Trump Campaign Cancels Alabama Event Weeks After Tulsa Mess & Aimed at Thwarting an Ex-Aide: Reports
According to CNN, the appearance had been intended to take place in the hometown of Trump's former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is running against Trump's pick for a Senate seat there
The Trump campaign disputed the report to PEOPLE, but sources said otherwise to both CNN and NBC: That the president had privately been preparing to travel to Alabama for the event, but that has been scuttled.
CNN reported the appearance had been intended to take place in the hometown of Trump's former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is running against former college football coach Tommy Tuberville in a Senate race where Trump endorsed Tuberville — not Sessions.
Trump campaign aides, however, maintained there was no public event to discuss.
“No rally has been announced, so there was nothing to cancel, and we never comment on rally planning," spokesman Ken Farnaso tells PEOPLE.
Farnaso adds that "the campaign is constantly gathering information and investigating rally dates and locations."
CNN reported the Trump event was scheduled for next weekend, before the state's Republican run-off between Sessions, 73, and the former Auburn University football coach, 65. But it was canceled amid concerns about large gatherings during the state's rising novel coronavirus cases.
Alabama reported a record 1,734 new cases on Monday, according to a New York Times tracker following coronavirus data around the globe. The state has had at least 950 deaths from the coronavirus disease COVID-19 and more than 38,000 confirmed cases of the virus, the Times reports.
Gov. Kay Ivey announced Tuesday that she planned to extend a "Safer At Home" order through July 31 but that she would not implement new restrictions despite the state's rise in cases, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.
The reports of a dropped Alabama event come after the deflating debacle of the president's rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 20.
Intended to be a forceful return to public campaigning after months of social distancing in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, the event was instead sparsely attended — even though the Trump campaign had boasted of expecting massive turnout.
Critics also cited public health concerns, given how infectious the coronavirus is.
Indeed, eight Trump campaign staffers tested positive for the coronavirus following Trump's rally in Tulsa, the Trump campaign told PEOPLE last month. CNN reported two Secret Service members who traveled to Tulsa for the rally also tested positive.
The Trump campaign does not currently have further events scheduled, but the president is scheduled to attend a Fourth of July celebration on Friday in South Dakota where, the state's governor told Fox News, attendees will "not be social distancing."
In Alabama, Sessions — once a loyal Trump ally cast out of his orbit in late 2018 — is running against Tuberville in an attempt to reclaim his old Senate seat.
A run-off election between the two Republican candidates is set for July 14, with the winner then going on to face Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat, in the November general election.
Trump, 74, endorsed Tuberville in March and has openly criticized Sessions, his former appointee.
"He's not mentally qualified to be attorney general," Trump said of Sessions, 73, during a recent interview on Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson. "He was the biggest problem. I mean, look, Jeff Sessions put people in place that were a disaster."
Leading up to Trump's remarks, he and Sessions had traded tweets back-and-forth over Sessions' role in the investigations surrounding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Trump ousted Sessions in November 2018 and his ire traces back to Sessions' decision to recuse himself from Robert Mueller's probe.
Trump tweeted in May that Sessions had "let our Country down" and claimed his former handpicked attorney general "ran for the hills" by recusing himself from the investigation. Sessions fired back, telling Trump it was "required by law."
"I did my duty & you're damn fortunate I did," Sessions tweeted at the president on May 22. "It protected the rule of law & resulted in your exoneration."
Despite their public arguments, Sessions has continued to align himself with Trump and his policies, seemingly complimenting the president in the Times this week, saying he's a "doer" that has stood up for Christians in the U.S.
"[Christians in the U.S.] felt they were under attack, and the strong guy promised to defend them," Sessions said. "And he has.”
The Trump campaign has called Sessions' continued attempts to ingratiate himself with Trump "delusional."
The Times reported that Sessions sent out campaign mailers to Alabama voters earlier this year which referenced Trump 22 times.
“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 in a letter, according to the Times. "Nothing could be further from the truth.”