Alabama senator defends Sessions: Trump wouldn't be president without the South

Alabama senator defends Sessions: Trump wouldn't be president without the South
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Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyKey GOP senator: 'We need a breakthrough' on spending talks McConnell backs 'clean' stopgap spending bill through Dec. 20 This week: Round 2 of House impeachment inquiry hearings MORE (R-Ala.) on Tuesday defended Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPress: Ukraine's not the only outrage To understand death behind bars, we need more information White House backs Stephen Miller amid white nationalist allegations MORE and the South amid reporting in Bob Woodward's forthcoming book that President TrumpDonald John TrumpMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns Trump's doctor issues letter addressing 'speculation' about visit to Walter Reed MORE had demeaned both.

“I guess the president, he says what he thinks," Shelby told reporters at the Capitol.

"I think the president’s probably got a lot of respect for the South, I hope so," he added. "He did well there. Without the South he wouldn’t be the president of the United States.”

The first excerpts from Woodward's new book were published Tuesday morning, and featured a handful of examples of Trump bad-mouthing his closest aides. The president mocked Sessions’s accent, and reportedly described him to a staffer as “mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner.”

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“He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama,” Trump said, according to Woodward’s book.

Trump denied on Tuesday that he called Sessions "mentally retarded" or a "dumb southerner," tweeting that being a Southerner is a "GREAT thing."

Sessions has been a favorite punching bag for Trump, who has noted repeatedly that he would not have nominated the former Alabama senator for the job if he knew Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation.

Trump recently chastised his attorney general for bringing charges against two Republican congressmen, suggesting that the decision could endanger the GOP's chances in November's midterms.

In the face of growing criticism, Sessions issued a statement late last month that he would “not be improperly influenced” by political pressure.

Trump told Bloomberg in an interview on Thursday that Sessions will remain in his job at least until the November midterm elections. The president declined to comment when asked if he would keep his attorney general on beyond that.

Niv Elis contributed to this story.