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Trump criticizes Sessions after Alabama Senate primary heads to a runoff

President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden prepares to confront Putin Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting Senate investigation of insurrection falls short MORE criticized Republican Alabama Senate candidate Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsMedia leaders to meet with Garland to discuss leak investigations Trump DOJ subpoenaed Apple for records of White House lawyer: report Pelosi: Trump DOJ seizure of House Democrats' data ' goes even beyond Richard Nixon' 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) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel 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 BarrBill BarrMedia leaders to meet with Garland to discuss leak investigations Trump DOJ subpoenaed Apple for records of White House lawyer: report Pelosi: Trump DOJ seizure of House Democrats' data ' goes even beyond Richard Nixon' 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.