USA

Sessions fires back at Trump over recusal: 'I did my duty and you're damn fortunate I did'

Former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSessions defends recusal, says it was meant to protect Trump Trump says he learned a lot from Nixon: 'Don't fire people' COVID-19's class divide creates new political risks MORE shot back at President TrumpDonald John TrumpREAD: The Hill's interview with Anthony Fauci Trump's routing number revealed as press secretary announces he's donating quarterly salary to HHS: report Former White House aide won M contract to supply masks amid pandemic MORE over his decision to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s Russia investigation, offering a rare rebuke of a president he’s sought to tightly hug in his Alabama Senate campaign.

“Look, I know your anger, but recusal was required by law. I did my duty & you're damn fortunate I did. It protected the rule of law & resulted in your exoneration. Your personal feelings don't dictate who Alabama picks as their senator, the people of Alabama do,” Sessions tweeted late Friday night.

The rare broadside came in response to a tweet from Trump telling Alabamans to "not trust” Sessions because of his recusal. The president also touted his endorsement for former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, who is running against Sessions in the Senate race. 

Sessions, who held the Alabama Senate seat for 20 years before becoming attorney general, has been dogged by criticism from the president and his allies for his recusal, which Trump and other critics say led to the appointment of former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting MORE.

Sessions has vocally defended his recusal, saying his activities with the Trump campaign necessitated he remove himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into the 2016 race, and that his ongoing participation in the inquiry could have harmed the president. 

“As the world knows, the President disagreed with me on recusal, but I did what the law required me to do. I was a central figure in the campaign and was also a subject of and witness in the investigation and could obviously not legally be involved in investigating myself,” he wrote in an open letter earlier this month. “If I had ignored and broken the law, the Democrats would have used that to severely damage the President.”

However, he’s taken pains to align himself with the White House’s agenda, noting he was the first senator to endorse Trump’s presidential bid in 2016, and rarely offers such strong words against his former boss.

“Tuberville's a coward who is rightly too afraid to debate me. He says you're wrong on China & trade. He wants to bring in even more foreign workers to take American jobs. That's not your agenda and it's not mine or Alabama's. I know Alabama. Tuberville doesn't,” Sessions tweeted in a follow up Friday. 

Still, the criticism of Sessions appears to have taken a toll on his Senate campaign, with some polls showing him trailing Tuberville. 

Sessions is running for the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, whose seat the GOP views as a top pick up opportunity in a Senate map that otherwise puts Republicans mostly on the defense. Either Sessions or Tuberville would likely enter the race as the favorite. Jones won his seat after his 2017 opponent, Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreRoy Moore to advise Louisiana pastor arrested for allegedly defying ban on large gatherings Trump endorses Tuberville over Sessions in Alabama Senate runoff Sessions to face Tuberville in Alabama GOP Senate runoff MORE, faced a string of accusations that he sexually and romantically pursued underage girls.

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, rates the race as “lean” Republican.

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