Sessions expected to announce plans to run for Senate

Former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump attends football game with Jeff Sessions' Alabama Senate race opponent Bradley Byrne Impeachment tests Barr-Trump relationship Tide, Tigers and Trump: President hopes for home-field advantage in Alabama MORE is expected to announce plans to run for his former Senate seat on Thursday, multiple sources told The Hill.

A source familiar with Sessions’s plans said that the former Alabama senator “will come out forcefully in support of [President] Trump’s agenda while denouncing Democrats’ impeachment efforts. And steps have already begun to hire campaign staff.”

Three sources familiar with the plans said the announcement would be made Thursday, with multiple sources saying it would be made during an appearance on Fox News on Thursday evening.

The deadline to file for the Senate race is Friday.

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Sessions has hired OnMessage as his consulting firm for the campaign, according to two sources. OnMessage did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rick Dearborn, a former top aide to Sessions, declined to comment on whether his former boss would announce a bid in the coming days.

Jumping into the Alabama race would put a national focus on Sessions’s rocky relationship with Trump.

Sessions held the Senate seat from 1997 until 2017, when he was tapped to serve as Trump’s first attorney general. But he quickly fell out of favor with the president after recusing himself from oversight of the Russia probe, eventually leaving the administration in November 2018, a day after the midterm elections, at Trump’s request.

Despite his turbulent relationship with Trump, Sessions has remained popular in Alabama, a state Trump won with 62 percent of the vote in 2016.

Sessions would be joining a crowded primary field that includes 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 (R-Ala.), former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, businessman Stanley Adair, state Rep. Arnold Mooney and 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, the 2017 GOP nominee who lost to Sen. Doug Jones (D) in the special election to fill Sessions’s former seat.

The primary is slated for March 3.

Some Republicans, including his potential opponents, are not keen on Sessions launching a bid to return to the Senate.

“I think it would be a mistake for him and really bad for the state given the president’s extreme displeasure with him. Alabama is very pro-Trump,” Byrne told The Hill on Tuesday. 

Sessions also does not have the blessing of key Republicans. Since kicking the tires on a potential run, Sessions has yet to speak with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Progressive veterans group launches campaign labeling Trump as a 'national security threat' GOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week MORE (R-Ky.) or Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungFormer AG Sessions enters Alabama Senate race Sessions expected to announce plans to run for Senate Paul blocks vote on House-passed Syria resolution for second time MORE (R-Ind.), the chairman of the Senate GOP campaign arm, according to a Senate Republican operative.

Sessions also has not spoken to Trump or Vice President Pence directly, although the White House has communicated to Sessions's inner circle that they would view his candidacy “extremely unfavorably,” according to the GOP operative.

“The one thing you want in 2020 is to ensure that the Alabama race is not a national news story. If it’s a no-drama affair, the outcome isn’t in doubt. Three or four candidates that can win by double digits over Jones,” the operative said, adding that Republicans are comfortable with either Byrne or Tuberville running in a general election.

“Sessions is the favorite in the primary. If Trump decides to embark upon a tweetstorm, it changes everything,” the operative added.

One GOP operative in Alabama cautioned that while a Sessions candidacy is likely, it’s not certain.

"I can’t overemphasize this with Sessions ... it isn’t final until he announces it. That’s just how he is," the operative said. 

The wait on Sessions has kept some GOP donors on the sidelines. Dan Eberhart, a prominent Republican donor, said that he is waiting — along with many others — on Sessions to make his move before committing to anyone in the primary contest.

Sessions would have about $2.5 million cash on hand as a Senate candidate, according to campaign finance reports.

Updated at 6:35 p.m.