- The Washington Times
Wednesday, March 11, 2020

President Trump cemented his break with his one-time political ally Jeff Sessions, throwing his support behind Mr. Sessions’ opponent in the Alabama Republican Senate runoff.

The endorsement of former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville came after Mr. Sessions courted Mr. Trump’s approval in his campaign to regain the Senate seat he vacated when Mr. Trump named him attorney general. The men have been at odds since Mr. Sessions recused himself in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and the president has never forgiven what he considered a treacherous move.

Considering Mr. Sessions’ decision a betrayal, Mr. Trump had spurned transparent attempts by the Sessions campaign to patch up the relationship or at least keep the president neutral in his bid to regain his seat.

“Tommy Tuberville (@TTuberville) is running for the U.S. Senate from the Great State of Alabama,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “Tommy was a terrific head football coach at Auburn University. He is a REAL LEADER who will never let MAGA/KAG, or our Country, down!

“Tommy will protect your Second Amendment…” Mr. Trump tweeted in a chain, “…(which is under siege), is strong on Crime and the Border, and truly LOVES our Military and our Vets. He will be a great Senator for the people of Alabama. Coach Tommy Tuberville, a winner, has my Complete and Total Endorsement. I love Alabama!”

While not completely unexpected — Mr. Trump had congratulated Mr. Tuberville and dinged Mr. Sessions after the former beat the latter in the primary’s first round on March 3 — the endorsement is expected to carry great weight in a state Mr. Trump won by nearly 30 percentage points in 2016.

Mr. Sessions fired back Wednesday: “We are Alabama. Nobody tells us how to vote or what to do,” he tweeted.

Mr. Sessions was the first member of Congress to back Mr. Trump’s presidential bid and was appointed his first attorney general. But when Mr. Sessions recused himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, Mr. Trump was outraged, regarding the move as a betrayal. Since then, Mr. Trump has spurned Mr. Sessions.

Despite that rupture, Mr. Sessions has campaigned as an ally of Mr. Trump’s and as a politician who would firmly support the president’s agenda should Alabama voters return him to the seat he held before becoming attorney general.

Mr. Tuberville surprised pollsters March 3 when he finished first in the Republican primary race to unseat Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, who came to Washington after a special election to replace Mr. Sessions. Mr. Jones is widely regarded as the most vulnerable incumbent in the Senate this year.

Voters will settle the Republican side March 31. Mr. Sessions has tried to paint Mr. Tuberville as an outsider, a Florida resident and taxpayer who until very recently carpetbagged his way into Alabama in hopes of a political career.

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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