MOBILE, Alabama — Conservative Republican Judge Roy Moore is steaming toward victory in Alabama’s U.S. Senate special election on Dec. 12, and as it appears less and less likely that radical leftist Democrat Doug Jones has a chance Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has backed off his ardent criticisms of Moore.
Appearing on ABC News’ This Week with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, McConnell dropped his previous call for Moore to “step aside” as the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate—backing down into his new position which is that the people of Alabama should decide who wins.
“Well, I think — we’re going to let the people of Alabama decide a week from Tuesday who they want to send to the Senate. And then we’ll address the matter appropriately,” McConnell said, insinuating that he would back a Senate Ethics Committee investigation of the allegations against Moore when Moore wins on Dec. 12. “I have already said in the past that I thought this was a matter that would have to be considered by the committee. Ultimately, it would be up to them to make that decision. And they’ll make it, depending upon whether Judge Moore ends up coming to the Senate.”
Here is a full transcript of what McConnell said next:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you believe that Judge Moore should be in the Senate?
MCCONNELL: I’m going to let the people of Alabama make the call. This election has been going on a long time. There’s been a lot of discussion about it. They’re going to make the decision a week from Tuesday.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you are prepared to take action if he is, indeed, elected?
MCCONNELL: The ethics committee will have to consider the matters that have been litigated in the campaign should that particular candidate win.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Will you making a recommendation to the ethics committee?
MCCONNELL: Look, they decide what to go forward.
This is a very balanced committee. It’s the only committee in the senate that is an even number of Democrats and Republicans. Neither side can take advantage of the other. In fact, I was chairman of the ethics committee 25-some odd years ago when I had to make the recommendation to expel the chairman of the finance committee Senator Packwood over a case of sexual harassment.
So, the Senate has been sensitive to these matters for a long time. And the ethics committee will handle this in the regular ordered way that we do this in the Senate. And I’m confident they’ll come up with the right conclusion.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You have had a consistent history on this.
Final question, then, you said you believe Roy Moore’s accusers. What about the president’s? At least 10 women have come forward accusing him. Do you believe them? And should that be investigating?
MCCONNELL: well, my job is to be the majority leader of the Senate. And we have jurisdiction over these matters when there is a Senator accused of wrongdoing, for example, we have two other ethics committee cases right now, Senator Franking and Senator Menendez. So, we will handle it in Senate when it comes to Senators’ alleged behavior.
It is very telling that McConnell’s new, retreated and weakened, position when it comes to Moore is that he believes that the people of Alabama should decide. McConnell’s new position on the issue is vastly different from what he said plainly just a few weeks ago regarding Moore: “I think he should step aside.”
It’s also telling that McConnell was asked by Stephanopoulos whether, since McConnell believes the evidence-free accusations against Moore, whether McConnell believes similarly evidence-free accusations against President Donald Trump. McConnell did not answer one way or another whether he believes President Trump’s accusers, leaving it open-ended.
McConnell’s retreat comes as the Senate Majority Leader has been slowly but surely losing power and prestige. Moore has been beating him up repeatedly and consistently on the campaign trail, saying in response to McConnell’s original calls for him to “step aside” that McConnell is the one who should step aside.
Moore has also detailed how he believes the frivolous allegations against him, which have not held up during the course of the campaign, are part of an effort by McConnell to “steal” the election from Alabama.
“This is an effort by Mitch McConnell and his cronies to steal this election from the people of Alabama,” Moore said at a pre-Thanksgiving press conference while still fighting off the allegations.
So, now, if the people of Alabama decide that they believe Roy Moore—as recent polling shows is likely to happen—and that they do not trust McConnell, it sets up an interesting conundrum for McConnell moving forward. It also raises questions about whether “Mitch McConnell and his cronies,” as Moore calls them, on the Senate Ethics Committee could handle investigating this fairly or not.