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Trump advised to lay off criticizing Sessions — but he slams him anyway

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President Donald Trump renewed his attacks on his former attorney general Jeff Sessions after his bid to reclaim his Senate seat in Alabama was sent into overtime Tuesday night. After closely trailing former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville in the Republican primary, Sessions and Tuberville will now face each other in a runoff at the end of the month.

Trump tweeted Wednesday morning: “This is what happens to someone who loyally gets appointed Attorney General of the United States & then doesn’t have the wisdom or courage to stare down & end the phony Russia Witch Hunt. Recuses himself on FIRST DAY in office, and the Mueller Scam begins!”

The tweet marked the first time the President weighed in on the race in a significant way since Sessions announced he was running last fall.

Neither the Sessions nor Tuberville campaigns responded to a CNN request for comment. But Tuberville tweeted: “Mr. President, I could not agree more, and in 27 days help will be on the way!”

For months, people close to the President, including Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, urged him not to get involved, reasoning that there was a good chance Sessions could return to the Senate and faithfully execute the President’s agenda. But those appeals did not break through with Trump, who has never been able to forgive Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation and continued to bring up the race privately in recent days.

Though Trump claimed Sessions recused himself on his first day in office, Sessions announced he was recusing himself in March 2017, about three weeks after he was sworn in as attorney general. He said he was acting on guidance from Justice Department attorneys after it surfaced that he had failed to report encounters with the Russian ambassador. The move forever altered his once chummy relationship with the President, who eventually forced him out of the job in November 2018 and later said naming him attorney general was his biggest mistake as President.

The Senate race in Alabama quickly devolved into a Trump loyalty test where Sessions was repeatedly forced to defend their troubled relationship. Tuberville ran an ad saying Sessions “deserted President Trump.” And Rep. Bradley Byrne, who trailed both Tuberville and Sessions Tuesday night, ran another that said Sessions “let the President down and got fired.” During remarks at his watch party in Mobile Tuesday night, Sessions praised Trump and knocked Tuberville for not donating to Trump.

Though Sessions’ allies were once confident about his chances if the President stayed out of the race, they saw warning signs Tuesday night. Sessions, who spent two decades in the Senate before becoming attorney general, ran as if he was the incumbent in the race, yet only remained within striking distance of Tuberville, seen as an outsider, all night. The two now have a four-week sprint before the runoff on March 31.

The President has weighed in unsuccessfully on Alabama Senate races before.

He threw his support behind Luther Strange, the Republican who was appointed to fill Sessions’s vacated Senate seat, during the race in 2017, then erupted at aides for encouraging him to endorse Strange after he lost the primary runoff to former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Trump then endorsed Moore, despite accusations the Senate candidate had improper relationships with teenaged girls in the past.

Moore lost the race narrowly to Democrat Doug Jones, who is one of the most vulnerable senators up for reelection this fall.

Article Topic Follows: Politics

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