Trump criticizes Sessions after Alabama Senate primary heads to a runoff

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation Stocks open mixed ahead of Trump briefing on China The island that can save America MORE criticized Republican Alabama Senate candidate Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Memo: Trump tweets cross into new territory Sessions goes after Tuberville's coaching record in challenging him to debate The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip MORE early Wednesday, asserting that his former attorney general didn’t win the state's GOP primary outright because of what Trump described as Sessions's lack of “wisdom or courage” in his handling of the Russia investigation.

“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,” Trump tweeted, just hours after news broke that Tuesday’s Senate primary in Alabama would advance to a runoff between Sessions and former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville.

“Recuses himself on FIRST DAY in office, and the Mueller Scam begins!” Trump added.

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Trump’s critical tweet about Sessions suggests the president may seek to boost Tuberville in the runoff election. Trump has thus far stayed out of the race, though a source familiar with the situation told The Hill last month that Trump could support Sessions’s opponent if the race advanced to a runoff. Still, Wednesday's tweet did not contain an explicit endorsement of Tuberville.

Trump repeatedly and publicly eviscerated Sessions for his decision to recuse himself from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s investigation into Russian interference during his tenure as attorney general.

Sessions, who was the first senator to endorse Trump's White House bid and served as a surrogate on his 2016 campaign, recused himself from any investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election in March 2017, after coming under scrutiny for his contacts with the Russian ambassador while a senator.

Sessions resigned at Trump’s request the day after the 2018 midterm elections, capping a tumultuous stint atop the Justice Department. William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrFormer prosecutors outraged at decision to dismiss the Flynn case should focus on the real problems The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation More than two dozen former prosecutors, judges, active trial lawyers support DOJ decision to dismiss Michael Flynn case MORE has since replaced him.

Sessions was a veteran of the Senate before joining the Trump administration, having held an Alabama seat for 20 years.

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He announced his Alabama Senate campaign last November and, like the other candidates in the race, has embraced Trump's agenda and worked to convince voters that he supports the president, who remains very popular among Republican voters.

Sessions and Tuberville were running neck and neck after polls closed Tuesday night — Sessions held 31.6 percent of the vote and Tuberville 33.4 percent with 99 percent of precincts reporting.

Both candidates will compete for the Republican nomination in the March 31 runoff, and the winner will face Sen. Doug Jones in the November election. Jones is considered the most vulnerable Democratic senators facing reelection in 2020.