Jeff Sessions set to make defiant return to politics despite lacking key GOP support

Sessions and Trump

Jeff Sessions, the former Attorney General, is planning to announce a run for his former Senate seat on Thursday, according to several sources. 

One source familiar with Sessions’s plans indicated that the former Alabama senator “will come out forcefully in support of [President] Trump’s agenda while denouncing Democrats’ impeachment efforts. And steps have already begun to hire campaign staff.”

Three other sources familiar with the plans said the announcement would be made Thursday, likely during an appearance on Fox News on Thursday evening.

The deadline to file for the Senate race is Friday.

Sessions has already hired OnMessage as his consulting firm for the campaign, according to two sources. OnMessage has not responded to a request for comment.

A former top aide to Sessions, Rick Dearbon, declined to comment on whether his former boss would announce a bid in the coming days.

Entering into the Alabama race would put a spotlight on Session’s tumultuous relationship with President Trump.

The Former Attorney General held the Senate seat from 1997 until 2017, when he was asked to serve as Trump’s first attorney general. But Sessions soon fell out of favor with the president after recusing himself from oversight of the Russia investigation. This eventually led to his leaving the administration in November 2018, a day after the midterm elections, at Trump’s request.

Despite his rocky relationship with Trump, Sessions has remained popular in Alabama, a state Trump won with 62 percent of the vote in 2016.

Sessions would be a part of a crowded primary field that includes Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, businessman Stanley Adair, state Rep. Arnold Mooney and Roy Moore, the 2017 GOP nominee who lost to Sen. Doug Jones (D) in the special election to fill Sessions’s former seat.

The primary is slated for March 3.

Some Republicans are not happy about Sessions launching a bid to return to the Senate.

“I think it would be a mistake for him and really bad for the state given the president’s extreme displeasure with him. Alabama is very pro-Trump,” Byrne said on Tuesday.

Sessions also does not have the blessing of key Republicans. He has yet to speak with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) or Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), the chairman of the Senate GOP campaign arm. And Sessions also has not spoken to Trump or Vice President Pence directly. The White House has communicated to Session’s inner circle that they would view his candidacy “extremely unfavorably,” according to the GOP operative.

“The one thing you want in 2020 is to ensure that the Alabama race is not a national news story. If it’s a no-drama affair, the outcome isn’t in doubt. Three or four candidates that can win by double digits over Jones,” the operative said.

“Sessions is the favorite in the primary. If Trump decides to embark upon a tweetstorm, it changes everything,” the operative added.

Sessions would have about $2.5 million cash on hand as a Senate candidate, according to campaign finance reports.

Written by Rich Stevenson

Credit: The Hill