In a a vocal split with their Republican colleagues, Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Joni Ernst of Iowa have openly called for an investigation into the recent allegation of rape against President Donald Trump raised by advice columnist and author E. Jean Carroll.
Romney told CNN an "evaluation" needs to occur, although he is not sure who should perform it. The senator said he did not know if the proper setting for such an evaluation would be in the Congress or "whether it's another setting, I'm not sure."
Nevertheless, Romney stressed that "it's a very serious allegation."
"I hope that it is fully evaluated," he added. "The president said it didn't happen, and I certainly hope that's the case."
In similar remarks, Ernst told CNN that both Trump and Carroll should face questions about the alleged rape.
"I think anybody that makes an accusation like that, they should come forward," Ernst said. "But obviously, there has to be some additional information. They need to interview her. They need to visit with him."
Other Republicans downplayed the accusations to CNN. Of Trump, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said, "He's denied it, and that's enough for me until somebody comes up with something new."
Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina said he would take Trump's denial "at face value.
"I remember a pattern of conduct the press tried to conjure with Brett Kavanaugh that much of it proved to be incorrect," he added. "I'm not going to judge based on media reporting. If I have facts in front of me to the contrary, then that would be a different discussion."
Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the second highest-ranking senator in the party's leadership, said "the president is denying" the allegations.
"I can't comment on them, because I don't know what the truth is," he continued.
The moment the dressing-room door is closed, he lunges at me, pushes me against the wall, hitting my head quite badly, and puts his mouth against my lips. I am so shocked I shove him back and start laughing again. He seizes both my arms and pushes me up against the wall a second time, and, as I become aware of how large he is, he holds me against the wall with his shoulder and jams his hand under my coat dress and pulls down my tights . . .
The next moment, still wearing correct business attire, shirt, tie, suit jacket, overcoat, he opens the overcoat, unzips his pants, and, forcing his fingers around my private area, thrusts his penis halfway — or completely, I’m not certain — inside me,” Carroll wrote. “It turns into a colossal struggle. I am wearing a pair of sturdy black patent-leather four-inch Barneys high heels, which puts my height around six-one, and I try to stomp his foot. I try to push him off with my one free hand — for some reason, I keep holding my purse with the other — and I finally get a knee up high enough to push him out and off and I turn, open the door, and run out of the dressing room.
Unlike the majority of his peers in the Republican Party, Romney has been willing to criticize Trump in the past. The most famous occasion came during a speech in March 2016, in which he denounced the then-candidate's potential nomination as the GOP's standard-bearer in the upcoming presidential election.