Jeff Sessions calling Alabama lawmakers about 2020 Senate bid

Jeff Sessions calling Alabama lawmakers about 2020 Senate bid
© Greg Nash

Former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsBorder state governors rebel against Biden's immigration chaos Garland strikes down Trump-era asylum decisions The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from the Biden-Putin summit MORE has been making calls to his former colleagues in the Alabama congressional delegation to discuss a Senate run, the strongest indication yet that he could join the GOP primary race for the Senate seat he held for 20 years, multiple sources told The Hill.

Sessions, who served in the Senate from 1997 to 2017 before President TrumpDonald TrumpNorth Carolina Senate passes trio of election measures 14 Republicans vote against making Juneteenth a federal holiday Border state governors rebel against Biden's immigration chaos MORE tapped him to be his first attorney general, recently spoke on the phone with conservative Rep. Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson Brooks14 Republicans vote against making Juneteenth a federal holiday Mo Brooks accuses Swalwell attorney who served papers on his wife of trespassing Shelby backs ex-aide over Trump-favored candidate in Alabama Senate race MORE (R-Ala.) to get his reaction to a potential Senate bid. Brooks has already endorsed GOP state Rep. Arnold Mooney in the primary race.

Sessions also called Rep. Bradley ByrneBradley Roberts ByrneTrump's Slovenia Ambassador Lynda Blanchard jumps into Alabama Senate race Mo Brooks expresses interest in running for Shelby's Senate seat Ex-Rep. Mike Conaway, former aide launch lobbying firm MORE (R-Ala.) last week, Byrne confirmed to The Hill. Byrne, who is among the six Republicans running in the Senate primary, declined to discuss the nature of the short phone call or get into any specifics.


He insisted he would not drop out of the Senate race if Sessions decides to join it.

“Jeff and I talked last week,” Byrne, who has known Sessions since 1980, told The Hill on Tuesday. "I won’t reveal the details of that conversation, but I am not leaving the race. I have qualified, and I am in it to the end no matter who is in or out.”

The other Republicans in the Senate race are former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, businessman Stanley Adair and Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreShelby backs ex-aide over Trump-favored candidate in Alabama Senate race Of inmates and asylums: Today's House Republicans make the John Birchers look quaint The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings MORE, the former state Supreme Court chief justice who was defeated by Democrat Doug Jones in the 2017 special election amid sexual assault allegations against Moore. 

Rick Dearborn, a former chief of staff to Sessions, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Politico reported on Monday that Sessions was considering a bid for his old Senate seat.

In an interview in the Capitol, Brooks made clear that he would not abandon Mooney. 

“I feel that he is solid on the main issues that are important, and I’m going to stick with him,” Brooks told The Hill.

And when asked whether Sessions directly asked him to reconsider his endorsement, Brooks replied, “I will say that Jeff called me to discuss and ask my thoughts on whether he should run.”

Republicans are eyeing the Senate seat in deep-red Alabama as one they could flip in 2020. In 2017, Jones, a Democratic former federal prosecutor, upset the Republican nominee, Moore, who had been facing multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, including claims of sexually abusing underage teen girls. Moore has denied wrongdoing.

Sessions, 72, would be a formidable Senate candidate.

He has tremendous name ID. He still has $2.5 million in his campaign coffers, not to mention an unmatched fundraising network in the Yellowhammer State. Some GOP strategists in Alabama suggested that if Sessions runs, Byrne donors and supporters could switch their allegiances.

“Byrne’s people are all Sessions’s people. And Sessions’s base of support is in Mobile, which is also Byrne’s base of support,” the strategist said. “This would hurt Bradley the most.”

But Sessions would have to contend with his complicated relationship with Trump. He resigned as attorney general last November after months of criticism by Trump over his decision to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. That probe cast a cloud over the Trump administration for nearly two years. 

According to a copy of his resignation letter, Sessions agreed to resign at Trump’s request

“I came to work at the Department of Justice every day determined to do my duty and serve my country,” Sessions wrote. “I have done so to the best of my ability, working to support the fundamental legal processes that are the foundation of justice.”

Trump, who made the announcement over Twitter at the time, has continued to publicly berate his former attorney general, whom he replaced with William BarrBill BarrSenate Judiciary Democrats demand DOJ turn over Trump obstruction memo Garland strikes down Trump-era asylum decisions What's happened to Merrick Garland? MORE.

“You look at what’s happening over at the Justice Department, now we have a great attorney general. Whereas before that, with Jeff Sessions, it was a disaster. Just a total disaster. He was an embarrassment to the great state of Alabama,” Trump told former adviser Sebastian Gorka in an interview published in The Daily Caller earlier this month.

Trump also went so far as to say he wished Sessions, one of his earliest supporters in the Senate, had “never endorsed” him during his presidential bid in 2016.

“And I put him there because he endorsed me, and he wanted it so badly. And I wish he’d never endorsed me,” he continued.

The remarks came after Sessions, during a Republican fundraiser in Alabama, said that he still supports Trump, according to Alabama.com

He also faced criticism from other candidates in the race, who described Sessions as failing Trump.

“I’m not a politician. I want to go be a voice for the people of Alabama. And a vote for me is a vote for President Trump," Tuberville told Yellow Hammer News. "I don’t know if Mr. Sessions wants to get in. He had a chance to help President Trump, and he failed him once. We don’t need him to fail him again."

A GOP source told The Hill that before Republicans stormed the SCIF, the president met with members of the House Freedom Caucus, where he seemed really engaged on Alabama Senate election. There was no discussion of Sessions, according to the source, who said the conservative members told the president they believed Byrne has a good chance of winning the race.

Sessions is facing a tight deadline: Candidates have until Nov. 8 to qualify for the ballot.