President Donald Trump on Tuesday night endorsed the opponent of former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the Alabama US Senate runoff election after holding his fire before the Republican primary last week.
“Tommy Tuberville (@TTuberville) is running for the U.S. Senate from the Great State of Alabama,” Trump said in a pair of tweets. “Tommy was a terrific head football coach at Auburn University. He is a REAL LEADER who will never let MAGA/KAG, or our Country, down! Tommy will protect your Second Amendment….
“….(which is under siege), is strong on Crime and the Border, and truly LOVES our Military and our Vets. He will be a great Senator for the people of Alabama. Coach Tommy Tuberville, a winner, has my Complete and Total Endorsement. I love Alabama!”
Tuberville replied on Twitter a few minutes later, “Looking forward to helping you drain the swamp and #KAG! #alpolitics #ALSen #MAGA.”
Sessions, for his part, tweeted early Wednesday morning that “of course, President Trump can endorse anyone he chooses for the U.S. Senate election in Alabama. But the Constitution expressly empowers the people of Alabama, and only them, to select their Senator,” adding that he plans to make his case directly to voters.
“Even before he declared for the presidency, I fought for the principles that Donald Trump so effectively advocated in the campaign and has advanced as President,” he continued. “I believed in those principles then, I have always fought for them, and I will continue to do so.”
CNN has reached out to the Tuberville and Sessions campaigns for additional comment.
Trump had already infused the primary with his long-standing resentment of Sessions, stemming from the former senator’s decision while attorney general to recuse himself from the Russia investigation – which Trump perceived as an act of serious disloyalty.
The President tweeted last Wednesday morning that Sessions’ inability to win the primary outright for his old seat was the result of not having “the wisdom or courage to stare down & end the phony Russia Witch Hunt.”
Tuberville responded, “Mr President I could not agree more, and in 27 days help will be on the way!” The runoff is March 31.
But Sessions, like every other Republican, has centered his comeback bid on his strong support of the President. In ads, Sessions put the red “Make America Great Again” hat back on and reminded Alabama that he was the first senator to endorse Trump – and never said a “cross word” about him despite withering criticism.
There’s a debate in Republican circles about how much a Trump endorsement will affect the race, which is viewed as Republicans’ best opportunity to pick up a US Senate seat.
In 2017, the President endorsed appointed Sen. Luther Strange, but Strange was defeated in the Republican runoff by former Judge Roy Moore. Trump then supported Moore, who narrowly lost to Democrat Doug Jones after women alleged Moore had sexually assaulted or sexually abused them when they were teenagers decades ago. Moore has denied the allegations.
This story has been updated with more information about the election.
CNN’s Caroline Kelly contributed to this report.