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 SessionsLisa Page sues DOJ, FBI over alleged privacy violations Sessions leads GOP Senate primary field in Alabama, internal poll shows Trump rebukes FBI chief Wray over inspector general's Russia inquiry 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 John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE tapped him to be his first attorney general, recently spoke on the phone with conservative Rep. Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksConservative group hits White House with billboard ads: 'What is Trump hiding?' Trump takes pulse of GOP on Alabama Senate race The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Dems unveil impeachment measure; Vindman splits GOP 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 ByrneSessions leads GOP Senate primary field in Alabama, internal poll shows Israeli, Palestinian business leaders seek Trump boost for investment project Sessions vows to 'work for' Trump endorsement 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.

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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 MooreThe job no GOP senator wants: 'I'd rather have a root canal' Former AG Sessions enters Alabama Senate race Campaign ad casts Sessions as a 'traitor' ahead of expected Senate run 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 BarrWilliam Pelham BarrJudge rejects DOJ effort to delay House lawsuit against Barr, Ross Holder rips into William Barr: 'He is unfit to lead the Justice Department' Five takeaways on Horowitz's testimony on Capitol Hill 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.