President Donald Trump downplayed sexual misconduct claims against Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore on Tuesday, telling reporters that Moore denied the accusations and that “we don’t need a liberal person” in the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The remarks came as Mr. Trump prepared to board Air Force One for a Thanksgiving trip to Florida, and as Moore’s campaign held another news conference discrediting his accusers.
Until now, Trump has not publicly commented on Moore, who in recent weeks has been accused by six women of sexual misconduct while they were teenagers and he was an assistant district attorney in Alabama. Two other women have accused him of rape or assault.
Many have wondered why Trump has remained silent on Moore, a former state judge, but criticized Democratic Sen. Al Franken on Twitter after sexual assault allegations against the Minnesota senator emerged.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said last week that while Trump found the accusations against Moore “troubling,” the president wanted voters to decide the race for themselves.
But on Tuesday, Trump waded into the politics of who will fill Sessions’ seat, warning voters as he headed to Florida for Thanksgiving not to support Moore’s liberal rival. (Sessions told a House committee last week that he had no reason to doubt Moore’s accusers.)
Sanders has also deflected questions about accusations of sexual misconduct against the president, saying last week that “Sen. Franken has admitted wrongdoing and the president hasn’t. That’s a very big distinction.” Trump did not address similar questions shouted by reporters Tuesday.
The Dec. 12 special election in Alabama has become even more important for Republicans after losing governorships in New Jersey and Virginia earlier this month. Trump on Tuesday called Democrat Doug Jones, Moore’s rival, “terrible” on the military, the border, crime and the Second Amendment.
Here are some other highlights of Trump’s conversation with reporters.
Does Trump believe Roy Moore’s accusers?
“Well he denies it, look, he denies it. If you look at what is really going on and you look at all of the things that have happened over the past 48 hours, he totally denies it. He says it didn’t happen. And you know, you have to listen to him also … He said ’40 years ago, this did not happen.’ So, you know.”
Trump’s message to women
“Women are very special. 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. And I’m very happy a lot of these things are coming out and I’m very happy it’s being exposed.”
On Sen. Al Franken
“Look, I don’t want to speak for Al Franken … As far as Franken is concerned, he’s going to have to speak for himself. I’d rather have him speak for himself.”
On Roy Moore
“Roy Moore denies it. And by the way, he gives a total denial. And I do have to say, 40 years is a long time. He’s run eight races and this has never come up. So 40 years is a long time. The women are Trump voters. Most of them are Trump voters. All you can do is, you have to do what you have to do. He totally denies it.”