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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Roy Moore told NBC News Friday that President Donald Trump was "influenced" by "the establishment" in Washington when he urged Moore, the former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice,not to run for the U.S. Senate.
Moore, who lost by 21,000 votes in a 2017 special election to Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, announced his candidacy for the 2020 Senate race in Alabama on Thursday.
"Roy Moore cannot win, and the consequences will be devastating," Trump tweeted in late May.
"I think the president's being influenced by other people up there — the establishment," Moore said in an exclusive interview Friday, noting that he still admired Trump and had not yet had the chance to talk to him about his candidacy.
The president’s son Donald Trump Jr. tweeted on Thursday afternoon after Moore’s announcement that Moore "is going against my father and he’s doing a disservice to all conservatives across the country in the process."
Multiple other Republican candidates have announced their own bids for the state’s Republican nomination to take on Jones in 2020. Moore told NBC News: "If people want them, they'll elect them. But I have a strong base here. And they'll elect me."
He said the potential addition of Jeff Sessions, who served as senator from Alabama prior to being tapped as Trump's first attorney general, would not lead him to exit the race.
"I don’t step aside for anybody when I’m running," Moore said, adding: "I love Jeff Sessions. He’s a friend. I respect him. If he wants to get in the race, let him get in the race. I don’t have any problem with it."
Moore also looked back on his 2017 Republican primary victory over then-incumbent Republican Sen. Luther Strange in the party’s runoff election — despite Strange receiving the backing of Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
On Thursday, McConnell said he will "vigorously" oppose Moore’s candidacy. Moore responded, "It’s a game up in Washington. And it has been a game. Mitch McConnell has no voice in who is elected in Alabama as a United States senator."
Moore also pushed aside the allegations of sexual misconduct and unwanted advances made by nine different women during his 2017 campaign. When asked if he had any regrets in the way he had acted toward any woman through his life, Moore responded, "No, absolutely not."
"Sometimes, you know, God means you to suffer, as did his son," Moore said about his decision to run again despite the scrutiny around him. "And I believe that this is just part of God's will."
Moore also suggested that members of Congress who are Muslim cannot uphold the oath of the U.S. Constitution. "They can't uphold the oath to the Constitution, and the oath to the Quran at the same time," he said.
The Alabamian also endorsed the concept of creating a pathway to legal status for the undocumented population in the United States. "There should be a path, yeah," Moore said. "I agree with that." He went on to call the influx of migrants an "illegal invasion of aliens" but added that those individuals "genuinely" seeking asylum "can come."