The White House put forward a key argument for ignoring claims of sexual misconduct against President Trump that could soon be echoed by Roy Moore if he wins his Senate race in Alabama.
The argument boils down to this: Elections are a trial. If you win, the allegations were false.
Several times in the daily briefing Monday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders talked about a “process” for determining whether allegations of sexual misconduct were correct.
“The president has spoken about this directly,” she said. “I don’t have anything further to add on process.”
But there is no official process. Though members of the House and the Senate can face an Ethics Committee investigation if they are accused of impropriety — as Rep. John Conyers and Sen. Al Franken would have faced — there is not a similar process for a claim against the president. Congress could open an investigation, as some of his accusers and some Democratic lawmakers have called for, but none is happening right now.
Rather, it was clear that Sanders was calling the 2016 election itself the process for determining the merit of the claims.
“The president has addressed these accusations directly and denied all of these allegations and this took place long before he was elected to be president,” she said. “The people of this country had a decisive election, supported President Trump, and we feel like these allegations have been answered through that process.”
She also made clear that logic extends to Moore, who has been accused of initiating sexual contact with a 14-year-old and pursuing other teens romantically when he was in his 30s.
“As the president said, he found the allegations troubling, and if they were true then he should step aside, and ultimately the people of Alabama will make a decision in that race,” Sanders said.
Some members of the Senate have called for expelling Moore from the upper chamber if he wins, while others have simply called for an Ethics Committee investigation into the allegations. Even if Moore were expelled, under current law he could simply run again in the next special election.
The White House’s standards for evaluating sexual misconduct allegations would bolster Moore’s case in other ways too.
Sanders noted that Trump has denied the allegations — as Moore has — and that his word should be seen as definitive.
“Look the president has firsthand knowledge on what he did and didn’t do, he can speak directly to those and he has and he’s addressed them and I don’t have anything further to add,” she said.