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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 TrumpHead of firms that pushed 'Italygate' theory falsely claimed VA mansion was her home: report Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting VA moving to cover gender affirmation surgery through department health care 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 - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Border state governors rebel against Biden's immigration chaos Garland strikes down Trump-era asylum decisions 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 backs ex-aide over Trump-favored candidate in Alabama Senate race Of inmates and asylums: Today's House Republicans make the John Birchers look quaint The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings 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 Rogers14 Republicans vote against making Juneteenth a federal holiday 'Havana Syndrome' and other escalations mark a sinister turn in the spy game Understanding Russia and ourselves before the summit MORE (R-Ala.) and Gary PalmerGary James PalmerMo Brooks launches Senate bid in Alabama Former Trump officials eye bids for political office The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - Senate trial will have drama, but no surprise ending 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 McCarthyGOP increasingly balks at calling Jan. 6 an insurrection House Democrats' campaign arm raises almost million in May Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision 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 Brooks14 Republicans vote against making Juneteenth a federal holiday Mo Brooks accuses Swalwell attorney who served papers on his wife of trespassing Shelby backs ex-aide over Trump-favored candidate in 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) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel 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.