President Donald Trump has privately told confidants over the past week that he firmly believes Roy Moore’s innocence and feels no hesitation at all about endorsing the embattled Alabama Senate candidate, three sources close to the president tell The Daily Beast.
Trump’s conviction sets him apart from other Republicans—including some Moore supporters —who have said they trust the accounts of the numerous women who have accused the former chief justice of the state Supreme Court of preying on them sexually when they were teenagers.
“This is not something he’s struggling with,” one senior White House official told The Daily Beast of Trump.
The president has even begun adopting some of Moore’s more outlandish lines of defense to push back against accusations that the candidate’s guilt is beyond question.
Two of the sources, one working in the Trump administration and the other a friend of the president, noted that in recent conversations Trump has begun to stress that the “Roy Moore, D.A.” signature in the yearbook of a woman who publicly accused the candidate of sexual assault, is a likely forgery. The president has found the signature suspicious, according to these sources. Moore has stressed this, too. Experts, for their part, disagree.
The allegations against Moore produced a sudden surge of support for Democratic rival Doug Jones, polls showed. But those numbers have recently moved back in Moore’s direction, and sources say the president saw parallels to his own experiences last year, when he fended off Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton despite facing his own round of sexual misconduct allegations, spurred by a recording of him bragging about assaulting women.
Contacted for comment on Tuesday afternoon, White House spokesman Raj Shah asked if The Daily Beast’s sources for this story were anonymous, but otherwise did not respond to inquiries. Those sources are, indeed, anonymous. They spoke on that condition in order to more freely discuss private conversations.
On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during a press briefing that “the president’s position hasn’t changed,” and claimed that Trump still finds the women’s stories “concerning” albeit while cautioning that the administration didn’t “have a way to validate” the veracity of the accusers’ accounts.”
But in recent days, those close to Trump tell The Daily Beast that his confidence in Moore’s version of the story has only grown stronger.
Following the initial Moore story published in The Washington Post last month, Trump and his senior aides had been unsure of how to proceed. Publicly, they put up a critical posture, with the president’s daughter Ivanka saying there was a “special place in hell” for child molesters and his legislative affairs director, Marc Short, hinting that they’d keep their distance.
“[I]f [Trump] did not believe that the women’s accusations were credible, he would be down campaigning for Roy Moore. He has not done that,” White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said last month.
But Trump began expressing doubts privately about the Moore accusations last month, Politico reported. And as The Daily Beast previously reported, some of Trump’s closest advisers, in and outside of the White House, recommended that he not criticize Moore publicly prior to the election in Alabama. Instead, they adopted the strategy of bashing Jones without mentioning Moore’s name—reinforcing Trump’s preference at the time.
When Trump finally weighed in on the controversy, he told reporters that Moore “denies it—he totally denies it. That’s all I can say.” Asked if he believes Moore’s accusers, Trump immediately replied: “Forty years is a long time. He’s run eight races and this has never came up.”
On Monday morning, Trump tweeted his first official endorsement of Moore, and later called the the Alabama Republican while on Air Force One. “Go get 'em, Roy!” Trump reportedly said.
On Tuesday, Trump reiterated his endorsement of Moore, telling reporters in the West Wing that “we don't want to have a liberal Democrat in Alabama, believe me. We want strong borders, we want stopping crime, we want to have the things that we represent and we certainly don't want to have a liberal Democrat that's controlled by Nancy Pelosi and controlled by Chuck Schumer, we don't want to have that for Alabama.”
And though the White House and the president have no official plans for Trump to campaign for Moore in Alabama prior to next week’s election night, President Trump will be in nearby Florida at a political rally later this week.
Trump’s boosting of Moore carries with it obvious risks, not least of which is the political complications that come with being so closely associated to a candidate accused of child molestation. But sources say Trump has been buoyed by the tightening of the race between Jones and Moore, and that the newer polls factored into his decision to unambiguously endorse the candidate. Looking at the prospect of a Senate win, he has been telling his aides and confidants that he no longer considers the accusations credible, or persuasive.