Sessions expected to announce plans to run for Senate

Former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsLawmaker wants Chinese news outlet to register as foreign agent Trump-aligned group launches ad campaign hitting Doug Jones on impeachment ICE subpoenas Denver law enforcement: report 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 ByrneGOP lawmaker offers resolution to censure Pelosi for holding articles of impeachment GOP rep releases campaign ad ripping Kaepernick, 'The Squad' GOP rep rails against Democrats for rejecting Republican impeachment amendment 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 MooreThe 5 most vulnerable senators in 2020 The biggest political upsets of the decade GOP predicts bipartisan acquittal at Trump impeachment trial 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 McConnellCNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment Impeachment throws curveball in Iowa to sidelined senators MORE (R-Ky.) or Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungRestlessness, light rule-breaking and milk spotted on Senate floor as impeachment trial rolls on Impeachment trial forces senators to scrap fundraisers Iran resolution supporters fear impeachment will put it on back burner 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.