Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is touting Attorney General Jeff Sessions as an 'extremely popular' figure who might allow the party to save an Alabama Senate seat after the latest allegations against GOP candidate Roy Moore.
Moore will remain on the ballot, notwithstanding the loss of national supporters in D.C., including McConnell, following the stunning allegations by women including one accuser who says he touched her sexually when she was just 14.
His pitch came as the Republican National Committee decided to end its joint-funding agreement with Moore and end financial transfers to back the race, Politico reported
A senior party official also told the publication it was cancelling a field program with a dozen paid staff in the state working for Moore.
McConnell said he would like to salvage the seat, and that his best hope might be a write-in campaign by Sessions, who relinquished it to join the Trump administration.
'The Alabamian who would fit that profile would be the attorney general,' McConnell said at a Wall Street Journal forum. 'He's totally well known and extremely popular in Alabama.'
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined at rear by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., tells reporters that he has spoken to President Donald Trump and other leaders about the Alabama Senate race and the allegations of sexual misconduct against GOP candidate Roy Moore
Sessions got grilled about his faulty memory about meetings he now says he had with the Russian ambassador, as well as his conversation with a Trump foreign policy aide who plead guilty to lying to the FBI about Russia contacts that led him to pitch a Trump-Putin meeting during the campaign.
He was elected with 63 per cent of the vote in 2008 and 97 per cent in 2014, when he faced only write-in opposition.
McConnell also said that were Moore – who he has called to step aside – to prevail, he would face a Senate ethics inquiry where he would have to testify under oath about his past.
'It would be a rather unusual beginning,' McConnell said. 'I'd like to save the seat, and it's a heck of a dilemma when you've got a completely unacceptable candidate bearing the label of your party within a month of the election.'
LATERAL MOVE: Sessions gave up the Senate seat to become President Trump's attorney general
Republicans are hoping President Trump, who backed appointed Alabama Sen. Luther Strange in the primary against Moore but was thwarted, can intervene.
But if Sessions were to mount a write-in campaign, the president's own criticism of him could become an issue. Trump tweeted in July: 'Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!'
McConnell cited the successful write-in campaign of Sen. Lisa Murkowski after she lost the Alaska primary. But that is a tiny population state where she had near-total name recognition in a state where her father served as governor. A primary obstacle was getting people to spell her name correctly.
One risk of the write-in plan is that Republicans end up splitting their own vote. Moore is running against Democrat Doug Jones.
Moore tweeted: 'Alabamians will not be fooled by this #InsideHitJob'
President Trump tweeted in July: 'Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!'
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Orrin Hatch introduce the Republican tax reform plan at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., November 9, 2017. McConnell says Moore should 'step aside'
Another scenario is that Moore gets elected and Republicans expel him from the chamber, giving the state's Republican governor the chance to appoint a temporary replacement.
Senator Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican who chairs the party's Senate campaign arm, called for the Senate to expel Moore should he get elected.
'I believe the individuals speaking out against Roy Moore spoke with courage and truth, proving he is unfit to serve in the United States Senate and he should not run for office," Gardner said.
'If he refuses to withdraw and wins, the Senate should vote to expel him, because he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate,' Gardner added, the Hill reported Monday.
Washington Republicans tightened pressure Tuesday on Alabama's GOP to keep a defiant Moore from being elected to the Senate next month, with many voicing hope that President Trump could use his clout to resolve a problem that Republicans say leaves them with no easy options.
With Alabama Republicans reluctant to block Moore and enrage his legions of loyal conservative supporters, national GOP leaders were turning to Trump as their best chance of somehow turning the tide. Two women by name have said Moore molested them in the 1970s when one was 14 and the other 16 and he was a local district attorney, and three others said he pursued romantic relationships with them around the same time.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in all-out warfare with Moore, said there'd be conversations about the anti-establishment firebrand after Trump returns Tuesday night from Asia. He said he'd already spoken about Moore to the president, Vice President Mike Pence and White House chief of staff John Kelly.
'He's obviously not fit to be in the United States Senate and we've looked at all the options to try to prevent that from happening,' said McConnell, who Monday said he believed Moore's accusers. 'This close to election, it's a complicated matter.''
A drawing she says she had done at an amusement park shows Nelson at the age of 16
Beverly Young Nelson, says she was 15 or 16 when Moore gave her a ride home from the restaurant where she worked in Alabama and sexually attacked her
Moore has denied abusing the women but has not ruled out dating teen-agers at the time, when he was in his early 30s.
Twice removed from his post as state Supreme Court chief Justice, Moore's candidacy in the Dec. 12 special election confronts Republicans with two damaging potential outcomes.
A victory saddles GOP senators with a colleague accused of abusing and harassing teen-agers, a troubling liability heading into next year's congressional elections, while an upset victory by Democrat Doug Jones would slice the already narrow GOP Senate majority to an unwieldy 51-49.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Congress he has 'no reason to doubt' the women. Sessions, a former Alabama senator and still one of the GOP's most influential voices in the state, didn't rule out a Justice Department probe of the allegations, telling the House Judiciary Committee, 'We will evaluate every case as to whether or not it should be investigated.'
House Speaker Paul Ryan joined the pile of congressional Republican saying Moore should drop out.
Nelson furnished the high school yearbook she says Moore signed
'These allegations are credible,' Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters. 'If he cares about the values and people he claims to care about, then he should step aside.'
Two Washington Republicans, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe private conversations, said they didn't know what Trump would do, but said the White House shares McConnell's concerns about Moore.
While few think Trump could persuade Moore to step aside, several are hoping he can convince the Alabama state party to take some action.
At a forum Tuesday organized by The Wall Street Journal, McConnell said Trump is discussing what to do in the Alabama race 'in great detail.'
With a political brand as an unrepentant outsider, Moore has signaled no intention of dropping out. Underscoring his defiance, he tweeted Tuesday, 'Alabamians will not be fooled by this #InsideHitJob. Mitch McConnell's days as Majority Leader are coming to an end very soon. The fight has just begun.'
Embattled Republican Senate nominee for Alabama, Roy Moore (left, his wife Kayla, is right) , has threatened to sue the Washington Post over its report that he molested a 14-year-old in 1979
Despite the building pressure from national Republicans, state GOP office holders have taken a measured response or avoided commenting on the accusations against Moore.
It's already too late to remove his name from the ballot. That leaves the state party with limited options.
The 21-member party steering committee could vote to revoke Moore's GOP nomination and ask election officials to ignore ballots cast for him Election Day, but that would risk a lawsuit and backlash from Moore supporters. The party has little interest in alienating Moore's followers a year before elections in which the governor's office and entire state legislature will be in play, but it remains possible.
Alabama Democrat and Senate candidate Doug Jones speaks to the media, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in Birmingham, Ala. Jones is running against former judge Roy Moore. Moore is facing demands from Washington Republicans to quit the race as women have emerged saying he groped them when they were teenagers decades ago. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
In an interview, Moore campaign chairman Bill Armistead said he'd seen no indication that the state party will 'back off in any way.' He said some in the party want it to pass a resolution embracing Moore.
A spokesman for GOP Gov. Kay Ivey reiterated that she would not postpone the election to give Moore's opponents more time to organize. That would spark a legal challenge, but a possible delay remains an option, Republicans say.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. Ryan says Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore 'should step aside.' Ryan says allegations against Moore 'are credible.' (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Also possible is a write-in campaign, but national and Alabama Republicans consider that a long-shot to succeed. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said no write-in candidate has ever won a statewide election in the state.
Former Alabama Chief Justice and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore waits to speak the Vestavia Hills Public library, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, in Birmingham, Ala. According to a Thursday, Nov. 9 Washington Post story an Alabama woman said Moore made inappropriate advances and had sexual contact with her when she was 14. Moore is denying the allegations. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Beverly Young Nelson, the latest accuser of Alabama Republican Roy Moore, reads her statement at a news conference, in New York, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. Nelson says Moore assaulted her when she was 16 and he offered her a ride home from a restaurant where she worked. Moore says the latest allegations against him are a 'witch hunt.' (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
McConnell praised Sessions Tuesday as a possible contender who is 'totally well-known and is extremely popular in Alabama,' but he conceded Sessions might not choose to run.
Sessions held the Senate seat he held before joining Trump's administration this year. Some Republicans said they believe Sessions is reluctant to run but expressed hope that Trump - who's soured on him after he appointed a special prosecutor to investigate Trump's 2016 campaign's ties to Russia - might urge him to run.
Republicans think GOP Sen. Luther Strange, whom Moore defeated in a September party primary, would have little chance against Moore. Strange has said such a move is unlikely.
If Moore is elected, top Senate Republicans already are threatening to vote to expel him as soon as he's elected. But that risks leaving the seat unfilled for a period of ti