Just how sore is Donald Trump at Jeff Sessions? It’s been nearly a year since Sessions “resigned” as Attorney General after having endured eighteen months of angry public criticism from the president, especially on Twitter. Now that the Robert Mueller special counsel probe is dead and buried, can Sessions re-enter electoral politics as a MAGA-country candidate without the MAGA In Chief ripping him to shreds?
Politico thinks we’re about to find out, as the deadline for the Alabama Senate primary is fast approaching:
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is strongly considering jumping into the race for his old Senate seat in Alabama, according to multiple Republican sources familiar with the matter.
Sessions would scramble the already crowded field of Republicans seeking to take on Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, who won a 2017 special election to fill the remainder of Sessions’ term and is widely viewed as the most vulnerable senator on the ballot next year.
Sessions, 72, must decide within days whether to run: Candidates have until Nov. 8 to qualify for the ballot.
Talk about coincidences. That would be the one-year anniversary of Sessions’ forced departure from the Department of Justice, leaving what had once been a dream job that turned into a nightmare. His decision to recuse from the FBI investigation into Russiagate touched off a series of moves that ended up with the appointment of Mueller as special counsel. Vanity Fair recalls how quickly Sessions went from the MAGA-est member of Trump’s Cabinet to persona non grata:
Trump would go on to torment Sessions over Twitter as a matter of routine for more than a year, chiding him over the recusal, pressing him to end the Mueller investigation, and accusing him of being “VERY weak” in his approach to unsubstantiated allegations of criminality by Hillary Clinton. As their relationship deteriorated, the insults took on a personal tone, with the president reportedly referring to Sessions in private as “Mr. Magoo”—something Trump denied. But it was clear enough from the public evidence how much Trump loathed his former attorney general. “Sessions didn’t have a clue!” he tweeted earlier this year, still nursing wounds from the Mueller investigation. Whether the president’s hurt feelings are shared by conservative voters in Alabama remains to be seen.
That was from March, however, when the Mueller report was still an unknown quantity. Trump’s been quiet about his former AG since then, especially since it became clear that his fortunes are no longer tied to Sessions’ decision to recuse. One could argue that Sessions made it possible for Trump to argue more strongly that an independent investigation essentially cleared him from the most dire of the allegations facing him in 2017-18, but don’t expect Trump to issue endorsements of Sessions based on that argument.
CBS News also thinks Trump will have to decide soon what to say about Sessions:
CBS News has learned former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is “seriously considering” a campaign to win back his former U.S. Senate seat, according to multiple people familiar with his thinking.
A spokeswoman for Sessions declined to comment early Tuesday. His Washington-based attorney did not immediately return requests for comment.
“He is seriously considering a campaign,” said a Republican operative familiar with Sessions’s thinking, who stressed that whoever Republicans nominate is set to defeat Senator Doug Jones, Democrat of Alabama, widely considered to be the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent facing re-election next year given the GOP dominance of Alabama and strong support in the state for President Trump.
Under normal circumstances, this would be the best of all worlds for both Trump and the GOP. Sessions has tremendous name recognition in the state, an ability to raise funds for himself and others, and a long history of party loyalty in the upper chamber. Few will have to worry that Sessions will “grow in office” away from his conservo-MAGA roots. And despite Trump’s incessant drumbeat of ridicule for Sessions, the once-and-maybe-future senator never really deviated from Trump or MAGA policy. He’d be the easiest option and probably would have been a big recruitment target, if not for, well … you know.
And yet, even with all that said, Trump’s not exactly known for letting bygones be bygones. Sessions has to be worried about Trump eventually getting even with him by endorsing another of his competitors in the GOP primary, if not attacking him directly and making this all a waste of time. Given the situation in which Trump finds himself at the moment, he might not open up a fight against Sessions while he’s still focused on Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi, but few would doubt that he’d want to do so.
There’s one other factor that might keep Trump on the sidelines if Sessions does enter the race. The former senator has a lot of friends still in the upper chamber, including Mitch McConnell, who would no doubt be delighted to welcome Sessions back. Those are the same allies that Trump needs to play defense for him in the impeachment process. If his political sense overcomes his sense of injury from March 2017, Trump will wisely choose to either speak kindly of Sessions or just stay out of the Alabama race altogether.