President Donald Trump’s decision to embrace Roy Moore on Tuesday was rooted in several factors, but one of the biggest: the noise and confusion from a recent tidal wave of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations from Hollywood to media to politics.
“(It) made it easier and easier to stick with Moore,” a Republican source close to the White House said.
Several women have come forward and accused Moore of pursuing romantic relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s, a couple others have accused him of assault.
He has denied the allegations.
“He denies it. Look, he denies it,” Trump said of Moore. “If you look at all the things that have happened over the last 48 hours. He totally denies it. He says it didn’t happen.”
The President’s South Lawn remarks before taking off for Mar-a-Lago, while impromptu, also reflect precisely what he has been arguing in the West Wing for the last few days: Moore is denying the charges. He isn’t wavering. So who are we to try and step in?
Two Republicans familiar with the President’s thinking offered that explanation about his comments. They added that the conversation has dramatically changed since November 9, when The Washington Post broke the news of the allegations against Moore. Then, it was simply one bad actor — a Republican.
“Since then, it’s become much harder to tell who the bad guy is,” said a Republican close to the White House, noting that the allegations against Democratic Sen. Al Franken, the renewed chatter about Bill Clinton, the explosive revelations about legacy newsman Charlie Rose and the suspension of New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush were all developments the President was following closely.
The President also increasingly found it distasteful to be siding with the Republican establishment in trying to push out Moore, because it put him at odds with his base.
More than a dozen Senate Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have called on Moore to drop out of the race. The campaign arm for Senate Republicans and the Republican National Committee have also severed ties with Moore.
Trump’s own daughter offered up an unambiguous rebuke to Moore last week.
“I’ve yet to see a valid explanation and I have no reason to doubt the victims’ accounts,” Ivanka Trump told The Associated Press. “There’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children.”
It’s unclear what Ivanka Trump thinks of her father’s comments or whether they will have a ripple effect among women in the administration who find this entire episode distasteful.
But Trump still believes Moore can win — and more importantly, two officials said, Trump didn’t think he would be able to stop Moore, so why risk another failure in Alabama by speaking against him and having him refuse to step down?
In the end, the officials said, Trump decided to do something familiar: Accept Moore’s denials — just as he delivered his own denials during the 2016 campaign.
“It’s the general consensus that Moore and his policies are better than a Democrat. This makes it about policy and not the sexual abuse allegations. The White House knows they cannot afford to lose an ‘R’ vote in the Senate,” a White House source familiar with the current thinking told CNN.