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GOP U.S. Senate candidate endorsed by Trump denies estranged wife's allegations

Election 2022-Senate-Pennsylvania
FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2020 file photo, Sean Parnell walks through people gathered at a campaign rally for President Donald Trump at the Pittsburgh International Airport in Moon Township, Pa.  Keith Srakocic / AP

Butler, Pennsylvania — U.S. Senate candidate Sean Parnell took the stand Monday in his contentious custody case and denied allegations by his estranged wife that he had hurt her and their children, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Testifying under oath in Butler County court, Parnell said he never choked his estranged wife or pinned her down, as she had accused him of doing, and never struck any of their children in a fit of rage, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

"Did you ever choke your wife?" Parnell's attorney asked him.

"Never," Parnell responded.

Asked if he ever got "physical" with his wife, Parnell answered, "never," the Inquirer reported.

Monday was the first opportunity for Parnell to testify and for his lawyers to cross examine Laurie Snell after she testified last week that she had endured years of rage and abuse from him, including once being choked until she had to bite him.

Former President Trump endorsed Parnell in the Republican primary after he ran for Congress last year and narrowly lost in a Pittsburgh-area district to Democratic Congressman Conor Lamb. Pennsylvania's election next year for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Republican Pat Toomey is expected to be among the nation's most competitive and will help determine control of the chamber.

To underscore his support, Mr. Trump and Donald Trump Jr. are headlining a fundraiser for Parnell on January 25 at the former president's Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida. 

In court on Monday, Parnell also denied more of Snell's allegations, for instance, that he had once kicked her out of their car alongside a highway and told her to go get an abortion.

"It just wasn't a good relationship," he said.

Parnell's lawyers pointed out that a judge had rejected Snell's request for a restraining order in 2018 based on two allegations she made that he had physically harmed their children.

Neither episode ever happened, Parnell testified.

Snell alleged that Parnell struck one of their children hard enough through a T-shirt to leave welts. Parnell said it never happened.

Snell also accused an angry Parnell of punching a closet door, sending it flying into another child's face, leaving a bruise, she testified.

Parnell told the court that Snell "made up" the story and that the child got startled and bumped his own head on the door.

"Laurie wasn't even there," Parnell said.

Under cross-examination Monday, Snell acknowledged that she went on vacation with Parnell and their children almost immediately after he allegedly struck the child.

Later, after the closet door episode, Snell asked Parnell if he wanted to watch the children and told him, "I know you're a good dad and it's important that the kids see you," according to text messages submitted as evidence.

Parnell responded to his estranged wife's testimony last week by releasing a statement insisting he "never raised a hand in anger towards my wife or any of our three children" and saying he would "set the record straight" when he testifies.

The Parnells have been living apart for at least three years, but have split custody of their children evenly.

Snell is seeking sole custody and testified on Monday that Parnell carried on an affair with another woman while they were married.

Parnell's lawyer asked Snell during cross-examination whether Parnell was a good father.

Snell said Parnell is a good dad "when he's not angry," the Tribune-Review of Greensburg reported.

Parnell, a decorated former Army Ranger who led a platoon in Afghanistan, has told of being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

Parnell penned a memoir of his service in Afghanistan, which became a New York Times bestseller. He also has written four action novels, and emerged as a regular guest on Fox News programs before running for Congress last year.

Parnell's history with his wife became a subject in the Republican primary campaign, days after Mr. Trump endorsed Parnell over several other rivals who remain in the race. Businessman Jeff Bartos, former U.S. ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands and conservative commentator Kathy Barnette are among those who are also seeking the nomination. 

Politico reported last week that some Pennsylvania Republicans are trying to persuade Bridgewater Associates CEO David McCormick to enter the race. McCormick, who worked in the Treasury Department during President George W. Bush's presidency, is married to Dina Powell, who was a deputy national security adviser in the Trump administration.

Former White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway tweeted an article about McCormick on Tuesday and asked, "Is he the KEY to the KEYSTONE STATE?"

There is also a crowded field on the Democratic side, including Lamb, Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, state Senator Malcolm Kenyatta and Montgomery County Supervisor Val Arkoosh.

Adam Brewster contributed to this report.

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