By Tessa Berenson
November 16, 2017

The White House on Thursday declined to take a stand on whether embattled Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore should drop out of the race, as the sexual misconduct scandal buffeting Moore continues to grow.

“The President believes that these allegations are very troubling and should be taken seriously,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters, discussing a political firestorm on which President Donald Trump has largely stayed silent. “He thinks that the people of Alabama should make the decision on who their next senator should be.”

Multiple women have accused Moore of pursuing them sexually when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s, allegations Moore has denied. Numerous Republican senators have called on Moore to drop out of the race against Democrat Doug Jones, but the White House wouldn’t go that far. Sanders did say “the President supported the decision by the [Republican National Committee] to withdraw resources from this race,” but she reiterated that Alabama voters need to make their own choice on Moore.

Sanders was similarly circumspect when asked about about a new accusation that Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken kissed and groped a woman without her consent more than a decade ago. Franken, while saying he doesn’t remember the incident the way accuser Leeann Tweeden does, nevertheless apologized and spent Thursday doing damage control.

“It appears that the Senate is looking into that, which they should, and we feel like it’s an appropriate action,” Sanders said. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called for the Senate Ethics Committee to review Franken’s conduct.

Trump infamously faced his own sexual harassment scandal during the 2016 presidential election, as multiple women accused him and a tape surfaced of him bragging about groping women without their consent. Trump has repeatedly denied all accusations. But Sanders said Trump’s reaction to his own accusers — calling them liars and threatening to sue them — isn’t inconsistent with saying that Moore’s accusers should be “taken seriously.”

“I think the President has certainly a lot more insight into what he personally did or didn’t do,” Sanders said.

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