(Bloomberg) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Roy Moore can expect to face an ethics investigation if the Republican Senate candidate wins next week’s special election in Alabama.
Moore has been dogged by accusations he initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl and assaulted a 16-year-old, along with accounts he pursued relationships with other teenage girls, when he was in his 30s. Despite that, he remains a serious contender to win the Dec. 12 election over Democrat Doug Jones in the heavily Republican state.
“If he were to be elected I think he would immediately have an issue with the ethics committee which they would take up,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday at the Capitol.
McConnell opposed Moore in the Republican primary for the Senate race and had urged him to step down as a candidate after the allegations emerged last month. On Sunday he softened his stance, saying on ABC’s “This Week” that he was “going to let the people of Alabama make the call.”
“There’s been no change of heart,” McConnell said Tuesday. “I had hoped earlier that he would withdraw as a candidate. That obviously is not going to happen.”
McConnell had earlier suggested an ethics probe, and several senators have said the Senate should expel Moore should he win the election. But President Donald Trump, after initially holding back his support, has given Moore his full endorsement.
“I think he is going to do very well,” Trump said Tuesday at the White House. “We don’t want to have a liberal Democrat in Alabama, believe me.”
On Tuesday, Senator Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, who has frequently clashed with Trump, tweeted a picture of a check he wrote to the Jones campaign for $100. “Country over Party,” he wrote on Twitter.
The Republican National Committee had withdrawn its support for Moore but reinstated it after Trump gave his blessing, meaning he’ll get funding for his candidacy. The Alabama Republican Party organization has stood behind Moore.
Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon also is backing Moore as part of a bid to oust McConnell from Republican leadership in Congress in order to push a populist agenda.
"The Republican establishment campaigned for a Democrat for four solid weeks, and we’re going to hold them accountable," Bannon, chief executive of the conservative Breitbart News website, told a few hundred Moore supporters in a barn in Fairhope, Alabama Tuesday.
In the Senate and among other Republicans, Moore hasn’t won many converts. Senator John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, said Moore can expect to be seated if he wins the election, but then “someone will file an ethics complaint, and then we’ll get the facts.”
The ethics panel can recommend a variety of punishments including reprimand, censure and expulsion from the chamber. A two-thirds vote is required to expel a member of the Senate, which is now controlled 52-48 by the Republicans.
Poll leads in the Alabama Senate race have see-sawed between Moore and Jones over the past two weeks, with the lead for either candidate within the margin of error.
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