Jeff Sessions, ousted as President Trump’s attorney general this week, is contemplating a run for his old Alabama Senate seat in 2020 against Democratic Sen. Doug Jones -- though those who know Sessions aren't convinced he will ultimately pull the trigger on another campaign.
A source close to the former attorney general told Fox News that Sessions is “considering it but his mind isn't made up.” That person added that Sessions, known for his stances on illegal immigration and trade, “was advocating for the Trump agenda back when it was called the Sessions agenda.”
Others, though, don’t see Sen. Sessions 2.0 actually happening.
“He should spend his time being the devoted husband, father, and grandfather we know he is,” said Garrett Murch, a former Sessions Senate aide.
Another plugged-in Alabama politico who knows Sessions said, “I think he plans to have a private life.”
Sessions told Judith Miller in a Wall Street Journal interview published Friday that he hasn’t decided on his future plans, though said, “I want some family time and to let my head clear.”
Sessions also defended Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe in the interview, saying he’s “confident” it will be handled “appropriately and with justification.”
While he didn’t rule out a run, Sessions told the paper he is now drawn more to executive, rather than legislative, public service.
Still, those in Alabama touting a possible Sessions return to the Senate include Luther Strange, the Republican who temporarily replaced Sessions in the Senate last year. In a tweet Wednesday, Strange said, “Jeff Sessions for Senate in 2020!”
Sessions, once one of Trump’s most loyal and trusted advisers before infuriating Trump over his recusal from the Russia investigation, resigned as attorney general Wednesday – just one day after the midterm elections. He did so at the request of the president.
After Sessions’ exit, Trump named Matthew Whitaker, chief of staff to Sessions, as acting attorney general. Trump said this week a permanent replacement will be nominated at “a later date.” Among those believed to be under consideration include former New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie and outgoing Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
Sessions was a hugely popular figure in Alabama Republican politics before he joined the Trump administration. He faced no opposition in his 2014 re-election to the Senate. But some Republicans now question whether Sessions could easily get elected again, considering his strained relationship with Trump, who lashed out at Sessions for months in public and private over his recusal.
“Every single Republican primary this cycle was about which candidate could support the president’s agenda,” said one Republican operative who has worked on Alabama campaigns. “He would literally be on the ballot with the president in 2020.”
After Trump won the White House, Sessions gave up a safe seat to lead Trump’s Justice Department. When Sessions became attorney general, Strange was appointed in 2017 to temporarily fill the seat before a special election would take place, but the establishment-backed Strange lost the subsequent Republican primary to Roy Moore.
Moore, the state’s former chief justice, went on to lose to Democrat Doug Jones in the conservative state after multiple allegations of past sexual misconduct surfaced against him during the campaign.
A vulnerable Jones is up for re-election in 2020, and Republicans in the state believe a Republican not named Roy Moore could beat the Democrat – especially with Jones siding with liberals to vote against Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
A number of Alabama Republicans are believed to be considering a run against Jones, including U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne.
Trump’s falling out with Sessions is especially remarkable, considering the pivotal and trusted role the Alabama Republican played for Trump during the campaign.
Sessions -- who bonded with Trump over their populist views on trade and immigration -- became the first sitting senator to endorse Trump in February 2016 when he announced his support of the New York businessman’s then-underdog campaign.
Sessions went on to become one of Trump’s most prominent surrogates during the campaign and a key member of the Trump transition after the election before being appointed to take the helm of the Justice Department.