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Matt Shuham

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.

Articles by Matt

Alabama’s secretary of state said Tuesday that he didn’t know whether the women who have accused U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexual assault and inappropriate conduct when they were teenagers were “making it up,” but he repeated his contention that it was “possible.”

“I don’t know whether or not they’re making it up or not, because I don’t know their intention, and I don’t know whether or not there are other things that have happened to them that have caused them to come forward at this time,” Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota.

Earlier in the interview, Merrill objected to Camerota questioning him about his assertion that the claims of Moore sexually assaulting teenagers could have been made up.

“I didn’t say that it was possible that they were making it up,” he said. “I never said that. What I said was I thought it was very unusual. I thought it was very odd and, quite interesting that these claims had come to light at this particular time, especially during the U.S. Senate campaign.”

Camerota simply read Merrill’s previous statement on the allegations, made to ThinkProgress on Nov. 9: “People make things up all the time. Do I think it’s possible they made this up? I do.”

“Well of course it’s possible, anything is possible,” Merrill responded on Tuesday, unfazed.

He acknowledged that, “if the allegations are proven to be true, I don’t think that there’s any way that I or any other Alabamian would continue to support Judge Moore.” But when asked, he did not specify anything that could be done to further convince him of the allegations. Instead, he changed the topic.

“Given that they’re so many decades old, how would they ever, before Election Day, be proven true to your mind?” Camerota asked.

“One of the things that I would ask you is, if they are true, then why would someone have waited this long to have this brought this information out at this particular time? To introduce it 30 days before [the election]?” Merrill asked in response.

The secretary of state acknowledged that, as in cases of sexual abuse in Hollywood, Silicon Valley and elsewhere, “people are reluctant to come forth at this particular time.”

But Merrill said that Moore still had his vote.

“As of today, with the information that’s been introduced to me and if these charges are not proven to be true, then I would continue to support and vote for judge Moore.”

Watch below via CNN:

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Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said Monday that he would still vote for Roy Moore to become Alabama’s next senator, despite a wave of allegations of sexual assault and misconduct made against Moore by women who were teenagers at the time of the alleged incidents.

“America faces huge challenges that are vastly more important than contested sexual allegations from four decades ago,” Brooks said in a text message to AL.com.

“Who will vote in America’s best interests on Supreme Court justices, deficit and debt, economic growth, border security, national defense, and the like?” Brooks continued, according to the paper. “Socialist Democrat Doug Jones will vote wrong. Roy Moore will vote right. Hence, I will vote for Roy Moore.”

The Washington Post first reported last week on four women who alleged that Moore pursued relationships with them when they were teenagers. One, Leigh Corfman, alleged that Moore had attempted to initiate sexual contact with her — “She says that he guided her hand to his underwear and that she yanked her hand back,” the Post reported — when she was 14.

On Monday, Beverly Young Nelson alleged Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16 years old. In a press conference, she showed members of the media her high school yearbook, which included a note from Moore, who had signed it with “love.” Moore would have been 32 at the time, though he denied knowing Nelson, in addition to consistently denying the other allegations against him. 

Brooks said he believed “there are millions of people in America who would lie in a heartbeat if it meant adding another Democrat to the Senate.” Brooks brought up his alma mater, Duke University, as an example of dishonest sexual assault allegations.

“As a Duke grad, I vividly remember the false accusations against and defamation of the Duke lacrosse team. The players were horribly treated by the news media until the truth finally came out and totally exonerated them,” Brooks said. “As an attorney, I know accusations are easy. Proving them to the satisfaction of a judge, a jury, or here, voters,  is another thing. I do not know enough of the evidence to know with confidence what the true facts are.”

Powerful Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner (R-CO), have called for Moore to step aside from the race.

Brooks, along with current interim Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), were Moore’s opponents in the Republican Senate primary. But the congressman seemed to dismiss the idea of running as a write-in candidate to Roll Call, AL.com noted.

“As long as Roy Moore is our nominee, a Republican cannot wage a write-in campaign, under Alabama Republican Party rules, and be on the ballot as a Republican in the future,” he said.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Monday joined a growing list of Republican senators calling for Roy Moore to step aside from his campaign for U.S. Senate, saying Moore “would be doing himself, the state, the GOP, and the country a service” by doing so.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for as much Monday morning, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) followed suit.

McConnell did not rule out a write-in campaign featuring Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), who was appointed to fill Attorney Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat on an interim basis, and who Sessions supported against Moore in the Alabama Republican Senate primary.

Of the handful of senators who explicitly endorsed Moore, only two listed on Moore’s website have not withdrawn those endorsements: Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY).

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) withdrew his endorsement Monday but stopped short of calling for Moore to withdraw his candidacy, leaving it to Alabama voters to decide the Senate hopeful’s fate.

On Monday, Beverly Young Nelson alleged that Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16. And the Washington Post reported last week that Leigh Corfman claimed Moore made sexual advances on her when she was 14.

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Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), one of a handful of U.S. senators to explicitly endorse Roy Moore in his bid for the U.S. Senate, withdrew that endorsement Monday. 

But the senior senator from Texas stopped short of calling for Moore to withdraw from the race, as many senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), have done. 

“I believe the accusations against Roy Moore are disturbing and, if true, disqualifying,” Cornyn said in a statement provided to TPM. “The most appropriate course of action, in my view, is to leave the final judgment in the hands of Alabama voters — where it has always belonged — and withdraw my endorsement.”

On Monday, Beverly Young Nelson alleged that Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16. Another woman, Leigh Corfman, told the Washington Post last week that Moore made sexual advances on her when she was 14.

Three other women told the Post that Moore pursued relationships with them when they were teenagers as well. Moore was in his 30s at the time the alleged assault and improprieties took place.

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY), who endorsed Moore as well, have not withdrawn their endorsements.

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Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) on Monday called for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore to resign in light of allegations from four women that he pursued relationships with them when they were teenagers, including one woman who described Moore’s sexual advances on her when she was 14.

The denunciations came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called for Moore to “step aside” Monday morning. Hatch in particular said Moore’s opponent in the Alabama Republican Senate primary, Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), would make an “an excellent alternative.”

Collins was one of a number of Republican senators who did not publicly support Moore even before the Post published on-the-record accusations from four women who said that Moore pursued relationships with them when they were teenagers. Hatch had reportedly said of Moore that he had “trouble” with some of his views, but that he would “support him” were Moore to be elected to the Senate.

Others who had supported Moore outright said, in response to the Post’s reporting, that they were withdrawing their support.

The former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court — a role from which he was suspended twice over the years for disobeying a federal court’s orders — Moore once said Muslims should not be allowed to serve in Congress, and compared the Supreme Court’s ruling allowing same-sex couples marriage rights to the Dred Scott decision, which upheld slavery.

McConnell was one of a number of senators who, though they initially supported Moore’s candidacy, said he should resign if the Post’s reporting was proven true. Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, severed a fundraising agreement with Moore’s campaign on Friday.

Three senators who endorsed Moore prior to the Post’s reporting — Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) — have not withdrawn their endorsements.

The New York Times noted Monday that the only senator to refrain from issuing even an “if true” statement was Roger Wicker (R-MS).

“They’re very, very old charges,” the paper quoted him telling Mississippi News Now. “You have to ask, and I think people in Alabama will be asking, why this hasn’t come out in the 40 years’ time with him running for so many offices.”

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Monday that Roy Moore should step aside from his campaign for the U.S. Senate following allegations that he pursued relationships with teenagers decades ago, including making sexual advances on a 14-year-old.

“I think he should step aside,” McConnell said at a press conference Monday, responding to a reporter’s question.

“Is the burden on Moore to prove these false, versus someone to prove that these are true in this situation?” another reporter asked later. Moore has threatened to sue the Washington Post for its revelations. “Do you believe these allegations to be true?”

“I believe the women, yes,” McConnell responded.

McConnell said “we’re looking at” a write-in campaign to provide a Republican alternative to Moore. Asked if Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), his choice for the Republican nomination who was defeated in the primary by Moore, would pursue a write-in candidacy, McConnell said “we’ll see.”

McConnell’s communications director, David Popp, pointed TPM to a video of McConnell’s press conference published by WLKY. To view McConnell’s full response regarding Moore, watch WLKY’s video starting at 9:04 here.

Moore’s campaign responded Monday afternoon on his Twitter account:

This post has been updated.

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Another woman has claimed former President George H.W. Bush inappropriately grabbed her during a photo op. She was 16-years-old at the time, Time magazine reported Monday.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Bush did not deny the claims, telling Time only that “George Bush simply does not have it in his heart to knowingly cause anyone harm or distress, and he again apologizes to anyone he may have offended during a photo op.”

Roslyn Corrigan told Time that she requested to leave her classes at The Woodlands High School early to see the former President at a gathering of former intelligence officials, including her father, and their families. She posed for a picture at the event with Bush and her mother.

“As soon as the picture was being snapped on the one-two-three he dropped his hands from my waist down to my buttocks and gave it a nice, ripe squeeze, which would account for the fact that in the photograph my mouth is hanging wide open,” she told Time, recalling Bush’s actions. “I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, what just happened?’”

“My initial action was absolute horror. I was really, really confused,” Corrigan said. “The first thing I did was look at my mom and, while he was still standing there, I didn’t say anything. What does a teenager say to the ex-President of the United States? Like, ‘Hey dude, you shouldn’t have touched me like that?’”

Seven people confirmed to Time, the publication said, that Corrigan had told them about Bush’s groping before the recent wave of revelations about sexual assault.

Corrigan’s mother, Sari Young, described her daughter’s reaction to Bush’s groping following the photo.

“When he left, my daughter Rozi said, ‘He grabbed me on the rear end.’ And I said, ‘What, what?’” Young recalled to Time. “And she said, ‘Yes, he grabbed me when they were taking the picture. He grabbed me on my butt.’ And I was like, ‘Oh my god, are you kidding me?’

Time noted Corrigan is the sixth woman to claim that Bush grabbed them during a photo op. Bush’s spokesperson, Jim McGrath, has not denied the claims, instead acknowledging in one statement that on occasion that Bush “patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner.”

In that statement, McGrath attributed Bush’s groping to the fact that he “has been confined to a wheelchair for roughly five years, so his arm falls on the lower waist of people with whom he takes pictures.”

When Bush allegedly groped Corrigan, 14 years ago, that was not the case.

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White House aide Kellyanne Conway said Thursday that allegations against Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore made in the Washington Post “would be disqualifying for anyone in public office.”

“We need to listen to both sides, but at the same time, that hypothetical would be disqualifying for anyone in public office,” Conway said, in a clip aired on MSNBC.

The Post reported the stories of four women who said Moore pursued relationships with them as a grown man when they were teenagers. In one case, a 32-year-old Moore took then-14-year-old Leigh Corfman to his house, undressing her before initiating sexual contact.

She remembers that Moore kissed her, that he took off her pants and shirt, and that he touched her through her bra and underpants. She says that he guided her hand to his underwear and that she yanked her hand back,” the Post reported.

The White House’s director of legislative affairs, Marc Short, said on CNN later Thursday that “there’s no path forward” for Moore if the Post’s reporting is accurate.

“That’s a big ‘If’ clause, Wolf, it certainly is, but yes,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

But, pressed on how Alabama voters should determine the veracity of the allegations — which the Post reported after interviews with more than 30 sources — Short had few specific ideas.

“I think that the voters of Alabama deserve to know the truth and I think the voters of Alabama will demand more information, more facts to figure this out,” he said.

Some GOP leaders have called on Moore to drop out of the race to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ former Senate seat — still, other Alabama officials have dismissed the Post’s reporting and defended Moore. 

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A Breitbart News editor came to Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore’s defense on Thursday after the Washington Post reported that Moore pursued relationships with several teenage girls decades ago.

If you read the article, there are several cases mentioned, and of those cases only one would have been legally problematic,” Breitbart editor-at-large Joel Pollak told MSNBC’s Ali Velshi. “All of the others are of legal relationships with women who were of age at a time when Roy Moore was single.”

One woman who told the Post that Moore “guided her hand to touch him over his underwear,” said she was 14 when she first encountered the then-assistant district attorney, who was 32 at the time.

The other three women to whom the Post spoke were between 16 and 18 years old during their encounters with Moore, though one woman first met him when she was 14. The age of consent in Alabama is 16.

“If this story is true — and I think that any story about sexual misconduct, especially with someone who is underage, is very serious — why would the Washington Post wrap it with all kinds of perfectly legitimate relationships as well as all kinds of other political clutter?” Pollak asked Velshi.

He added later: “You said yourself at the start of the segment that he’s being accused of relationships with teenagers. Now, to me, that’s not accurate.”

“The 16-year-old and the 18-year-old have no business in that story, because those are women of legal age of consent,” he said.

Moore has faced calls from several Republican senators to withdraw his candidacy for Senate if the story is true. Moore put out a defiant statement after the Washington Post published its story.

Pollak said of the claim that Moore engaged in sexual activity with a 14-year-old: “If that turns out to be true, then he’s really got some serious problems and I think that we need to drill down and find out what that is.”

Breitbart reported first on the allegations against Moore, citing a request for comment that included the allegations that the Post sent to the senate candidate. The far-right news outlet’s piece on the allegations was largely defensive, characterizing the Post’s reporting as a political smear.

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Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke told the White House she would resign once her successor is nominated, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

The reported resignation would come after White House chief of staff John Kelly and others in the Trump administration pressured Duke to end a protected status designation for tens of thousands of otherwise undocumented Hondurans living in the United States, challenging her own decision, according to the Post.

The Post, citing unnamed current and former administration officials, reported that Duke planned to resign rather than serve as deputy DHS secretary. A DHS spokesperson told TPM Thursday that “Acting Secretary Duke is committed to continuing her work at DHS.”

The report detailed Duke chafing against pressure from the White House to end TPS — Temporary Protected Status, a protection from deportation — for 57,000 Hondurans who came to the United States after Hurricane Mitch hit their home country in 1998.

Honduran and Nicaraguan TPS holders’ status had to be decided by Monday. Since the foreign nationals received the protection, each successive homeland security secretary has renewed their status every 18 months. Hundreds of thousands of people from various countries are protected from deportation by TPS.

Duke announced Monday that she would not renew TPS for the 2,500 Nicaraguans living in the United States who currently hold the status, allowing for a 12-month grace period, but that she would allow for a six-month delay to determine the status of Honduran TPS recipients, despite reported pressure from White House chief of staff John Kelly and national security adviser Tom Bossert. The Post reported:

As DHS officials prepared to make that announcement, Kelly made an urgent call from Japan, where he was traveling with President Trump. He was “irritated,” administration officials said, and didn’t want his handpicked nominee for DHS Secretary, Kirstjen M. Nielsen, to face potentially uncomfortable questions about TPS during her confirmation hearing.

“He was persistent, telling her he didn’t want to kick the can down the road, and that it could hurt [Nielsen’s] nomination,” said one administration official.

Duke held her ground, the official said. “She was angry. To get a call like that from Asia, after she’d already made the decision, was a slap in the face.”

One unnamed former administration official with knowledge of the call said “they put massive pressure on her,” the Post reported.

“As with many issues, there were a variety of views inside the administration on TPS,” acting DHS press secretary Tyler Houlton told TPM. “It is perfectly normal for members of the White House team to weigh in on major decisions. The Acting Secretary took input from the White House and other sources on the path forward for TPS and made her decision based on the law.”

“As former Secretary Kelly had made a major TPS decision in May, Acting Secretary Duke called him to discuss his TPS decision making process,” he continued. “During that call, now Chief of Staff Kelly reminded her that the TPS decision was hers alone to make as the Acting Secretary. Regarding TPS, the Acting Secretary believes that the current law is clear and DHS will enforce it. Only Congress can legislate a permanent solution and provide those living in a perpetually temporary status with a certain future.”

“Acting Secretary Duke is committed to continuing her work at DHS,” Houlton’s statement concluded. “Just yesterday she hosted the Secretary’s Annual Award Ceremony to recognize many of the remarkable men and women at DHS who protect our country and whom she respects so greatly.”

The White House did not respond to TPM’s request for comment.

This post has been updated.

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