WASHINGTON (AP) – Democratic Sen.-elect Doug Jones says he doesn’t think President Donald Trump should resign over allegations of sexual misconduct, echoing the White House’s position that voters have already spoken on the issue.
“I don’t think the president ought to resign at this point. We’ll see how things go, but certainly those allegations are not new, and he was elected with those allegations at front center,” said Jones, whose upset win in last week’s Alabama special election was due in large part to allegations that his Republican opponent, 70-year-old Roy Moore, had engaged in sexual misconduct with teenage girls as a deputy district attorney in his 30s.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump himself faced multiple accusations of sexual harassment from women he branded as liars. In recent weeks, however, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has said the women deserve to be heard, and a group of Democratic senators including Kirsten Gillibrand of New York have called on Trump to resign.
But on Sunday, Jones noted that the accusations against Trump had surfaced before the 2016 presidential election.
“I think we need to move on and not get distracted by those issues,” said Jones, a 63-year-old former prosecutor who became the first Democrat elected to represent Alabama in the Senate in a quarter-century. “Let’s get on with the real issues that are facing people of this country right now.”
Making his first Sunday talk show appearances since his win, Jones said he looked forward to meeting with Trump. Jones said he believed his own mandate was to avoid rigid partisan positions in favor of compromise and “getting things done,” even if it meant coming across as “pure pie-in-the-sky” and sometimes disappointing some of his core constituents.
He insisted that he’ll leave “all the options on the table” when it comes to his votes next year in a politically divided Washington on issues from immigration to infrastructure.
“I’m going to consider anything,” said Jones, explaining that he doesn’t plan on labeling himself a progressive or a conservative Democrat but rather as a “Doug Jones Democrat.”
Jones also made clear he’s ready to move forward even though Moore has yet to concede the race.
“Alabama has spoken,” Jones said. “I will be ready to go regardless of whether he concedes or not.”
Moore, who has denied the sexual misconduct allegations, has been discussing a possible recount even though he appears to have lost by 20,000 votes, or 1.5 percent. Trump, who supported Moore during the race, has also urged him to concede.
Jones’ election will cut the Republicans’ Senate majority to 51-49, when he takes office in early January. He is filling the seat left vacant by Republican Jeff Sessions’ nomination as U.S. attorney general.
White House legislative director Marc Short said the administration was eager to see whether Jones will “actually work to represent the people of Alabama” in a bipartisan way or side with liberal Democrats.
“We hope that frankly Doug Jones will help us change the climate here in Washington,” Short said. During the campaign, Trump chastised Jones as a liberal who would be “terrible” on crime and border security, and a “puppet” for Senate congressional leaders.
Jones said the president called to congratulate him after Tuesday’s election. He described the call as “very gracious.” On Sunday, Jones downplayed Trump’s earlier criticism of him as statements made “in the heat of a campaign.”
Pledging to always consider both sides, Jones sided on Sunday with congressional Democrats in expressing a need for safeguards for immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, but without funding for a border wall. The Obama administration program that provided those protections, the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program, is set to expire in March.
“I have said before that I opposed the building of a wall. I think that’s an expense that the taxpayers just don’t have to incur because I do think you can increase border security without having to go to the incredible expense of building that wall,” Jones said.
But he also pointed to fixing roads and bridges, a priority of Trump’s, as a bipartisan issue that could benefit Alabama.
Jones appeared on “Fox News Sunday” and CNN’s “State of the Union.” Short was on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”