It's been five days since Trump commented on Moore
The President and his advisers are closely watching the developments, sources say
It’s been five days since the White House said President Donald Trump believes Alabama Senate Republican candidate Roy Moore should drop out if the allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against him are true.
Since then, Moore has faced more allegations and the national Republican Party has cast Moore aside. Trump, however, has remained mum.
Behind the scenes, the President and his advisers are closely watching the developments in Alabama’s special election, two sources close to the White House and a White House official said. That includes, in particular, the reaction of influential conservative supporters such as Fox News host Sean Hannity. The White House is also mulling scenarios to prevent Moore from being elected, according to the sources.
Trump, one source said, believes the allegations of child sexual abuse and sexual assault against Moore are bad for the Republican brand, but has decided to wait and see how the situation shakes out before publicly commenting.
That silence is in large part rooted in his own history of facing sexual misconduct allegations, a Republican close to the White House told CNN.
In conversations in the West Wing on Wednesday, Trump expressed apprehension about being dragged into the topic of sexual assault or harassment if he weighs in.
“He’s worried about the conversation moving to his past accusers,” the Republican familiar with the matter said, noting that the President believes his accusers were unfair and some of Moore’s may be, too.
Pressed by reporters Saturday while in Vietnam – before a fifth alleged victim said Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16 – Trump said he had not been following the issue closely and declined to go beyond press secretary Sarah Sanders’ earlier statement.
But White House officials, coordinating closely with Republicans on Capitol Hill, have been mulling a range of scenarios to thwart Moore’s election, which despite the allegations remains a serious possibility in the deep red state.
Some White House officials are encouraging an idea floated publicly Wednesday by the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: sending Attorney General Jeff Sessions back to Alabama to run as a write-in candidate for the special election seat prompted by his own departure from the Senate.
That option is largely see as unlikely and “far-fetched” inside and around the White House, a person close to the White House and a White House official said. That’s both because a write-in campaign could split the Alabama Republican vote and hand Democratic candidate Doug Jones the election and because Sessions appears uninterested in leaving his current post.
Some White House officials have also argued that confirming a new attorney general would be an arduous task for the administration.
Another source close to the White House said officials are weighing the possibility of pressuring Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, into delaying the special election to give Republicans time to find an alternative candidate, a move Ivey has ruled out.
The thinking among Trump’s advisers, though, has been in part colored by concerns that being too quick to abandon Moore based on allegations could leave the White House dealing with unintended consequences. The President, too, faced allegations of sexual misconduct when a dozen women accused him of sexual harassment or sexual assault in the months before the 2016 election.
But a drumbeat is rising among Republicans on Capitol Hill who are urging the President to weigh in.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said, “It would probably be good if he would say something” about Moore, given Trump is the leader of the Republican Party.
“If you are no-fly list for the mall, you shouldn’t be in the United States Senate,” he said, referring to reports that Moore had been banned from a local mall because of his pursuit of teenage girls.
All eyes at the White House, including the President’s, will be on Hannity’s Wednesday night show after the Trump loyalist said Tuesday night he was giving Moore 24 hours to “immediately and fully come up with a satisfactory explanation for your inconsistencies” or lose his support.
“You must remove any doubt. If you can’t do this, then Judge Moore needs to get out of this race,” Hannity said.
But even that loss of support is unlikely to prompt Moore to exit the race, where he has retained significant and fervent support as grassroots Republicans in the state have continued to dismiss the allegations as a ploy to thwart Moore’s election.
Nationally, Moore is retaining the support of the White House’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who has campaigned with Moore.
As the conservative Drudge Report ran a banner Wednesday suggesting Bannon was turning on Moore, a source close to Bannon rejected the claim.
“Bannon still with him,” the source said, referring to Moore. “Drudge wrong.”