White House Advisers Create Some Distance From Roy Moore

If he did it. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call

As GOP senators and governors continued to repudiate Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore over allegations that he had sexual contact with teenage girls while he was in his 30s, White House aides went on Sunday morning television to criticize the candidate’s behavior, too — but with a telling caveat.

On ABC’s This Week, Martha Raddatz asked White House counselor Kellyanne Conway if she had any doubt about the claims against Moore. Conway responded, “The president and others in the Republican Party have made clear that if the allegations are true, this man should step aside, but I’ve gone farther than that,” adding that “everybody should know that conduct is disqualifying.” (The president has not actually weighed in on the issue, telling reporters on Saturday that he was too busy “reading documents” to form an opinion.)

Conway added that “Mr. Moore has denied that conduct,” and “you’ve got other people out there talking about what did or did not happen many years ago,” slippery phrasing that recalls her boss’s classic rhetorical device “many people are saying.”

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who seems to enjoy weighing in on matters well beyond his purview, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that “if the allegations prove to be true, he should step down.” Tapper pressed Mnuchin, arguing that no more definitive proof was bound to come to light, but Mnuchin stuck to his line, saying, “People should investigate this issue and get the facts.”

Conway and Mnuchin’s strategy echoed that of many Senate and House Republicans, who are being presented with a growing body of evidence for Moore’s misbehavior — on Saturday, a prosecutor who worked with him said it was common knowledge that he’d dated high-school girls as an adult — but are holding out for an impossible standard of ironclad verification that will likely never arrive.

Continuing in that vein, Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short told Meet the Press’s Chuck Todd that Moore had a right to defend himself, and that the candidate “plans to come forward with more evidence to support his innocence.” But Short did allow that “there’s no Senate seat more important than the issue of child pedophilia.”

Perhaps Doug Jones has found his new campaign slogan?

White House Advisers Create Some Distance From Roy Moore