Ballot Box

Bannon encouraged Sessions to run for president before meeting Trump: report

White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon encouraged then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to run for president before the anti-establishment firebrand met Donald Trump, according to profile in The New York Times on Sunday.

Bannon insisted that Sessions would not win his presidential bid, the Times reported, but said even a failed campaign would create opportunities to push a nationalist agenda. Sessions and Bannon reportedly both believed immigration reduction and border security were among the top issues.

"Look, you're not going to win," Bannon recalls telling Sessions. "But you can get the Republican nomination. And once you control the apparatus, you can make fundamental changes. Trade is No. 100 on the party's list. You can make it number one. Immigration is number 10. We can make it number two."

Bannon, who similarly pushed former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to run for the Republican nomination, acknowledged that Sessions didn't have Palin's charisma.

"You'll be the anti-candidate," Bannon reportedly told Sessions, whom he once described as his "mentor," according to the newspaper.

Sessions dismissed the idea of himself running for president.

"It was pretty obvious by the end of the night that another candidate would have to do it," Bannon recalled to the Times.

Two months after meeting with Sessions, Bannon attended the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, where he first saw Trump, according to the report. 

Sessions, now Trump's attorney general, did not immediately throw his support behind the billionaire when he announced his candidacy in 2015, but he felt that Trump would be the best candidate to lead the immigration reform that Sessions and Bannon had previously talked about, the Times reported.