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Jeff Sessions grapples with new round of Trump attacks

“I stood up for the truth and performed at the highest levels,” Sessions said.

Jeff Sessions

Jeff Sessions is trying to win back his old Senate seat and move on from his rocky tenure as attorney general. But President Donald Trump won’t let it go.

On Friday morning, Trump called Sessions a “disaster” as the nation’s top law enforcement officer and said Sessions visited Trump “four times just begging me to be attorney general.” The stinging attack on Fox News comes during crunch time for a Alabama Senate primary in July pitting Sessions against former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville. The winner will face Democratic Sen. Doug Jones.

Sessions on Friday afternoon rebutted Trump’s retelling of the 2016 Cabinet search, but gently. The former Alabama senator cannot afford to be seen by conservatives in his state as at odds with the president, so Sessions said he has “enormous appreciation” for Trump and affirmed that he will vote for him.

“I never begged for the job of attorney general, not four times, not one time, not ever. The president offered me the job, I took it, I stood up for the truth and performed at the highest levels,” Sessions said in a statement.

He added that he recused himself from the Russia investigation because of Justice Department law and said if he didn’t, “it would have been a catastrophe for the rule of law and for the president.” Trump had previously lashed Sessions for recusing himself from the probe and not defending him more vigorously.

Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump and the four-term senator was wildly popular in Alabama before giving up his seat to become attorney general. In 2014 he essentially ran unopposed. After Sessions joined the Cabinet, the GOP lost the seat to Jones in 2017.

The president said Friday that as he got to know Sessions he was a “very average guy.”

“He was so bad in his nomination proceedings. I should have gotten rid of him there. He knows less about Russia than I did,” Trump said on “Fox & Friends.” “Jeff was just very weak and very sad. And when the name Russia was mentioned, just the word Russia, instead of being a man and saying this is a hoax, he recused himself.”

Sessions said if he hadn’t done that then the president would not have been “fully exonerated,” presumably referring to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and the Senate’s vote to acquit Trump of the House’s impeachment charges.

“I do not and will not break the law. On this matter, I agree with the late Tom Petty’s famous lyric: 'You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down.’” Sessions said on Friday.

Sessions may not have wanted to back down on the Russia investigation, but he also can’t afford to go toe to toe with Trump. And Trump's been signaling he's willing to tank Sessions' bid to regain his seat. The Trump campaign sent Sessions a letter in March accusing him of “misleadingly” promoting his connections to Trump and using a mailer to make “the delusional assertion that you are President Trump’s #1 supporter.”

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