No comment from Donald Trump on scandal around Roy Moore

Calls grow for Alabama judge to withdraw from US senate race over sex allegations

President Donald Trump: has outlined achievements of his 12-day trip to Asia, but declined reporters’ questions on whether Roy  Moore should step down. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque

President Donald Trump: has outlined achievements of his 12-day trip to Asia, but declined reporters’ questions on whether Roy Moore should step down. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque

 
Roy Moore, the embattled Republican Senate candidate who has been accused of sexual assault, will not withdraw from next month’s Senate election, his campaign team has said, despite mounting pressure on him to step down from within the Republican Party.

At a press conference in Birmingham, Alabama, attorney for Mr Moore, Phil Jauregii, said allegations that his client had inappropriate sexual relations with young women were baseless.

In particular, he said that an alleged signature by Mr Moore on a school yearbook of one of the accusers was fraudulent.

Several women have come forward and accused Mr Moore of sexually inappropriate contact with them when they were teenagers, following reports in the Washington Post last week. The controversial former state judge won the Republican primary in the race to succeed Jeff Sessions as senator after Mr Sessions was appointed attorney general by President Trump. The election itself – known as a ‘special election’ – is scheduled for December 12th, with Mr Moore facing Democratic candidate Doug Jones.

US President Donald Trump declined to comment on the deepening controversy over Republican Senate hopeful Roy Moore, as calls mounted for the Alabama judge to withdraw.

Lengthy speech

Mr Trump delivered a lengthy speech in the White House yesterday, outlining the achievements of his 12-day trip to Asia, but declined to answer reporters’ questions on whether Mr Moore should step down.

Mr Moore has become increasingly isolated in recent days, with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell calling for him to withdraw, saying he believed the judge’s accusers and calling Moore a “completely unacceptable candidate”.

Uncomfortable with Mr Moore’s firebrand politics and ultra-conservative views from the start, Mr McConnell and most of the mainstream Republican Party backed Mr Moore’s rival in the primary election. But the former judge, who was endorsed by former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, won the primary nonetheless in his home state where he has been a prominent figure for more than 30 years.

Growing controversy

Mr Trump spoke about the issue with Mr McConnell by phone from Vietnam late last week but by yesterday evening had yet to comment publicly on the growing controversy.

Despite growing calls by senior Republicans for Mr Moore to step down, there is little that can be done to force him to withdraw from the election as postal votes have already been cast.

However, Mr Moore could be referred to the Senate ethics committee if he is elected, which could lead to him being expelled. Mr McConnell also suggested that attorney general Jeff Sessions could return to Alabama as the Senate candidate, a move that seems unlikely, despite reports of tensions between Mr Trump and the attorney general following his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

Mr Trump is due to visit Capitol Hill today to rally support behind the Republican tax proposal but has yet to make his views known.

Significantly, influential conservative commentators including Fox News’ Sean Hannity have appeared to turn against Mr Moore in recent days. The talk show host, who interviewed the Alabama judge for his show last week, called on Mr Moore to clarify the situation or exit the race on Tuesday night, following revelations by a fifth woman on Monday.

Speaking at a campaign event in Jackson, Alabama, Mr Moore accused the media of harassing him and questioned the motivations of the women who have accused him. “I want to talk about the issues, about where this country is going and if we don’t go back to God we are not going anywhere,” he said.