Trump takes pulse of GOP on Alabama Senate race

Trump takes pulse of GOP on Alabama Senate race
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes 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 SessionsSanford: 'It carries real weight' to speak against Trump 'while in office' Medill dean 'deeply troubled by the vicious bullying and badgering' of student journalists Trump has considered firing official who reported whistleblower complaint to Congress: report 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 MooreFormer AG Sessions enters Alabama Senate race Campaign ad casts Sessions as a 'traitor' ahead of expected Senate run Doug Jones on potential challenge from Sessions: Alabama GOP primary will be 'really divisive' 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 RogersThe Hill's Campaign Report: Red-state governors races pose test for Trump Trump takes pulse of GOP on Alabama Senate race Overnight Defense: House approves Turkey sanctions in rebuke of Trump | Trump attacks on Army officer testifying spark backlash | Dems want answers from Esper over Ukraine aid MORE (R-Ala.) and Gary PalmerGary James PalmerTrump takes pulse of GOP on Alabama Senate race GOP protest overshadows impeachment hearing Republicans storm closed-door hearing to protest impeachment inquiry 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 attends football game with Jeff Sessions' Alabama Senate race opponent Bradley Byrne The Hill's Campaign Report: Bloomberg looks to upend Democratic race Trump: 'We'll have to see' on endorsing Sessions's Senate bid MORE.

“Bradley Byrne,” Rogers replied, with about 400 lawmakers, donors and strategists looking on at the fundraiser for House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHouse Republicans call impeachment hearing 'boring,' dismiss Taylor testimony as hearsay The Hill's Morning Report - Diplomats kick off public evidence about Trump, Ukraine House Republicans prepare for public impeachment proceedings with mock hearing 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 BrooksTrump 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 Jeff Sessions calling Alabama lawmakers about 2020 Senate bid 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) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' 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.