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Donald Trump defends US Senate candidate Roy Moore, accused of sexual assault

Donald Trump batted away questions from reporters. Credit: PA

Donald Trump dismissed questions about Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, who has been accused of sexual assault and molestation.

The US president said he would announce next week whether he will campaign for Mr Moore, who faces Democrat Doug Jones in a special election to fill the seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Mr Trump discounted the sexual assault allegations against Mr Moore and insisted repeatedly that voters must not support Moore's "liberal" rival.

He said: "Roy Moore denies it, that's all I can say."

He added: "We don't need a liberal person in there... We don't need somebody who's soft on crime like Jones."

Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore. Credit: PA

Two Alabama women have accused Moore of assault or molestation including one who says she was 14 at the time and six others have said he pursued romantic relationships when they were teenagers and he was a deputy district attorney in his 30s.

The president also noted that the allegations came from behaviour alleged to have happened decades ago.

"Forty years is a long time," Mr Trump said, questioning why it took so long for Moore's accusers to come forward.

Former Senator Jeff Sessions has said he has no reason to doubt the allegations against Moore and Republican leaders in Washington have called for Moore to leave the race.

The White House has repeatedly said Trump himself felt Moore would "do the right thing and step aside" if the allegations proved true.

Outside the White House later that day. Credit: PA

Mr Trump, who himself won the election despite facing more than a dozen accusations of sexual misconduct himself, dismissed questions from reporters about backing a Republican accused of sexual assault over a man who is a Democrat.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, both Republicans, have called on Moore to leave the race in light of the accusations.

The Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee have pulled their support for his campaign.

Mr Trump backed incumbent Senator Luther Strange in a September Republican primary, but moved quickly to embrace Moore after he won.

A White House official said on Tuesday that Mr Trump's attack on Jones did not amount to a formal endorsement of Moore, only that he was communicating that sending the Democrat to Washington would hamper his agenda.

Mr Trump had earlier said he was "very happy" that women are speaking out about their experiences.

He said: "I think it's a very special time because a lot of things are coming out, and I think that's good for our society and I think it's very, very good for women."