WASHINGTON — Republicans in Washington increased pressure Tuesday on Alabama’s Republican Party to keep a defiant Roy Moore from being elected to the Senate next month, with many voicing hope that President Trump could use his clout to resolve a problem that Republicans say leaves them with no easy options.

With Alabama Republicans reluctant to block Moore and enrage his legions of loyal conservative supporters, national party leaders were turning to Trump as their best chance of somehow turning the tide. Two women have said that Moore molested them in the 1970s, when one was 14, the other was 16 and he was a local district attorney, and three others have said he pursued romantic relationships with them around the same time.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in all-out warfare with Moore, said there would be conversations about the anti-establishment firebrand after Trump’s return Tuesday night from Asia. He said he’d already spoken about Moore to the president, Vice President Mike Pence and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

“He’s obviously not fit to be in the United States Senate and we’ve looked at all the options to try to prevent that from happening,” said McConnell, who said Monday that he believes Moore’s accusers. “This close to election, it’s a complicated matter.”‘

Beverly Young Nelson, the latest accuser of Alabama Republican Roy Moore, reads her statement at a news conference in New York on Monday. Nelson said Moore assaulted her when she was 16 and he offered her a ride home from a restaurant where she worked. Moore said the latest allegations against him are a “witch hunt.” Associated Press/Richard Drew

Maintaining his political brand as an unrepentant outsider, Moore again denied abusing the women, in an email that reminded voters of their loyalty to him: “He’s the same man you’ve always known him to be.” It added, “On to victory!” and said he would address the God Save America Conference later Tuesday in Jackson, Alabama.

Moore’s candidacy in the Dec. 12 special election confronts Republicans with two damaging potential outcomes. A victory saddles Republican senators with a colleague accused of abusing and harassing teen-agers, a troubling liability heading into next year’s congressional elections. An upset victory by Democrat Doug Jones would slice Republicans’ already narrow Senate majority to 51-49.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Congress that he has “no reason to doubt” the women. Sessions, a former Alabama senator and still one of the most influential Republicans in Alabama, didn’t rule out a Justice Department probe of the allegations, telling the House Judiciary Committee, “We will evaluate every case as to whether or not it should be investigated.”

PARTY ENDS FINANCIAL SUPPORT

The national Republican Party ended a fundraising arrangement with Moore’s campaign, Federal Election Commission documents showed. And House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., joined the pile of congressional Republicans saying Moore should drop out, saying, “If he cares about the values and people he claims to care about, then he should step aside.”

Two Washington Republicans, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe private conversations, said they didn’t know what Trump would do, but said the White House shares McConnell’s concerns about Moore. While few think Trump could persuade Moore to step aside, several are hoping he can convince the Alabama state party to take some action.

At a forum Tuesday organized by The Wall Street Journal, McConnell said Trump is discussing what to do in the Alabama race “in great detail.”

Despite the building pressure from national Republicans, state office holders have taken a measured response.

It’s already too late to remove Moore’s name from the ballot. That leaves the state party with limited options.

The 21-member party steering committee could vote to revoke Moore’s nomination and ask election officials to ignore ballots cast for him, but that would risk a lawsuit and backlash from Moore supporters. The party has little interest in alienating Moore’s followers a year before elections in which the governor’s office and entire state legislature will be in play, but it remains possible.

In an interview, Moore campaign Chairman Bill Armistead said he’s seen no indication that the state party will “back off in any way.” He said some in the party want it to pass a resolution embracing Moore.

A spokesman for Republican Gov. Kay Ivey reiterated that she would not postpone the election to give Moore’s opponents more time to organize. That would spark a legal challenge, but a possible delay remains an option, Republicans say.

Also possible is a write-in campaign, but national and Alabama Republicans consider that a longshot to succeed. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said no write-in candidate has ever won a statewide election in the state.

SESSIONS CANDIDACY FLOATED

McConnell praised Sessions on Tuesday as a possible contender who is “totally well-known and is extremely popular in Alabama,” but conceded Sessions might not run.

Sessions held the Senate seat before joining Trump’s administration this year. Some Republicans said they believe Sessions is reluctant to run but expressed hope that Trump – who’s soured on him since he appointed a special prosecutor to investigate Trump’s 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia – might urge him to enter the race.

Republicans think Luther Strange, whom Moore defeated in a September party primary, would have little chance against Moore. Strange has called such a move unlikely.

Top Senate Republicans already are threatening to vote to expel Moore if he’s elected. That risks leaving the seat unfilled for a period of time.