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Trump spurns Sessions, backs Tuberville for Alabama Senate

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday night spurned his former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to endorse former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville in the U.S. Senate race in Alabama.

Trump announced his support for Tuberville in a tweet. “Coach Tommy Tuberville, a winner, has my Complete and Total Endorsement. I love Alabama!” Trump wrote. Trump did not mention Sessions in the tweet.

Tuberville and Sessions are competing in the March 31 Republican primary runoff. The winner will face Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, the current incumbent, in November.

Sessions is seeking a return to the Senate seat he held safely for 20 years before stepping down to become Trump’s first attorney general. Sessions resigned as attorney general after their relationship soured over his recusal in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Sessions said he was bound by Department of Justice regulation to resign because he played a role in Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Tuberville responded to Trump in a tweet that he is, “looking forward to helping you drain the swamp and (Keep America Great.)”

The Sessions campaign did not immediately respond to a text message seeking comment.

Sessions and Tuberville were the top two vote-getters in last week’s GOP primary, but were forced into a required runoff after failing to capture over 50 percent of the vote.

Tommy Tuberville as Texas Tech head football coach in 2011. Photo by REUTERS/Brandon Wade

Both Sessions and Tuberville have emphasized their loyalty to Trump, and his legislative agenda, as they compete in the GOP primary.

Sessions, who remains a Trump loyalist, has noted that he was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump and had championed issues such as immigration and trade, even before Trump came to office

“We have this opportunity to turn the Trump agenda into reality, and I am the man for that job,” Sessions said last week at his election night celebration

Tuberville, boosted by name recognition from years as a football coach at Auburn University, has positioned himself as a political outsider and tried to capitalize on Trump’s past criticisms of Sessions.

“We are going to finish what President Trump started when he looked at Jeff Sessions from across the table and said ‘You’re fired.'” Tuberville told supporters last week.

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