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Sexual Misconduct Allegations Mount Against Roy Moore

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Harvey Weinstein effect has reached Capitol Hill. Minnesota Senator Al Franken is apologizing after a woman said that he forcibly kissed her 11 years ago.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This happened on a USO tour before Franken took office. His accuser, radio host Leeann Tweeden, also says Franken groped her on the same trip. A photo surfaced yesterday showing Franken posing with his hands over Tweeden's chest while she is sleeping.

MARTIN: Meanwhile, nine women have now come forward against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. The allegations range from harassment to sexual assault. But Judge Moore says they are all part of a conspiracy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROY MOORE: This is an effort by Mitch McConnell and his cronies to steal this election from the people of Alabama. And they will not stand for it.

MARTIN: The Alabama Republican Party, yesterday, said they will stand behind Moore. As for President Trump, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the president believes the allegations are, quote, "very troubling" but stopped short of calling on Moore to drop out. We're going to talk about this with Steven Law. He's president and CEO of the Senate Leadership Fund, which backs establishment Republican candidates in Senate races.

Steven, thanks so much for coming in this morning. Do you think Roy Moore should drop out of the race?

STEVEN LAW: Yeah, I do. I listened with interest to what Roy Moore said yesterday. And he said a lot of things. But what he did not do was either explain or apologize for these serial credible allegations of him preying upon teen girls when he was a grown man - when he was in his 30s. And this is very, very serious misconduct, and it needs an answer. And he's decided to just simply sidestep the issue and blame all of his problems on Mitch McConnell.

MARTIN: Although he has said the allegations are false and also, as we heard in that clip, part of a larger conspiracy. I mean, you work for a super PAC that is closely allied with Mitch McConnell. I suppose, in Roy Moore's perception, that makes you one of his, quote, unquote, "cronies." Is this - I'll just put it to you - is this a conspiracy to unseat Roy Moore?

LAW: Well, it's certainly not. I mean, we were not involved in any way. These women deciding to come forward - a number of them now - nine - in addition to dozens of other people who have corroborated these statements - people who've said that Roy Moore was essentially a persona non grata in the local shopping mall where he would show up in his 30s and try to hit on teenagers. Senator McConnell had nothing to do with that. Neither did the Senate Leadership Fund.

But one thing that Senator McConnell is doing, as the majority leader of the U.S. Senate, is laying down what the standards ought to be for somebody who's going to be admitted to that body. And this kind of conduct is beyond the pale. And other than simply denying it over and over again, Roy Moore has offered no credible response to what has now become dozens and dozens of people corroborating these very serious charges of misconduct.

MARTIN: But if you are a Roy Moore supporter and you hear Mitch McConnell talking about how, even if Moore wins, he's going to unseat him - that he's going to create a rule or set a standard that would mean Roy Moore would have to vacate that seat, I mean, that sounds - to Alabama voters, to supporters of Roy Moore - like Mitch McConnell is manipulating this situation to suit his preferences.

LAW: Well, these aren't making up rules. The Senate does have its own rules of self-enforcement. It has its own standards. That's why Al Franken, for example, is now going to be subject to an ethics committee inquiry into his misbehavior. The Senate has rules of conduct, which it has enforced. This is not all that new for Senator McConnell. Twenty years ago, when he was the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, he determined that Senator Bob Packwood should be expelled for misconduct very similar to what we've seen from Roy Moore.

MARTIN: But let me ask you...

LAW: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...Mitch McConnell has also floated, publicly, the idea that Jeff Sessions could perhaps be a write-in candidate for this seat - that an even more elaborate plan would be that the current acting senator, Luther Strange, who lost that primary to Roy Moore, should resign his seat prematurely, which would trigger a new special election. I mean, all this sounds like the establishment elites trying to change the outcome.

LAW: Well, look - I mean, we've got credible allegations of what is basically little more than pedophilia. And this is not an attempt to create a political response. This is, first and foremost, a moment of moral clarity and courage to say that this sort of thing shouldn't be tolerated in the U.S. Senate. I mean, the statute of limitations may have run, so you can't put somebody like this in prison. But you ought to be able to keep him out of the U.S. Senate. I mean, heck, they were able to keep him out of the local shopping mall. We ought to be able to ban him from the U.S. Senate.

And, you know, what's really been unfortunate, I think, is that the people who have direct responsibility and authority and the ability to change this situation have decided not to act - the governor and the state party. And so Alabama voters, who are mostly pretty conservative, and who, by recent polls, find this behavior extremely distasteful - you know, we've seen Roy Moore's numbers tumble in the polls. They're going to be faced with a very, very unsavory alternative - either they vote for a guy who's been accused of pedophilia or else they hand the Senate seat over to the Democrats.

MARTIN: How devastating would that be if your party loses that seat?

LAW: Well, I think it's a great concern. Again, going back to Senator McConnell when he was the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, he moved to expel Bob Packwood from a Senate seat that most people realized would probably be lost to the Democrats. In fact, that happened. But one thing I admire about the senator - I've known him for a better part of 30 years - he's somebody who takes the tough political call even if there's a loss.

MARTIN: Steven Law - he is president and CEO of the Senate Leadership Fund, which is allied with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Thanks for your time this morning, Steven.

LAW: Thanks for having me on. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.