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Trump Backs Moore Despite Accusations  11/22 06:18

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Silent for more than a week, President Donald Trump all 
but endorsed embattled Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, discounting 
the sexual assault allegations against him and insisting repeatedly that voters 
must not support Moore's "liberal" rival.

   The president said he would announce next week whether he will campaign for 
Moore, who faces Democrat Doug Jones in a Dec. 12 special election to fill the 
seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

   Trump, who won election despite facing more than a dozen accusations of 
sexual misconduct himself, dismissed questions from reporters about backing a 
Republican accused of sexual assault over a man who is a Democrat. Trump 
pointed to Moore's assertions that he did nothing wrong.

   "Roy Moore denies it, that's all I can say," Trump said Tuesday. In fact, he 
repeated 10 times in a 5-minute session outside the White House that the GOP 
candidate has denied any wrongdoing.

   Two Alabama women have accused Moore of assault or molestation --- including 
one who says she was 14 at the time --- and six others have said he pursued 
romantic relationships when they were teenagers and he was a deputy district 
attorney in his 30s.

   Trump didn't explicitly say he was endorsing Moore, but he said with 
emphasis, "We don't need a liberal person in there. ... We don't need somebody 
who's soft on crime like Jones."

   He also noted that the allegations came from behavior alleged to have 
happened decades ago.

   "Forty years is a long time," Trump said, questioning why it took so long 
for Moore's accusers to come forward.

   Former Sen. Sessions has said he has no reason to doubt the allegations 
against Moore, Republican leaders in Washington have called for Moore to leave 
the race, and the White House has repeatedly said Trump himself felt Moore 
would "do the right thing and step aside" if the allegations proved true.

   But Trump had been publicly silent until Tuesday when he exchanged questions 
and answers with reporters, shouting to be heard over the noise of his Marine 
helicopter, waiting to take him to Air Force One, which then flew him to his 
Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, for Thanksgiving.

   Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, both 
Republicans, have called on Moore to leave the race in light of the 
accusations. The Republican National Committee and the National Republican 
Senatorial Committee have pulled their support for his campaign.

   Trump backed incumbent Sen. Luther Strange in a September Republican 
primary, but moved quickly to embrace Moore after he won. A White House 
official said Tuesday that Trump's attack on Jones did not amount to a formal 
endorsement of Moore, only that Trump was communicating that sending the 
Democrat to Washington would hamper his agenda.

   Republican leaders briefly explored the possibility of seeking a write-in 
candidate but have determined those efforts would only increase Jones' chances 
by splitting the GOP vote in the Republican state. Sessions has resisted pleas 
to mount a last-minute campaign for his old seat.

   The allegations against Moore come amid a national reckoning over misdeeds 
by powerful men in media, business and politics.

   Just Tuesday, longtime Michigan Rep. John Conyers acknowledged that his 
office settled a sexual harassment complaint involving a former staffer, though 
he "vehemently" denied allegations in the complaint.

   BuzzFeed reported that Conyers' office paid a woman more than $27,000 under 
a confidentiality agreement to settle a complaint in 2015 that she was fired 
from his Washington staff because she rejected the Democrat's sexual advances.

   Trump said he was "very happy" that women are speaking out about their 
experiences.

   "I think it's a very special time because a lot of things are coming out, 
and I think that's good for our society and I think it's very, very good for 
women," he said.

   More than a dozen women came forward in the waning days of the 2016 
presidential election to say that Trump had sexually assaulted or harassed them 
over the years. He denied it. A tape was also released catching him boasting in 
2005 that he could grab women's private parts with impunity. "When you're a 
star, they let you do it," Trump said on the "Access Hollywood" tape.

   Trump, who has said all of his accusers lied, declined to answer Tuesday 
when asked why he does not believe Moore's accusers.

   Jones, Moore's senatorial opponent, served as a federal prosecutor in 
Alabama, where he brought charges against two Ku Klux Klan members over their 
roles in killing four girls in the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 
Birmingham.

   Jones began airing a new ad Monday that features statements made by 
Sessions, Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby and first daughter Ivanka Trump 
responding to the allegations against Moore.

   Shelby, a fellow Republican, said he will "absolutely not" vote for Moore. 
Ivanka Trump said there's "a special place in hell" for people who prey on 
children.

   "I've yet to see a valid explanation, and I have no reason to doubt the 
victims' accounts," Ivanka Trump told the AP last week.

   The ad was the first direct assault by the Jones camp against Moore on the 
allegations.

   Moore's camp has begun firing back at the media and one of the accusers. His 
campaign held an afternoon news conference to vigorously question the account 
of Beverly Nelson, who said Moore assaulted her when she was a 16-year-old 
waitress.

   The campaign quoted two former restaurant employees and a former customer 
who said they did not remember Nelson working there or Moore eating there.


(KA)

 
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