Former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions has officially joined Alabama’s 2020 Senate race in the 11th hour of qualifying, as political observers wait to see how the man who forced him out of his post as Attorney General, President Donald Trump, will react to the announcement.
Though there have been whispers for months that Sessions might be considering a bid for his old Senate seat, he officially made a campaign announcement Thursday night during a primetime interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson.” He said his team will file paperwork Friday.
Sessions addressed his relationship with Trump, which began to publicly deteriorate after he recused himself from overseeing a Department of Justice investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 election. The president has publicly blamed Sessions for the nearly two-year investigation that followed under the leadership of special counsel Robert Mueller.
Asked whether he regretted recusing himself, Sessions said he didn’t and was only “doing what [he] had to do under the rules of the Department of Justice.” In an ad that aired for the first time Thursday, Sessions said he still supports Trump’s agenda and believes he’s doing a good job for America and Alabama.
“When I left president Trump’s cabinet, did I write a tell-all book? No. Did I go on CNN and attack the president? No. Have I said a cross word about our president? Not one time,” Sessions says in the ad.
Sessions also told Carlson he supports President Trump’s agenda, with emphasis on his immigration and trade policies as well as his push to get American soldiers out of what he called “endless wars.” He also noted that he’s supported similar positions long before Trump announced his campaign in 2015.
Sessions said he hopes the president will consider the work he’s done over the past 20 years.
He seemed to acknowledge that getting his seat back wouldn’t be a given, but also said he believes he has more to contribute in the Senate.
“It’s not ‘my’ seat in the Senate, but I believe I have something to give. I have some convictions that I think need to be pushed,” Sessions said. “We need to get some of the Republicans moving. They haven’t been pushing hard enough to advance the Trump agenda, and so that’s what I look forward to doing.”
One thing that does bode well for Sessions is that he still has quite the war chest left over from previous races — about $2.5 million coming out of the gate, according to campaign filings. That puts him on the same playing field as some of the most prolific fundraisers in the crowded Republican primary.
With the announcement, Sessions joins a race that includes U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, State Rep. Arnold Mooney and former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, among others.
Trump enjoys as much support in Alabama as anywhere in the country, and political observers believe a lot of Sessions’ political fate will hinge on how the president responds to his entry into the contest. As of 8: 30 p.m., Trump had yet to weigh in on Twitter.
Up until this point in the race, Tuberville has had the advantage in the polls running as a political outsider. He was also one of the first candidates to take a public shot at Sessions as rumors of a run began to heat up this week. However, other primary candidates were quick to follow suit.
“Jeff Sessions entrance into this race is not a surprise. He’s been out of the swamp for less than two years, and now he’s itching to go back,” Tuberville posted on Twitter Wednesday. “He’s another career politician that the voters of Alabama will reject. As AG, he failed the president at his point of greatest need.”
U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne has also targeted Sessions in soundbites and radio interviews recently while playing up his loyalty to Trump. Before it became clear Sessions would enter the Senate race, Byrne had been more subdued in his criticism. Both men live in coastal Alabama when they’re not in Washington and have known each other for more than four decades.
Following Sessions nomination for AG, Byrne released a lengthy statement praising him as “the perfect pick,” but Byrne’s tone seems to have changed. He told the Associated Press Wednesday “Alabama deserves a senator who will stand with the president and won’t run away and hide from the fight.”
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