White House wants Republican in Alabama Senate seat for tax bill vote: adviser

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[November 21, 2017]  By Makini Brice and Peter Szekely

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House wants to see a Republican elected to the U.S. Senate from Alabama to help pass a tax overhaul bill, a senior adviser said on Monday, indicating a possible shift toward supporting candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of pursuing teenage girls when he was in his 30s.

Moore, a former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice, is the Republicans' only realistic chance to win the special Dec. 12 election. Republicans have a slim 52-48 majority in the Senate.

The White House has said President Donald Trump thinks the allegations, including a charge Moore initiated sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl when he was in his 30s, are troubling and he should step down if they are true.

But it has also said it is up to the people of Alabama to make the choice for the Senate and it has not called on Moore to exit the race, as have many other leading Republicans.

In an interview with Fox News Channel on Monday, senior adviser Kellyanne Conway railed against Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate. Jones, a former federal prosecutor, has overtaken Moore in polls since allegations of sexual misconduct were first reported by the Washington Post two weeks ago.

Asked if she was favoring a vote for Moore, Conway said: "We want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill."

The U.S. House of Representatives passed tax legislation last week. The Senate, where Republicans can afford to lose only two votes, will take up its own version next week.

Last week, Conway told Fox: "There's no Senate seat that's worth more than a child."

Moore's campaign has struggled since the Post detailed the accounts of four women who say Moore pursued them while they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. More women have since spoken out with allegations of their own.

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Judge Roy Moore speaks as he participates in the Mid-Alabama Republican Club's Veterans Day Program in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, U.S., November 11, 2017. REUTERS/Marvin Gentry

Reuters has been unable to independently confirm any of the allegations.

Moore, 70, has denied the accusations and has said he is the victim of a witch hunt.

In her first televised interview since the Post detailed her allegations, Leigh Corfman told NBC's "Today" show on Monday that Moore "basically laid out some blankets on the floor of his living room and proceeded to seduce me, I guess you would say" on her second visit to his home when she was 14 and he was 32.

Corfman said that since the story in the Washington Post there have been "a lot of people that have come out and have said that because of my courage they’re able to do the same."

She said she had considered confronting Moore twice before, but did not do it, once because her school-age children were afraid that "they would be castigated in their group."

Corfman said she has not been paid by anyone for speaking up about her allegations. "If anything, it has cost me. I had to take leave from my job," she said.

(Reporting by Makini Brice in Washington and Peter Szekely in New York; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Tim Ahmann)

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