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- Senate Republicans have softened their rhetoric toward embattled GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore.
- Moore just received an explicit endorsement from President Donald Trump earlier this week.
- The Alabama Republican is facing several allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls when he was in his 30s.
Some top Republicans have softened their hardline rhetoric against GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore following President Donald Trump’s endorsement of the Alabama candidate, who is facing several allegations that he engaged in sexual misconduct with teenage girls when he was in his 30s.
Within just the past couple of days, the Republican National Committee reinstated its support for Moore, top GOP senators have taken their foot off the gas in their condemnations of Moore, and Trump himself provided his most explicit endorsement of the Alabama Republican to date.
“Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama,” the president tweeted Monday. “We need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, Border Wall, Military, Pro Life, V.A., Judges 2nd Amendment and more.”
“Putting Pelosi/Schumer Liberal Puppet Jones into office in Alabama would hurt our great Republican Agenda of low on taxes, tough on crime, strong on military and borders…& so much more,” Trump continued.
That came as Moore’s polling numbers started to rebound just weeks after he was hit with the bombshell allegations. Less than a month after the first allegations were made public, Moore has regained a lead over Jones and has watched his polling average return to a familiar level.
As Moore recovered in the polls and looks increasingly likely to pull off a victory next week, some top senators began to change how they discussed Moore.
Top GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who has quickly become one of Trump’s top allies in Congress after helping pass the Senate’s massive tax reform package, suggested that if Alabama voters choose Moore next week, the Senate should consider this matter settled.
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“If he wins the election we should recognize him as a sitting senator,” Hatch said, adding, “Frankly if he gets elected, that will settle an awful lot of the questions,” when asked about whether Moore should face an ethics investigation.
In the immediate aftermath of the Moore revelations, Hatch said he “stood with” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had called on Moore to drop out of the race.
McConnell himself appeared to back off of Moore during an interview with ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, during which he said that he would “let the people of Alabama make the call.” That came after McConnell had said he believes the women who came forward and urged Moore to withdraw from the race.
On Monday, McConnell tried to clear the air on his Sunday comments, saying he has “no change of heart” on Moore, noting that the Senate cannot legally prevent Moore from being seated if he is duly elected.
“I had hoped earlier he would withdraw as a candidate,” he said. “That obviously is not going to happen.”
He added that his position on Moore is “perfectly clear,” saying that if “he were to be elected, I think he would immediately have an issue with the Ethics Committee, which they would take up.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who criticized Trump for previously throwing Moore a “lifeline” and pushed for him to get out of the race, said Sunday that the Senate “can’t stop him from being seated” should he win. He added that a Senate Ethics Committee investigation is still the smart move.
“If there was an investigation and all six members of the committee said they believe he was a child molester, that would be a problem,” he said.
But Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida signaled that he thinks an ethics investigation may not be the best idea.
“If they elect him and then you, as a Senate, have ethics hearings to remove him from office or something like that, that gets more complicated,” Rubio said on Fox News last week.
‘It’s still up to the people of Alabama to decide’
During Tuesday’s press briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was grilled over why Trump decided to explicitly endorse Moore, even as the candidate faces allegations that he preyed on teenagers.
“What I can say, the president made that decision, and he decided that it was better to have somebody that supports his agenda than a Democrat that doesn’t,” she said. “Again, it’s still up to the people of Alabama to decide. They’re ultimately the only ones that can vote in that election. We’ll see what happens.”
Trump’s initial position on the allegations was that Moore should drop out of the race if those allegations were true. The president, who has faced his own bevy of sexual misconduct allegations, has said that Moore “totally denies” what he is alleged of, which appeared to be enough to earn Trump’s endorsement.
Other Republicans, however, have doubled-down on their condemnation of Moore.
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a top Trump-critic in the Senate, donated $100 to the campaign of Doug Jones, Moore’s Democratic challenger who said Tuesday that “men who hurt little girls should go to jail, not the US Senate.”
While the Republican National Committee jumped back into the race and infused Moore’s campaign with party cash, the National Republican Senatorial Committee remains on the sidelines.