Politics

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to run for his old Senate seat in Alabama despite Trump criticism

Key Points
  • Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to run for his old Senate seat in Alabama, joining a jammed field in one of 2020's most important races.
  • The 72-year-old is expected to launch his campaign Thursday, two sources familiar with the matter told CNBC.
  • Sessions enters just before the Friday deadline to become a primary candidate.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Washington, June 13, 2018.
Jim Bourg | Reuters

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to run for his old Senate seat in Alabama, joining a jammed field in one of 2020's most important races.

The 72-year-old is expected to launch his campaign Thursday, two sources familiar with the matter told CNBC.

Sessions, who served more than three terms in the Senate before leaving to become President Donald Trump's top law enforcement official in 2017, will enter a political landscape vastly different from the one he left. Trump eviscerated Sessions before he left the Justice Department in 2018, arguing he failed to protect the president when he recused himself from the investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.

In a state where just under 60% of voters approve of Trump, according to Morning Consult, the president's distaste could make it tough for Sessions to reclaim his seat.

Sessions enters just before the Friday deadline to become a primary candidate. He joins a crowded field of GOP hopefuls who aim to take on Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat who is perhaps the most endangered senator up for reelection next year.

Former college football coach Tommy Tuberville, Republican U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore are already running for Senate.

Moore won the Republican nomination for the 2017 special election to fill Sessions' seat. He lost to Jones amid allegations that he sexually abused teenagers decades ago when he was in his 30s. (Moore has denied the accusations).

"Jeff Sessions is one of the reasons I decided to get off the sidelines and into the race for Senate. I'm not surprised at all that he's running again," Tuberville said in a statement. "He's been out of the swamp for less than two years and now he's itching to go back. Folks in Alabama know that if we're going to help President Trump change this country then we've got to stop recycling the same old politicians. As attorney general, Jeff Sessions had his chance to have President Trump's back and take on the establishment politicians and he failed. I will bring a new voice for Alabama to the Senate and I will always have President Trump's back."

Byrne also released a statement, saying: "From the Mueller investigation to this impeachment sham, President Trump has been under constant attack. I won't sit back and watch them destroy our country. Alabama deserves a Senator who will stand with the President and won't run away and hide from the fight."

Republicans and Democrats will fight next year for control of the Senate — and the legislation the next president can pass. The GOP currently holds a 53-47 edge in the chamber.

With Democrats threatening to flip a few Republican-held seats in 2020, Alabama offers the GOP its best chance to nab one from its opposing party.

Trump repeatedly criticized Sessions as special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation closed in around his associates last year.

Sessions' recusal from the probe in part led to Mueller's appointment to lead it. "I don't have an attorney general," Trump told The Hill in Sept. 2018.

Sessions will have to play catch up in the Alabama fundraising race. Jones raised about $2 million in the third quarter.

Byrne and Tuberville took in the most money on the Republican side during the same period. The congressman and former football coach raised $381,000 and $373,000 during the period, respectively.

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