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Trump takes pulse of GOP on Alabama Senate race

Trump takes pulse of GOP on Alabama Senate race
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President TrumpDonald TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 MORE has taken a keen interest in the Alabama Senate GOP primary, raising the issue at the White House last week and during a fundraiser Tuesday night as his former attorney general, Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsManchin flexes muscle in 50-50 Senate Udalls: Haaland criticism motivated 'by something other than her record' Ocasio-Cortez targets Manchin over Haaland confirmation MORE, contemplates joining the crowded race.

Trump and Republicans see the Alabama Senate seat as a top pickup opportunity in their effort to keep control of the upper chamber in 2020. Freshman Democratic Sen. Doug Jones upset Republican nominee Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreShelby won't run for reelection The Seventeenth Amendment and the censure of Donald Trump Doug Jones joining CNN as political commentator MORE in a 2017 special election in the ruby-red state as Moore faced multiple sexual misconduct allegations.

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“How’s it going in Alabama?” Trump asked Tuesday when introducing Reps. Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersBiden seeks to walk fine line with Syria strike Overnight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Overnight Defense: One-third of service members decline coronavirus vaccine | Biden to take executive action in response to Solar Winds hack | US, Japan reach cost sharing agreement MORE (R-Ala.) and Gary PalmerGary James PalmerFormer Trump officials eye bids for political office The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - Senate trial will have drama, but no surprise ending Shelby's retirement tees off GOP scramble for Alabama Senate seat MORE (R-Ala.) during a House Republican fundraiser at the Trump hotel in Washington, according to lawmakers in the room.

The president also mentioned the possibility that Sessions could run for his old Senate seat, though he didn't attack the former attorney general, sources said.

At the fundraiser, Palmer — a member of GOP leadership who flirted with a Senate run — proceeded to walk Trump through the landscape of the race and how Republicans are in solid position to take back the seat.

Trump then asked the lawmakers who would win the six-way GOP contest between Moore, state Rep. Arnold Mooney, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, businessman Stanley Adair and 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.

“Bradley Byrne,” Rogers replied, with about 400 lawmakers, donors and strategists looking on at the fundraiser for House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyMcCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' Sunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues MORE’s (Calif.) joint fundraising committee, called Take Back the House 2020.

One attendee who caught up with Trump later at Tuesday night's fundraiser said the president's remarks “showed Trump was really interested” in the Alabama Senate race.

Sessions, 72, has been flirting with the idea of jumping into the GOP primary for the Alabama Senate seat he held from 1997 to 2017. In recent days, Sessions has been calling associates and lawmakers, including Byrne and Rep. Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksDemocrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' Trump to reemerge on political scene at CPAC Former Trump officials eye bids for political office MORE (R-Ala.), about a possible Senate bid.

Byrne and others believe Trump would be furious if Sessions joined the race. Sessions resigned as attorney general last year after Trump berated him over his decision to recuse himself from overseeing Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE's now-concluded investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The probe cast a cloud over Trump's presidency for nearly two years.

"The president has been very clear about his extreme displeasure with Jeff Sessions,” Byrne, who did not attend Tuesday's fundraiser, told The Hill. ”For Jeff’s sake, and for the state of Alabama, I hope we don’t have to endure our very popular president at great public odds with Jeff.”

 
"Oh yeah, if he runs I will. He's always endorsed me. He's my friend," Shelby said Wednesday when asked if he would support Sessions.
 
The discussion at Tuesday night's fundraiser marked at least the second time in as many weeks that Trump had raised the Alabama Senate race with House GOP lawmakers.
 
The president huddled last week with members of the House Freedom Caucus, a meeting where he also appeared engaged in the Alabama Senate race. Sessions was not discussed then, according to a source, but Trump’s conservative allies told the president they believed Byrne has a good chance of winning the race.
 
Olivia Beavers and Jordain Carney contributed.
 
Updated at 2:45 p.m.