Just a few weeks out from Alabama’s special election to permanently fill their U.S. Senate seat once held by current Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Former, disgraced Governor Robert Bentley appointed Luther Strange who was Alabama’s Attorney General. Strange lost to former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore.
Moore, as most of you know, was accused of sexual abuse by one woman, as well as, dating high school women by three other women when he was in his 30s staring in 1979 in Etowah County in northern Alabama in an article in The Washington Post on Thursday. Moore, 70, was a deputy district attorney for the county at that time. On Monday, a fifth woman accused Moore of sexual assault when she was 16 according to The New York Times.
The new accuser, Beverly Young Nelson, told a news conference in New York that Mr. Moore attacked her when she was 16 and he was a prosecutor in Etowah County, Ala. Ms. Nelson was represented at the news conference by Gloria Allred, a lawyer who has championed victims of sexual harassment.
“I tried fighting him off, while yelling at him to stop, but instead of stopping, he began squeezing my neck attempting to force my head onto his crotch,” Ms. Nelson said in a statement she issued at the news conference. She said Mr. Moore warned her that “no one will believe you” if she told anyone about the encounter in his car.
The accusations have turned the race on its head.
Right now, Moore holds a 2 point Real Clear Politics polling average. Polls taken after the news broke have him tied with his Democratic opponent Doug Jones, Jones leading by 4 points, and Moore leading by 10 points.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called on Moore to step aside at a press conference in Louisville, KY today, from The New York Times:
Hours earlier, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, said Mr. Moore “should step aside” and that he believes the women who have accused Mr. Moore of sexual misconduct when they were teenagers.
“I believe the women, yes,” Mr. McConnell said at a news conference in Louisville.
Mr. McConnell also said that encouraging a write-in candidate to run in the Dec. 12 special election is “an option we’re looking at.”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee already broke off fundraising ties with Moore’s campaign. Should McConnell mount a serious write-in campaign that would also diminish Moore’s chances.
Moore, on Twitter, responded saying McConnell should step aside.
Should Moore win the race, which is still a real possibility, will the Senate seat him? McConnell has not threatened that, but it is a possibility, and the Constitution gives them broad authority to do that.
Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution says, “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.”
Only 15 U.S. Senators have been expelled from the chamber, with the last one being in 1862. Fourteen of the 15 Senators expelled were expelled for supporting the Confederacy. Expulsion proceedings began for former U.S. Senator John Ensign (R-NV) in 2011 who was charged with financial improprieties stemming from an extramarital affair. He resigned in the vote. The last expulsion proceeding before Ensign was former U.S. Senator Bob Packwood (R-OR) who was charged with sexual misconduct and abuse of power. He also resigned before the vote.
Expelling a duly elected member of Congress is a serious matter, and one which I think should be used sparingly. If additional information comes to light that makes the claims more credible or if further accusations are made that could be a tipping point. The Senate could also choose to censure Moore instead of expelling him. If they expel him lacking evidence beyond accusations that could have unexpected consequences. The Senate can’t put the genie back in the bottle once it is uncorked.
Let’s pray the truth one way or another comes out before it comes to that.