaining a Republican majority to pass the party’s impending tax reform legislation.
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