Jeff Sessions lost an Alabama Senate Republican primary runoff on Tuesday to former college football coach Tommy Tuberville, a major blow to the former attorney general who spent much of the race battling opposition from President Donald Trump.
Tuberville, who won about 60% of the vote, according to the Associated Press, was endorsed by the President, will now take on incumbent Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in the general election in November for a seat that is widely seen as the most vulnerable. The race in Alabama – which is known to be a deeply red state – is likely to be the GOP’s best chance for flipping a Democratic seat.
Sessions had been fighting to win back his old Senate seat after being forced out of his role as attorney general by Trump when he opted to recuse himself from the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Although Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump in the 2016 presidential race, his recusal from the Russia probe set off a series of vicious attacks from the president to thwart his campaign efforts for Senate.
The President endorsed Tuberville in March, calling the former Auburn University football coach in tweets “a REAL LEADER who will never let MAGA/KAG, or our Country, down!”
Days before the primary Trump made his final efforts to undermine the former DOJ official, calling Tuberville a “winner” and Sessions a “disaster who has let us all down.”
Throughout the primary race, Tuberville grilled Sessions over the decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe, saying in one ad that he “quit on the President” and “failed Alabama.” Sessions responded by proclaiming his support for the Trump saying that he “protected the rule of law” and contributed to Trump’s “exoneration.”
Trump was quick to celebrate Tuberville’s victory in tweets on Tuesday night, saying that Tuberville “WON big against Jeff Sessions. Will be a GREAT Senator for the incredible people of Alabama.” In the same tweet Trump called Jones “a Super Liberal puppet for Schumer & Pelosi” saying that he represented Alabama “poorly.”
Despite the President’s repeated attempts to lash out at Sessions, in remarks delivered in Mobile after his defeat on Tuesday, the former attorney general urged members of his party to “listen to the Donald Trump agenda.”
Sessions insisted throughout his attempted comeback and again in defeat that his recusal was required by law since he was a potential subject and witness due to campaign ties to the president. “Let me say this about the president and our relationship: I leave with no regrets,” Session said, adding that he was “extraordinarily proud of the accomplishments we had as attorney general.”
Sessions repeated that he was right to step away from the investigation, saying that he “did the right thing” and “saved the president’s bacon in the process.”
He insisted that any action he could have taken to try to undermine the investigation would have been futile.
“I leave elected office with my integrity intact,” Sessions said.
Sessions commended his primary opponent on Tuesday.
“He is our Republican nominee, and we must stand behind him in November,” Sessions said.