Sessions fires back at Trump over recusal: 'I did my duty & you're damn fortunate I did"

Former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence FBI officials hid copies of Russia probe documents fearing Trump interference: book Tuberville breaks DC self-quarantine policy to campaign MORE shot back at President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE over his decision to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s Russia investigation, offering a rare rebuke of a president he’s sought to tightly hug in his Alabama Senate campaign.

“Look, I know your anger, but recusal was required by law. I did my duty & you're damn fortunate I did. It protected the rule of law & resulted in your exoneration. Your personal feelings don't dictate who Alabama picks as their senator, the people of Alabama do,” Sessions tweeted late Friday night.

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The rare broadside came in response to a tweet from Trump telling Alabamians they should "not trust” Sessions because of his recusal. The president also touted his endorsement of former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, who is running against Sessions in the Senate race. 

Sessions, who held the Alabama Senate seat for 20 years before becoming attorney general, has been dogged by criticism from the president and his allies for his recusal, which Trump and other critics say led to the appointment of former special counsel 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.

Sessions has vocally defended his recusal, saying his activities with the Trump campaign necessitated he remove himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into the 2016 race and that his ongoing participation in the inquiry could have harmed the president. 

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“As the world knows, the President disagreed with me on recusal, but I did what the law required me to do. I was a central figure in the campaign and was also a subject of and witness in the investigation and could obviously not legally be involved in investigating myself,” he wrote in an open letter earlier this month. “If I had ignored and broken the law, the Democrats would have used that to severely damage the President.”

However, he’s taken pains to align himself with the White House’s agenda, noting he was the first senator to endorse Trump’s presidential bid in 2016, and rarely offers such strong words against his former boss.

“Tuberville's a coward who is rightly too afraid to debate me. He says you're wrong on China & trade. He wants to bring in even more foreign workers to take American jobs. That's not your agenda and it's not mine or Alabama's. I know Alabama. Tuberville doesn't,” Sessions tweeted in a follow up Friday. 

Still, the criticism of Sessions appears to have taken a toll on his Senate campaign, with some polls showing him trailing Tuberville. 

Sessions is running for the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, whose seat the GOP views as a top pickup opportunity in a Senate map that otherwise puts Republicans mostly on the defense. Either Sessions or Tuberville would likely enter the race as the favorite. Jones won his seat after his 2017 opponent, Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreSessions hits back at Trump days ahead of Alabama Senate runoff Judge allows Roy Moore lawsuit over Sacha Baron Cohen prank to proceed Senate outlook slides for GOP MORE, faced a string of accusations that he sexually and romantically pursued underage girls.

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, rates the race as “lean” Republican.