McConnell on Moore: ‘I believe the women.’ So, what now?

McConnell takes a strong stance -- and an uncertain path forward.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., flanked by, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., left, and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks with reporters after meeting with President Donald Trump on his tax reform agenda, Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., flanked by, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., left, and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks with reporters after meeting with President Donald Trump on his tax reform agenda, Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he believes the allegations that Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who is running to replace Luther Strange (R-AL), sexually abused underage women as young as 14, which came to light last week in a bombshell Washington Post report.

In the report published last Thursday, multiple women alleged Moore had sexually assaulted or harassed them when they were underage and he was in his 30s.

“If these allegations are true, he must step aside,” McConnell said in a statement Thursday.

But on Monday, the majority leader went a step further, telling reporters at an event in Louisville that he believes that allegations are true.

“I believe the women, yes,” McConnell said, adding that he believes Moore should “step aside.”

McConnell’s statement Thursday that Moore must step aside if the allegations are true was echoed by many of his Republican colleagues, who may now echo McConnell’s stronger stance. A few Republican Senators already called for Moore to step aside prior to McConnell’s remarks.

McConnell’s allies spent more than $10 million on Strange’s behalf in the Republican primary, only to be defeated by the Steve Bannon and Breitbart-backed Moore. The Senate Leadership Fund, which bankrolled Strange’s campaign, could now stage a write-in campaign for Strange, but experts told ThinkProgress last week that even if Moore steps aside now, it’s close enough to the election that his name will still be on the ballot no matter what.

“The Republican Party does not have any options,” Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told ThinkProgress Thursday, adding that many absentee ballots were sent out in October. “This vote is scheduled for December 12, this vote is going to occur December 12, and Roy Moore’s name is going to be on the ballot as the nominee for the United States Senate. Nothing’s going to change that.”

McConnell’s statements also raise the question of what, if anything, the Republican party would do if Moore ends up winning in December.

McConnell’s remarks Monday make it clear that Republicans view Moore as a long-term threat to the party’s brand. During the primary, many establishment Republicans were hesitant to accept Moore because of some of his extreme beliefs, including believing homosexuality should be illegal and Muslims should not be allowed to serve in Congress. But following the election, many Republicans, including Trump, embraced Moore.

“Spoke to Roy Moore of Alabama last night for the first time,” Trump tweeted in September. “Sounds like a really great guy who ran a fantastic race. He will help to #MAGA!”

On Monday morning, not long before McConnell’s remarks in Louisville, attorney Gloria Allred announced a press conference scheduled for later Monday afternoon with an Alabama woman. The woman alleges Moore assaulted her when she was a minor, according to the release.

“The new accuser wishes to state what she alleges Roy Moore did to her without her consent,” the release says.


UPDATE, 12:45 p.m.: Moore responded to McConnell’s comments on Twitter Monday, saying McConnell is the person who should step aside.

“He has failed conservatives and must be replaced,” Moore said.