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 ShelbyTrump signs first 'minibus' spending package for 2019 Congress reaches deal to fund government through Dec. 7, preventing shutdown Senate approves first 2019 spending package MORE (R-Ala.) on Tuesday defended Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDem warns Trump: 'Obstruction of justice' to fire Rosenstein Donald Trump’s Rosenstein dilemma White House proposes executive order to Trump that would examine tech companies’ practices MORE and the South amid reporting in Bob Woodward's forthcoming book that President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her 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.