U.S. President Donald Trump sped full throttle Sunday into a special Senate election in Alabama, attacking Democrat Doug Jones as a lawmaker who would be a "puppet" to party leaders if he is elected next month.
In Twitter comments, Trump did not mention Republican nominee Roy Moore, accused of sexually abusing two teenage girls four decades ago when he was a local prosecutor in his early 30s and pursuing other teen girls for dates.
But Trump said Jones, a former federal prosecutor, would be beholden to the two top Democratic leaders in Congress, Senator Chuck Schumer and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi.
"The last thing we need in Alabama and the U.S. Senate is a Schumer/Pelosi puppet who is WEAK on Crime, WEAK on the Border, Bad for our Military and our great Vets, Bad for our 2nd Amendment, AND WANTS TO RAISES TAXES TO THE SKY. Jones would be a disaster!" Trump said, in part referring to the country's constitutional amendment sanctioning gun ownership.
The December 12 election is for the three remaining years left in the Senate seat once held by Jeff Sessions, who resigned it in early 2017 to join Trump's Cabinet as attorney general, the country's top law enforcement position.
Democrats have not won the Alabama Senate seat in two decades, but polls in the southern state show Jones with a small lead after allegations surfaced in a Washington Post story that Moore had abused a 14-year-old girl when he was 32. Another woman later leveled similar accusations against Moore.
Moore has denied the allegations, attacking the newspaper report as "fake news" and accusing establishment Republican lawmakers in Washington of trying to undermine his election chances. Both Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and two of the party's former presidential candidates, Senator John McCain and Mitt Romney, have called for Moore to end his candidacy.
The White House at first said the election was up to Alabama voters, but as Trump left last week for the Thanksgiving holiday at his oceanfront resort in Florida, said of the allegations against Moore, "He totally denies it." Trump did not directly say whether he believes the women's accusations or Moore's denial.
"You have to listen to him also," Trump said of Moore. "He said 40 years ago this did not happen, so, you know.”
In a second tweet Sunday, Trump noted that he had endorsed appointed Senator Luther Strange, who lost a Republican primary to Moore in late September. "He shot way up in the polls but it wasn’t enough," Trump said of Strange. "Can’t let Schumer/Pelosi win this race. Liberal Jones would be BAD!"
Senator Lindsey Graham, another Republican lawmaker who called for Moore to quit the race after the sexual abuse allegations surfaced, told CNN on Sunday that if Moore wins the election, "it becomes an everyday case" for Republicans in Washington of whether Moore should be expelled from the Senate because of the sexual abuse allegations.
"The moral of this story is don't nominate someone like Roy Moore who could lose a seat most Republicans would win," Graham said.
Graham told Trump, "You're mistaken," if he thinks it would easy for Republicans to align with Moore in the Senate should he win. "I'm not going down the road he's going," by supporting Moore.
The Republican party's already tenuous hold on a Senate majority, now at 52-48, would be cut in half to 51-49 should Jones win.
The party is facing difficult issues in the coming weeks as it attempts to overhaul the country's complex tax code and approve a spending plan to keep the government funded through next September.