UPDATE: McConnell says GOP still hopes to keep Alabama seat

Photo: Judge Roy Moore / Facebook Photo: Pixabay
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WASHINGTON (AP) — 3:30 p.m.

The Senate's top Republican says the party still hopes to retain an Alabama Senate seat at the center of a scandal involving GOP nominee Roy Moore.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday: "We would hope to save the seat and that might require a write-in" campaign. McConnell says he expects to discuss the issue with President Donald Trump once he returns to Washington.

The national party has turned against Moore, a Christian conservative accused of molesting teenage girls during the late 1970s when he was in his 30s. Trump has remained quiet while on an extended trip to Asia.

McConnell says with the Dec. 12 election three weeks away, "it's a very complicated matter" to try to retain the seat. Moore can't be knocked off the ballot under Alabama law.

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3 p.m.

Alabama Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones says he's tired of people blaming his campaign for reports of sexual misconduct by his Republican opponent, Roy Moore.

Jones addressed the scandal Tuesday after a campaign stop in Birmingham.

Asked whether his campaign was in touch with Moore's alleged victims, Jones said, "I'm tired of people blaming this campaign."

He says he has not heard from the women who claim misconduct and has "not reached out to them." He said anything suggesting otherwise is "absolutely absurd and consistent with a pattern of absurd comments coming from both Roy Moore and his campaign."

Jones largely downplayed the allegations of misconduct against Moore during a brief press conference.

He said he'd continue to focus on issues important to Alabama voters and "let that play out over there."

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2:10 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has spoken to both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in recent days about the Alabama Senate race and the allegations against GOP candidate Roy Moore.

That's the word from two Washington Republicans who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss the conversations.

Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, have called on Moore to step aside, but he has dug in. The GOP is relying heaving on Trump, hoping he can have some sway with Alabama Republicans. The president was returning from his Asia trip on Tuesday.

Both Washington Republicans say White House officials share the GOP concerns about Moore, who faces allegations of sexual misconduct, and holding onto the Senate seat.

—By Alan Fram

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11:35 a.m.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he has "no reason to doubt" women who have accused Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexual misconduct when they were minors.

Sessions made the comment under questioning Tuesday by Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. Moore is running for the seat Sessions held until his confirmation earlier this year. But Sessions declined to say whether he thinks Moore should drop out of the race.

Women have accused Moore of groping them when they were teenagers decades ago.

Sessions says that would normally be a case for state prosecutors. But he also says the Justice Department will "evaluate every case as to whether it would be investigated."

Some Republicans have floated the idea of abandoning Moore and rallying around a write-in candidate, perhaps Sessions, who remains popular in Alabama.

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10:52 a.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore "should step aside." Ryan says allegations against Moore "are credible."

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Ryan joined the growing chorus of Washington Republicans calling on Moore to quit the race after two women stepped forward describing how Moore groped them when they teenagers decades ago. Moore has called the reports false.

Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have been struggling to find a way to force Moore out. His name remains on the ballot for the Dec. 12 special election against Doug Jones.

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10:10 a.m.

Democrat Doug Jones has unveiled a new campaign ad in which Alabama voters, including Republicans, say they can't vote for Roy Moore. Moore is facing demands from Washington Republicans to quit the race as women have emerged saying he groped them when they were teenagers decades ago.

Jones' commercial, coming days after the revelations about allegations of sexual misconduct against the Senate GOP candidate, highlights brief statements from several people.

One man says he's a lifelong Republican but "just can't" vote for Moore.

A woman asks "Don't decency and integrity matter anymore?"

Jones appears briefly at the end saying he approved the ad.

The election is Dec. 12. Moore has dismissed the accusations as false.

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3:27 a.m.

Roy Moore's support from his fellow Republicans is hemorrhaging. And a second woman has accused the Alabaman of groping her when she was a teenager in the late 1970s.

They were the latest blows to Moore's effort to win an open Senate seat that suddenly seems up for grabs.

Moore denied the newest allegations and said he doesn't know his accuser.

But in New York, a tearful Beverly Young Nelson detailed an attack she says occurred when she was 16 years old and he locked her in a car.

Last week, The Washington Post reported other alleged incidents decades ago.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he believes Moore's accusers and wants the former judge to end his candidacy. Moore says McConnell should leave his post because he's disappointed conservatives.