Via the Right Scoop, Jake Tapper presses Mnuchin on the million-dollar question. What would the White House accept as proof that the accusations are true? There won’t be a trial and Moore certainly won’t admit to anything. If one of the accusers produces a photo of herself as a teenager with Moore, that’ll be dismissed as evidence of nothing more than the fact that they knew each other. How do you resolve the “if true” issue in this case and recommend a course of action for Moore?
In fairness to Conway and Mnuchin, there’s no other answer they can realistically give. If they say they believe the accusers, they’re convicting Moore on a bare accusation and their base will freak out that they’ve jeopardized a crucial Senate seat. If they say they believe Moore, everyone else will freak out that they’re taking sides against victims who’ve made credible allegations for partisan self-interested reasons. The only way to split the baby is to say Moore needs to quit … if the accusations are true. There’s a little something for everyone in that.
Marc Short, the White House’s legislative director, was also quizzed about this today and hedged in a similar way:
White House legislative affairs director Marc Short tells Meet the Press that Moore "has to do more explaining than he has done so far. But…" pic.twitter.com/VF5125doGA
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) November 12, 2017
Interestingly, one of Moore’s would-be colleagues in the Senate, Pat Toomey, did not:
“You know, this is a terrible situation, nearly 40-year-old allegation, we’ll probably never know for sure exactly what happened,” the Pennsylvania Republican said. “But from my point of view, you know, I have to say, I think the accusations have more credibility than the denial. I think it would be best if Roy would just step aside.”
Toomey also called Strange, who lost the Republican primary against Moore earlier this year, “a good candidate” for a write-in campaign, while noting the difficulty of being elected without being on the ballot…
Toomey also said the 40-year time frame “raises a question about the credibility” because “when someone waits 40 years before they make an accusation, you know, that raises a question itself. So it’s probably not knowable. But there seems to be enough there that it’s very disturbing.”
Trump’s in an especially tough bind on Moore. He’s managed to avoid the story so far because of his Asia trip, although the White House did issue a statement a few days ago affirming that “disqualifying if true” is his position also. He’ll probably stick with that once he’s back home this week and being grilled by reporters, but that’ll present a new dilemma: If he’s unsure whether the accusations are true, will he keep his promise to campaign for Moore in Alabama? Normally a Republican Senate candidate wouldn’t need a Republican president to hit the trail for him but Moore could be in trouble. New from JMC Analytics:
That’s the first poll of the race to show Democrat Doug Jones ahead but two other recent surveys had it tied. One of them came from Fox News and was conducted *before* the allegations about dating teenagers dropped. Conway and Mnuchin can hedge with their answers but Moore really might need Trump to drag him over the finish line — in Alabama — in which case POTUS has a hard decision to make. If he keeps his distance and Moore loses narrowly, Bannonites will be incensed. If he campaigns for Moore, it’ll be read as Trump siding with the judge over his accusers, which will give the media even more reason to revisit the sexual assault allegations against Trump himself. He can’t split the baby. He has to choose.
Trump being Trump, he’ll probably campaign for Moore while occasionally tweeting things that undermine him like “Vote Roy Moore! I’m pretty sure he didn’t date teenagers!” or “I sure hope Roy Moore doesn’t prove my instincts in supporting Luther Strange were correct!” Fun times for the ol’ GOP.
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) November 12, 2017
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) November 12, 2017