Sessions, a former Alabama senator seeking to reclaim his seat, was opposed by the same man who'd made him attorney general: Donald Trump

By Sean Neumann
July 16, 2020 11:09 AM
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Jeff Sessions
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 9: Attorney General Jeff Sessions listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a swearing in ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday, Feb. 08, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions will not have the chance to reclaim his Senate seat in November after decisively losing Alabama's run-off primary election on Tuesday.

Sessions, a longtime Republican senator and devotee-turned-enemy of President Donald Trump, conceded the race Tuesday night to former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, who was backed by Trump.

"I want to congratulate Tommy Tuberville on his victory tonight," Sessions, 73, tweeted. "He is our Republican nominee. We must all stand behind him in November."

Speaking with reporters on Tuesday night, Sessions "fought back tears," The New York Times reported.

Despite how their relationship had deteriorated — to the point that his former boss supported a challenger instead of him —Sessions told reporters he has "no regrets" about his relationship with President Trump, according to the Associated Press.

Trump celebrated Tuesday night tweeting that Tuberville "WON big" over Sessions, who lost the primary run-off to the former football coach by roughly 118,000 votes, or some 20 points, according to the Times.

Tuberville, 65, will now run against incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in November.

Jones, 66, filled Sessions' former seat in 2018 and became the state's first Democratic senator in 25 years — narrowly defeating scandal-plagued former judge Roy Moore.

President Donald Trump puts his hand on the shoulder of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions before he was sworn into the post on Feb. 9, 2017, at the White House.
Win McNamee/Getty

While Sessions had been vying to reclaim his old seat in the Senate, he also faced attacks from Trump throughout the campaign.

Trump soured on Sessions during his tenure at the White House, after the former attorney general recused himself from the Russia investigation in 2017. While Sessions was still serving as attorney general, Trump slammed him as "DISGRACEFUL" and "VERY weak."

Trump endorsed Tuberville in March, tweeting that he was a "terrific head football coach" and would make a "great senator."

At the same time, Trump has continued to openly criticize Sessions.

The president tweeted in late May that Sessions "ran for the hills" by recusing himself from the Russia probe. Sessions said he recused himself from the investigation at the time because of his active role in the president's 2016 campaign, arguing in May that his prior recusal was "required by law."

"I did my duty & you're damn fortunate I did," Sessions tweeted in response to Trump's social media attacks in May. "It protected the rule of law & resulted in your exoneration."

Jeff Sessions
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivers remarks at a summit on crime reduction and public safety in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S., June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas - RTS17VJ0

Sessions was a senator from Alabama for roughly 20 years, from 1997 until he was tapped to join the Trump administration at the beginning of Trump's presidency.

Sessions was one of the most high-profile early endorsements Trump received from the Republican establishment, which initially viewed his candidacy with suspicion, scorn or mockery.

While he and Trump traded words during the primary, Sessions continued to align himself with the president and his conservative policies — a reflection, perhaps, of how important Trump's favor might be to his election chances.

Sessions appeared to compliment Trump during an interview with the Times in late June, saying the president is a "doer" and that he's stood up for Christians.

"[Christians in the U.S.] felt they were under attack, and the strong guy promised to defend them," Sessions said then. "And he has.”

The Times also reported that Sessions' campaign reportedly sent out mailers to prospective voters in April, mentioning Trump by name 22 times.

But Trump's 2020 re-election campaign bit back, sending a letter to Sessions' candidate demanding he stop portraying the two as close.

The Trump campaign's letter, obtained by the Times, said Sessions' attempts to appear close to Trump were "delusional."

“We only assume your campaign is doing this to confuse President Trump’s loyal supporters in Alabama into believing the president supports your candidacy in the upcoming primary runoff election," the Trump campaign wrote to Sessions. "Nothing could be further from the truth."

Despite all that, Sessions said Tuesday night he was "extraordinarily proud of the accomplishments we had as attorney general" and said that "it’s time for this Republican Party to listen to the Donald Trump agenda."