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Washington — President Donald Trump kept uncharacteristically silent and out of the fight Wednesday as national Republicans called ever more insistently for Roy Moore to abandon his Alabama campaign for the U.S. Senate and party officials sourly debated options that none of them liked. Far from surrendering, Moore’s camp fought back against allegations of sexual impropriety with teenage girls years ago when he was in his 30s.

Trump, who withstood allegations of sexual assault weeks before his own election, ducked questions about the Alabama race and whether he would join GOP congressional leaders in urging Moore to step aside. With Moore’s would-be colleagues threatening to expel him should he win and the Republican National Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee pulling their support, Trump was seen as the best hope for pushing a fellow political rebel from the race.

Instead, Moore, twice removed from his post as state Supreme Court chief justice, confronted his party with two damaging potential election outcomes. His victory would saddle GOP senators with a colleague accused of abusing and harassing teenagers, a troubling liability heading into next year’s congressional elections, while a loss to Democrat Doug Jones would slice the already narrow GOP Senate majority to an unwieldy 51-49.

Behind the scenes, aides described Trump as vexed by the Moore issue. At any rate, he might make an uncomfortable critic: The allegations against the bombastic former judge echo Trump’s own political problems when he was accused weeks before the 2016 election of more than a dozen instances of sexual harassment.

Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity joined the GOP critics during his show Tuesday evening, saying he was giving Moore 24 hours to explain “inconsistencies” in his response to allegations of child molestation or else exit the Alabama race.

Showing no signs of surrender, Moore’s campaign chairman and personal attorney addressed the media in Alabama, trying to undercut the story of the latest woman to accuse Moore of sexually accosting her when she was in high school.

The attorney, Phillip Jauregui, demanded that Beverly Young Nelson “release the yearbook” she contends Moore signed. He questioned that the signature was Moore’s and said it should be submitted for handwriting analysis. Neither the attorney nor the campaign manager addressed the original allegations from Leigh Corfman concerning sexual contact she said Moore initiated when she was 14, or the other allegations of impropriety with teenagers.

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