The president later suggested that Republicans “can’t let Schumer/Pelosi win this race,” not mentioning Moore by name in either tweet but each time criticizing Jones in a way that made clear that Trump supported the controversial Republican nominee.
Trump’s support for Moore has left Senate Republicans dumbfounded after they tried to force the nominee out of the race after The Washington Post reported this month that when Moore was in his 30s, working as a local prosecutor, he is alleged to have pursued sexual relationships with teenagers — including a 14-year-old who said she had a sexual encounter with him.
“It is pretty clear to me that the best thing Roy Moore can do for the country is move on,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said on ABC’s “This Week,” adding that Republicans need “to turn the page” on Moore’s candidacy.
Scott avoided direct criticism of Trump for standing with Moore, but his voice carries weight inside the GOP caucus on moral issues related to the Deep South. Scott is the only black Republican in the Senate.
“I want to be on the side of right when history writes the story,” he said of distancing himself from Moore.
If Moore wins the Dec. 12 special election for the old seat of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that the Ethics Committee will investigate the allegations and the Alabamian could face an expulsion vote.
The Senate race has taken on even greater consequence as the Senate gears up for consideration of a massive tax-cut plan in which Republicans can afford to lose just two of the 52 members of McConnell’s caucus. If Jones wins, he could imperil the chances of passing what is now the most important domestic policy legislation of Trump’s term.
Every other high-profile Republican in Washington recoiled from Moore’s candidacy, including Vice President Pence and the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump. But last week, as he left the White House for Thanksgiving weekend, Trump told reporters that Moore “denies” the allegations and defended his campaign.
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said he viewed Trump’s comments as “definitely trying to throw a lifeline to Roy Moore.”
Graham does not see a Moore victory as a win for the Republican Party. “We get the baggage of him winning and every day the story is a question of whether you believe the women,” he said.
The “moral of the story,” Graham said, “is: Don’t nominate somebody like Roy Moore, who could lose a race any other Republican could win.”