Trump takes pulse of GOP on Alabama Senate race

Trump takes pulse of GOP on Alabama Senate race
© UPI Photo

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran 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 SessionsThe 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence FBI officials hid copies of Russia probe documents fearing Trump interference: book Tuberville breaks DC self-quarantine policy to campaign 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 MooreSessions hits back at Trump days ahead of Alabama Senate runoff Judge allows Roy Moore lawsuit over Sacha Baron Cohen prank to proceed Senate outlook slides for GOP MORE in a 2017 special election in the ruby-red state as Moore faced multiple sexual misconduct allegations.

ADVERTISEMENT

“How’s it going in Alabama?” Trump asked Tuesday when introducing Reps. Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersHillicon Valley: Tech CEOs brace for House grilling | Senate GOP faces backlash over election funds | Twitter limits Trump Jr.'s account The Hill's Coronavirus Report: INOVIO R&D Chief Kate Broderick 'completely confident' world will develop a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine; GOP boxed in on virus negotiations The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Barr's showdown with House Democrats MORE (R-Ala.) and Gary PalmerGary James PalmerComer tapped to serve as top Republican on House Oversight Top GOP post on Oversight draws stiff competition Trump takes pulse of GOP on Alabama Senate race 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 ByrneJerry Carl wins GOP Alabama runoff to replace Rep. Bradley Byrne Jeff Sessions loses comeback bid in Alabama runoff Sessions fights for political life in Alabama runoff MORE.

“Bradley Byrne,” Rogers replied, with about 400 lawmakers, donors and strategists looking on at the fundraiser for House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthySunday shows preview: White House, congressional Democrats unable to breach stalemate over coronavirus relief A trillion stimulus, but Kevin McCarthy for renewable energy — leading businesses want to change that When will telling the truth in politics matter again? 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 BrooksGOP congressman says person responsible for deleted Perdue campaign ad should be 'outed', 'fired' House passes bill establishing commission to study racial disparities affecting Black men, boys Overnight Defense: Army launches command probe after slaying at Fort Hood | 'MAGA' listed as 'covert white supremacy' in military handout 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) 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 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.