Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday he believes the women accusing Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore of inappropriate sexual conduct, and that Moore should step aside as the Republican nominee.
Speaking at a press conference in Louisville, Kentucky, about a tax overhaul, McConnell was asked if he believed Moore’s accusers.
“I believe the women,” according to a video from Spectrum News reporter Nick Storm.
Four women have accused Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, of making sexual advances when they were teenagers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. At the time, Moore was in his 30s and an assistant district attorney.
McConnell said last week after the initial report from The Washington Post broke that if the allegations were true, Moore should step aside. On Monday, he did not equivocate, in calling on Moore to drop out as the Republican nominee, The Associated Press reported.
Lawyers associated with the Republican Party have been looking into ways to remove Moore from the ballot, according to one national GOP strategist. But that window has already passed, so it would be up to the state Alabama Republican Party to disqualify Moore as the nominee. In that case, Moore’s name would remain on the ballot, but votes for him would not count.
McConnell said Monday that Republicans are looking at a potential write-in campaign for another GOP candidate, The AP reported. Interim GOP Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed to the Alabama seat in February after former Sen.Jeff Sessions resigned to become attorney general, is reportedly considering such an effort.
After the Washington Post report, a number of Republican senators called on Moore to step aside if the allegations were true. So far, GOP Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Steve Daines of Montana have rescinded their endorsements of Moore. Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana also said he would not support the former judge.
Moore has continued campaigning amid the allegations, and he is also blaming McConnell and so-called establishment Republicans for trying to undermine his campaign.
On Sunday, the Moore campaign sent a fundraising email with the subject line, “McConnell’s dirty plot to destroy me.”
“According to sources, establishment Republicans are colluding with the Obama-Clinton Machine behind-the-scenes in a desperate effort to sabotage my campaign and keep me out of Washington,” Moore wrote in the fundraising pitch.
Moore has clashed with McConnell before. The majority leader backed Strange in the GOP primary. Strange finished second behind Moore in the August primary, and then lost the subsequent runoff the following month by 9 points. The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with McConnell, spent millions in the race on behalf of Strange.
The group is not expected to support Moore ahead of the Dec. 12 general election.
At this point, it is not clear how the allegations could affect Moore’s chances in the general election, where he faces Democrat Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Likely Republican.