Dec 3, 2017

McConnell, Graham back off calls for Moore to drop out

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dialed back previous statements he has made about Alabama's Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore — who has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, including one who was 14 at the time of the alleged event— saying he'll let Alabama voters decide Moore's fate.

Flashback: McConnell has previously said he believes Moore's accusers and that Moore should drop out of the race. He also said Moore would "immediately" face an ethics investigation if he wins. But on ABC's This Week, the Majority Leader said the Senate Ethics Committee will decide how to go forward.

The big picture: The most recent Alabama polls indicate that Moore could still win, and President Trump has given him a de facto endorsement.

Sen. Lindsey Graham also retreated from past comments, saying, "We can't stop [Moore] from being seated" on CBS's Face the Nation.

  • "I think an ethics investigation would be a smart thing to do. And we'll see what the Ethics Committee decides as to whether they look at behavior before he came into the senate."
  • "Does that matter? If they do, what did they find? We'll see."
  • "If there was an investigation and all six members of the committee said they believe he was a child molester, that would be a problem."
  • Flashback: Graham previously said, "In light of the most recent allegations and the cumulative effect of others, I believe Roy Moore would be doing himself, the state, the GOP, and the country a service by stepping aside ... If he continues this will not end well for Mr. Moore."

More from McConnell's interview:

  • On a possible government shutdown: It's a "ridiculous idea" for Democrats to allow a government shutdown over DACA, which is a "non-emergency" issue: "The president has given us until March to address the issue of undocumented children."
  • On Mueller's Russia probe and reports that the president is reaching out to senators to curtail the investigation: Trump has "not said anything to me that I think is inappropriate."

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South Korea and Italy see spikes in coronavirus cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 on Friday to 433 on Saturday, while Italy's case count rose from 3 to 62 as of Saturday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

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Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."