Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins said on Sunday that she does not believe Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore’s denials of the sexual allegations against him and hopes the state’s voters do not send him to Washington.
“I did not find his denials to be convincing at all,” Collins said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
The Washington Post published a report earlier this month based on interviews with more than 30 people that said Moore pursued relationships with teenagers while he was in his 30s. One woman alleged she was 14 years old when Moore initiated sexual contact with her. Alabama’s legal age of consent, then and now, is 16.
Moore has continued to deny the allegations and he says he will not drop out of the race.
Collins noted she was against Moore before the “terrible allegations” came out against him, citing his conduct as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, as well as his anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT comments. But she declined to say whether the Senate should move to expel Moore if he wins the December 12 election.
“These allegations are extremely disturbing, but under the Constitution, the test on whether or not you seat someone is whether they satisfy the age and residency requirement,” Collins said. “We would have to seat him, but I hope we don’t get there. … I hope that the voters of Alabama choose not to elect him.”
White House on Moore
President Donald Trump has not remarked publicly on the allegations against Moore. He initially supported appointed Republican Sen. Luther Strange in the election, but endorsed Moore after he won the primary.
White House legislative director Marc Short, speaking Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” said the White House is “uncomfortable” with Moore’s explanations so far, but said Trump is leaving the matter up to the voters of Alabama.
“We have serious concerns about the allegations that have been made,” Short said. “The people of Alabama know best what to do.”
Asked if Trump believed the women accusing Moore, Short said, “If he did not believe that the women’s accusations were credible, he would be down campaigning for Roy Moore. He has not done that.
“But he’s also concerned that these accusations are 38 years old,” Short said.
Although Trump has yet to make comments on the matter, he took to Twitter on Thursday to slam Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken about allegations that he forcibly kissed a woman and groped her while she slept.
Franken has apologized for his behavior and said he welcomed an ethics probe into his conduct.
The unfolding situation has also drawn attention to Trump, who has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by more than a dozen women.
Collins, in her interview Sunday, said part of the reason she opposed Trump’s bid for the presidency was because of allegations about his treatment of women.
“I did not support President Trump,” Collins said. “He was not my candidate for President, and part of the reason why were allegations about how he treated women.”
Collins said she made her decision on Trump before the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape came out last October, in which he bragged about being able to grope women because of his “star” status.
Sexual harassment in Congress
Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he believed the women accusing Moore of misconduct are more credible than Moore, but like the White House, he said the decision is up to the Alabama voters at this point.
Blunt said regardless of who won the Alabama special election, it is incumbent on the Senate to do more to curb predatory behavior and ensure a safe workplace for all.
“We need to be sure that we’ve got an environment where people want to come and be part of that, where women are comfortable being part of that,” Blunt said.
Asked about Trump and Franken, Blunt echoed the White House this week and said Franken had admitted wrongdoing, while the President continued to deny any. He said the accusations against Trump came out and voters still supported Trump.
“Whatever they had to say, people heard that and they elected President Trump the President of the United States,” Blunt said. “At some point, I think you have to let the voters have a say here.”
In a separate interview on the same program, a bipartisan pair of House members talked about their efforts to address sexual harassment in Congress.
“We had a lot of consensus on the changes that need to be made,” said Virginia Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock. “We’re on the same page, and we’re going to get mandatory training, universal, uniform anti-harassment, zero-tolerance policies in place. We are not going to allow members to have any kind of fund pay for their harassment. That is universally agreed on. And we are also going to have better policies for the victims.”
Comstock said she found the allegations against Moore credible and hopes he steps aside, adding, “For that matter, Al Franken can go hit the door with him.”
Referencing the still undisclosed total of taxpayer funds that have gone to settle sexual harassment claims on Capitol Hill, Comstock and her Democratic colleague, Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell, said that going forward, members of Congress must be forced to pay any sexual harassment cases out of pocket and do so with transparency.
“What infuriates me is these confidentiality agreements,” Dingell said.