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Jeff Sessions Expected To Announce A Comeback Bid For Alabama Senate Seat


All right. Two GOP sources tell NPR that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is going to make a run for his old Senate seat in Alabama. Qualifying for that seat, which is now held by Democrat Doug Jones, ends this Friday.

Here to talk about Jeff Sessions' potential comeback bid is NPR's Debbie Elliott. Hey, Debbie.


CHANG: All right. So what do we know about Sessions' plans?

ELLIOTT: Well, the rumor mill has been active for weeks here in Alabama and there in D.C. And Alabama's other senator, Richard Shelby, has talked about how he would welcome Sessions back into the chamber. Sources today are telling NPR's congressional correspondent Susan Davis that he will announce a comeback bid before the Friday deadline and that Sessions is definitely acting alone and without the coordination of the Republican establishment.

CHANG: Acting alone, presumably because of his now-soured relationship with President Trump, right?

ELLIOTT: Right. If - as we all remember, Sessions stepped down as attorney general after being repeatedly mocked by President Trump. Trump was upset that Sessions had recused himself from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

But we should note that their relationship was not always so bad. In fact, Sessions was the very first Republican senator to get behind what, at the time, was Trump's long-shot campaign for the...

CHANG: Right.

ELLIOTT: ...GOP nomination. I have this little clip from Trump campaigning in Alabama in 2015. Let's listen.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have a man here who really helped me, and he was the one person - I sought his counsel because he's been so spot on. He's so highly respected. Has anybody ever heard of Senator Jeff Sessions?


CHANG: That sounds so vintage now (laughter).

ELLIOTT: Yes. The conservative Sessions, you know, had Trump's ear on tougher immigration policies that Sessions had been championing for years. And the two of them were aligned on trade and foreign policy, as well.

CHANG: Now, there are already half a dozen Republicans running for that seat, right? So what happens if Sessions enters this race? Would he be a front-runner, you think?

ELLIOTT: Well, that's the question. It certainly throws things wide open. You know, Sessions held that Senate seat for 20 years. So he's very well-known in Alabama and popular - or he was before his fallout with President Trump. The question is whether, you know, Trump's repeated ridicule has changed that. Trump is also extremely popular in Alabama.

The other candidates who are vying for the Republican nomination have hinted at that vulnerability. Representative Bradley Byrne of Mobile said in a statement that he would not exit the primary if Sessions gets in. He says, quote, "Alabama deserves a senator who will stand with the president and won't run away and hide from a fight." You hear similar sentiments from Tommy Tuberville, the former Auburn football coach who's running. He said Sessions had a chance to stand and defend the president and failed. And we should note that the crowded field also includes the man Senator Doug Jones, the Democrat, beat - twice-ousted former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore.

CHANG: All right. That's NPR's Debbie Elliott in Orange Beach, Ala. Thanks, Debbie.

ELLIOTT: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.
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