Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday that he had “no reason to doubt” the women who have made sexual misconduct allegations against Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, joining a wave of high-profile Republicans who have expressed confidence in his accusers.
But Sessions did not say whether Moore should be seated if he wins a Dec. 12 special election. Ethics personnel at the Justice Department have advised him not to involve himself in the campaign, Sessions said.
Asked whether the Justice Department would investigate the allegations against Moore, Sessions said the agency would evaluate any allegations that they were presented with according to normal procedure, though he added, “This kind of case would normally be a state case.”
Sessions made his comments during testimony before the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday morning. Moore is running for the seat Sessions vacated this year to join the Trump administration. Some Republicans are hoping Sessions will leave his post to run as a write-in candidate against Moore.
Earlier Tuesday, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) urged Moore to end his campaign, joining a wave of GOP congressional leaders calling on the Alabama Republican to withdraw amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
“He should step aside,” Ryan told reporters in the Capitol. “Number one, these allegations are credible. Number two, if he cares about the values and people he claims to care about, then he should step aside.”
Ryan’s comments came a day after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other leading Republican senators called on Moore to bow out. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said the Senate “should vote to expel” Moore if he refuses to step aside and is elected in next month’s special election.
But Moore has stood defiant against their calls. He wrote on social media Monday that McConnell is the one “who should step aside” and that he has “failed conservatives.”
On Monday, another woman came forward to accuse Moore. Beverly Young Nelson, who turned 56 on Tuesday, accused Moore, now 70, of sexually assaulting her and bruising her neck in the late 1970s when she was 16 years old.
Nelson said at a news conference in New York that Moore, then the district attorney of Etowah County, was a regular at a restaurant where she was a waitress, and that he would sometimes compliment her looks or touch her hair. She showed a copy of her high school yearbook that she said Moore signed on Dec. 22, 1977, with the inscription: “To a sweeter more beautiful girl I could not say ‘Merry Christmas.’”
About a week or two after that, Nelson alleged, Moore offered to give her a ride home from work after her shift ended at 10 p.m. Instead of taking her home, Nelson said, Moore pulled the two-door car into a dark and deserted area between a dumpster and the back of the restaurant.
When she asked what he was doing, Nelson alleged, Moore put his hands on her breasts and began groping her. When she tried to open the car door and leave, Nelson said, he reached over and locked the door. When she yelled at him to stop and tried to fight him off, she said, he tightly squeezed the back of her neck and tried to force her head toward his lap. He also tried to pull her shirt off, she said.
Moore denied this latest accusation during a brief campaign appearance Monday evening in Etowah County, where he still lives.
The allegation followed an extensive report published Thursday by The Washington Post in which Leigh Corfman alleged that Moore initiated a sexual encounter with her when she was 14 and he was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney. Moore has denied the accusation.
In addition to Corfman, three other women interviewed by The Post in recent weeks said Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s, episodes they said they found flattering at the time but troubling as they got older. None of the three women said Moore forced them into any sort of relationship or sexual contact.
Neither Corfman nor any of the other women sought out The Post. While reporting a story in Alabama about supporters of Moore’s Senate campaign, a Post reporter heard that Moore allegedly had sought relationships with teenage girls. Over the following three weeks, two Post reporters contacted and interviewed the four women.
Moore has declined to rule out that he may have dated girls in their late teens when he was in his 30s, but he has said he did not remember any encounters.
Mike DeBonis, Jenna Johnson and Robert Costa contributed to this report.