WASHINGTON — A political action committee supporting Senate candidate Roy Moore is fundraising off President Donald Trump’s near-endorsement of the Alabama Republican, who is facing new allegations of decades-old sexual misconduct in the closing weeks of the campaign.
A Thanksgiving-themed email with the subject line “Giving thanks for YOU and OUR PRESIDENT!” applauds Trump, who on Tuesday discounted the sexual assault allegations against Moore and said voters must not support his “liberal” rival.
“We are thankful that his last words before leaving the White House to celebrate Thanksgiving were the strong words of support for Roy Moore,” said the email from the group Solution Fund PAC.
After staying silent for more than a week, Trump all but endorsed Moore as he departed Washington on Tuesday, telling reporters, “We don’t need a liberal person in there.”
Two women have accused Moore, 70, of sexually assaulting or molesting them decades ago, when he was in his 30s and they were 14 and 16. At least five others have said he pursued romantic relationships when they were teenagers and he was a prosecutor. He has vehemently denied the allegations.
The president also said he would announce next week whether he will campaign for Moore, who faces Democrat Doug Jones in a Dec. 12 special election to fill the seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a Republican.
Jones released a campaign ad Wednesday spotlighting Moore’s accusers. An announcer recites their names as their photographs appear on screen. “They were girls when Roy Moore immorally pursued them,” the announcer says in the opening. The ad ends with: “Will we make their abuser a U.S. senator?”
Moore’s campaign announced Wednesday that his communications director, John Rogers, had resigned. The campaign characterized the departure as part of the normal turnover that occurs in political campaigns and denied that Rogers’ decision had anything to do with the allegations against Moore.
Trump, who won election despite facing more than a dozen accusations of sexual misconduct himself, dismissed questions from reporters about backing a Republican accused of sexual assault over a Democrat. Trump pointed to Moore’s assertions that he did nothing wrong.
“Roy Moore denies it, that’s all I can say,” Trump said Tuesday.
Trump didn’t explicitly say he was endorsing Moore, but he insisted, “We don’t need a liberal person in there. … We don’t need somebody who’s soft on crime like Jones.”
He also noted that the allegations came from behavior alleged to have happened decades ago.
“Forty years is a long time,” Trump said, questioning why it took so long for Moore’s accusers to come forward.
Other Republican leaders in Washington have called for Moore to leave the race, and the White House has repeatedly said Trump himself felt Moore would “do the right thing and step aside” if the allegations proved true.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, both Republicans, have called on Moore to leave the race. And the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee have pulled their support for his campaign.
Officials with both those groups said Wednesday their organizations had not changed their decisions in light of Trump’s remarks.
Trump backed incumbent Sen. Luther Strange in a September Alabama Republican primary but moved quickly to embrace Moore after he won. A White House official said Tuesday that Trump’s attack on Jones did not amount to a formal endorsement of Moore but rather was a message that sending the Democrat to Washington would hamper his agenda.
Republican leaders briefly explored the possibility of seeking a write-in candidate but have determined those efforts would only increase Jones’ chances of victory by splitting the GOP vote in the Republican state.
The allegations against Moore come amid a national reckoning over misdeeds by powerful men in media, business and politics.
Just Tuesday, longtime Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., acknowledged that his office settled a sexual harassment complaint against him involving a former staffer, though he “vehemently” denied allegations in the complaint.
Trump said he was “very happy” that women in general were speaking out about their experiences.
“I think it’s a very special time because a lot of things are coming out, and I think that’s good for our society and I think it’s very, very good for women,” he said.
More than a dozen women came forward in the waning days of the 2016 presidential election to say that Trump had sexually assaulted or harassed them over the years. He denied it. A tape was also released of him boasting that he could grab women’s private parts with impunity. “When you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump said on the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape.
Trump, who has said all of his accusers lied, declined to answer Tuesday when asked why he does not believe Moore’s accusers.
Jones, Moore’s senatorial opponent, served as a federal prosecutor in Alabama, where he brought charges against two Ku Klux Klan members over their roles in killing four girls in a 1963 Birmingham church bombing.
Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in West Palm Beach, Florida; Kim Chandler in Montgomery, Alabama; and Corey Williams in Detroit contributed to this report.