Left-leaning CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin told Jake Tapper on The Lead on Monday that Roy Moore’s fate was in the hands of Alabama voters — and no one else.
Toobin was responding to the emergence of a new accuser, Beverly Young Nelson, 55. Nelson appeared at a press conference with feminist attorney (and Democratic Party activist) Gloria Allred earlier Monday and accused Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was 16 years old. According to Nelson, Moore groped her and attempted to force her head towards his crotch while he drove her home after her shift as a waitress at a restaurant he frequented.
Last week, the Washington Post reported the allegations of Leigh Corfman, 53, who said that Moore had sexual contact with her when she was 14 years old. The Post also reported that Moore had allegedly pursued three women in their teens when he was in his 30s and still single.
Asked whether the emergence of a second accuser would have legal consequences, Toobin said:
Well, there is no legal proceeding going on. This is an election. So it doesn’t really change anything from a legal proceeding. There is no lawsuit. There is no criminal investigation. This is all about the voters. The voters can find this information credible. They can believe the accusers or they can believe Roy Moore and vote accordingly, but this is a political matter right now. It’s not — it’s not legal.
Senate Republicans continued to urge Moore to drop out of the race. However, his name will still appear on the ballot in Alabama’s special election on December 12, whether he is in the race or not.
Should Moore win — and he had maintained a lead in some polls following the Post story — the Senate does not have the constitutional authority to refuse to seat him. (The last time the Senate considered that option was when then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was caught trying to sell Barack Obama’s former seat.) However, the Senate may expel any member on a two-thirds majority vote, and the limits on that power are virtually nil.
Republicans are clearly worried about the effect that the Moore controversy will have on their prospects for the 2018 midterm elections. They fear a return of Democrats’ “war on women” strategy, used to such great effect in 2012 to defeat Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and several Senate hopefuls. However, they are equally worried about challenges from insurgent conservative candidates in several primary races next year.
Moore was one such insurgent, defeating incumbent (appointed) Sen. Luther Strange. Senate Republicans were eager to find a way to get rid of him, or at least marginalize him, before he had been accused of sexual misconduct. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) — who retired rather than face a tough primary — gave the game away on Saturday when he tweeted: ‘Look, I’m sorry, but even before these reports surfaced, Roy Moore’s nomination was a bridge too far.”
But even with Moore facing lurid allegations, Senate Republicans’ efforts may backfire.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), the chair of the National Senate Republican Committee (NSRC), said after the second accuser came forward that the Senate should expel Moore if he wins. In response, Steve Guede, Calhoun County coordinator for the Moore campaign, told CNN:
You’re telling the voters of Alabama if you choose your Senator that we are going to try to nullify your vote. Therefore you don’t have [the] constitutional right to vote in Alabama because we are going to work our best to nullify your vote if you vote for Roy Moore. That’s the message I get from that. … To say if the voters of Alabama vote for Roy Moore you’re all wrong and I know more than you do … and we’re going nullify your vote through some kind of mechanism in the rules of the Senate. … That’s kind of a breach of the Constitution that I don’t think folks in Alabama will rest well with. … It is absolutely up to Alabama.
Should the GOP expel Moore, it could risk a backlash from its own voters — and threats to expel Moore might also help him rally anti-establishment support. If Moore wins, and the Senate fails to expel him, it might drive more Democratic voters to the polls next November. The party might be tagged with the Moore controversy regardless.
Allred delivered an ultimatum on Monday, giving the Senate two weeks to convene a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to air the accusations against Moore under oath. The ultimatum expires several days before the election.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.