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 TrumpCDC updates website to remove dosage guidance on drug touted by Trump Trump says he'd like economy to reopen 'with a big bang' but acknowledges it may be limited Graham backs Trump, vows no money for WHO in next funding bill 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 Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Guidance on masks is coming The Hill's Campaign Report: Coronavirus forces Democrats to postpone convention Roy Moore to advise Louisiana pastor arrested for allegedly defying ban on large gatherings 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 MooreRoy Moore to advise Louisiana pastor arrested for allegedly defying ban on large gatherings Trump endorses Tuberville over Sessions in Alabama Senate runoff Sessions to face Tuberville in Alabama GOP Senate runoff 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 RogersFreshman Dem finds voice in fight against online extremism Lawmakers criticize Trump's slashed budget for key federal cyber agency GOP lobbyist tapped for White House legislative affairs MORE (R-Ala.) and Gary PalmerGary James PalmerTop GOP post on Oversight draws stiff competition Trump takes pulse of GOP on Alabama Senate race GOP protest overshadows impeachment hearing 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 ByrneSessions to face Tuberville in Alabama GOP Senate runoff This week: House eyes vote on emergency coronavirus funding The 14 other key races to watch on Super Tuesday MORE.

“Bradley Byrne,” Rogers replied, with about 400 lawmakers, donors and strategists looking on at the fundraiser for House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyLawmakers outline proposals for virtual voting Phase-four virus relief hits a wall House GOP leaders back effort to boost small-business loans 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 BrooksRepublican group asks 'what is Trump hiding' in Times Square billboard Conservative group hits White House with billboard ads: 'What is Trump hiding?' Trump takes pulse of GOP on Alabama Senate race 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.