President Trump broke his long silence on the allegations against Roy Moore Tuesday, casting doubt on the various claims against the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Alabama and saying that despite Moore’s past, including allegations of assault and generally creepy behavior around teenage girls, he prefers to see Moore elected to the seat than to lose it to a Democrat.
“I can tell you this one thing for sure,” Trump said as he prepared to leave the White House for Florida for the Thanksgiving holiday. “We don’t need a liberal person in there, a Democrat. Jones, I’ve looked at his record. It’s terrible on crime. It’s terrible on the border. It’s terrible on the military. I can tell you for a fact we do not need somebody that’s going to be bad on crime, bad on borders, bad with the military, bad for the Second Amendment.”
Asked whether an accused child molester was preferable to a Democrat, the president replied, “Well, he denies it.”
Trump’s stance is remarkable on several levels. First, it contradicts the position the White House has espoused since the first allegations emerged two weeks ago. The administration has avoided assessing the claims, saying instead that if they are true, Moore should step aside. But in his remarks on Tuesday, Trump both seemed to accept Moore’s denials as fact—he also noted that the claims were about events that were many years old—and took the view that even if true, the weight of a Republican vote in the Senate overcame the import of the allegations. While this crass political calculation is not unique, and some Alabama backers of Moore have voiced it in recent days, it’s different to hear the president of the United States say so.