1 year ago

Jeff Sessions discusses his first competitive race in two decades, being confronted with questions about recusal on the campaign trail

CULLMAN — It has been a long time since Jeff Sessions has participated in a competitive election. This time he finds himself in a crowded field of Republican senatorial hopefuls vying for the seat he occupied for 20 years.

This week, Sessions has hit the campaign trail, making stops across North Alabama, including Huntsville and Guntersville. On Wednesday, the former U.S. attorney general met with law enforcement officials from the Cullman Police Department and the Cullman County Sheriff’s Department at the Cracker Barrel near the intersection of Interstate 65 and Alabama Highway 157, a popular breakfast stop for travelers and locals.

Sessions sat down with Yellowhammer News to discuss the campaign to date and why he thinks he should be under consideration to serve another six years in the U.S. Senate.

“People have been supportive as I’ve traveled the state,” he said. “We’re working really hard. We’ve made a lot of events. I’m going to take my case to the people of Alabama and seek their support. I believe that President Trump will be re-elected. I believe he’ll be a second-term president, and we’ll have a year or two that we need to get some important things done. I know the Senate. I am the most passionate and committed advocate for President Trump’s agenda in the Senate. I would be. I was before I became attorney general. If I go back, I would be that again, and we’ll have this window of opportunity to end illegality at the border, to protect some really strong trade policies, deal with China and support our military and not make the mistake of foreign interventions. All of those are big issues.”

“We need to continue the fabulous judicial appointments he has done,” Sessions continued. “We need to defend religious liberty. I wrote the government’s policy as attorney general on religious liberty. It’s a fabulous new policy. There are just a lot of things that need to be done quickly.”

Thus far, indications show Sessions is the front-runner among the Republican field competing in the March 3 GOP primary. However, the last time Jeff Sessions was not a lock to win any of his election contests came in the 1990s when he faced then-State Sen. Roger Bedford (D-Russellville) in 1996 vying for the seat Howell Heflin was vacating. He defeated Bedford by a 53-46% margin.

Similar to now, that 1996 race required Sessions to win a crowded GOP primary, which ultimately went down to a runoff between Sessions and former State Sen. Sid McDonald.

Two years earlier, during an election cycle that set Alabama and the rest of the South on a course to permanent Republican majorities, Sessions defeated incumbent Democrat Jimmy Evans in a 1994 contest for Alabama’s attorney general seat by a 57-43% margin.

Sessions explained technology had changed some things, but personal interactions remained an integral part of campaigning.

“The internet is a big difference,” he said. “The power of television ads are somewhat less. You still, though, need to meet with important groups like the law enforcement people we met today, and we met yesterday. You’ve got to have a grassroots. People have got to know you. They have got to know you’re authentic. Everybody makes speeches. Everybody runs ads. They basically say the same thing. One smart person told me that people have gotten sophisticated. They can identify if a person means it.”

Sessions explained part of the campaign has focused on visiting with civic and business leaders and touring the various new private and public facilities being constructed around the state. He emphasized the importance of those interactions in the role of U.S. Senator.

“Those are the things a state’s senator needs to be on top of,” he said. “If you’re not involved in those kinds of things that involve the federal government that are important to local communities, you’re not the kind of senator that people want. You have to do both. Today, I think people want a senator who is going to protect the state’s legitimate interests and who will defend and advocate effectively the values they share. I believe I’ll be able to strike a balance. Right now, we need to help Trump achieve his agenda, which is Alabama’s agenda and my agenda.”

A night earlier, during his appearance at a meeting of the Marshall County Republican Party, Sessions was confronted by attendees regarding his decision to recuse himself from the Department of Justice investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

During his speech at the event, Sessions explained his reasoning for the recusal, citing the specific Justice Department regulation. According to Sessions, the Guntersville event was the only time to date the topic had come up in a public setting.

“That’s the first time at any public meeting that somebody has raised it,” he said. “I just thought I would restate what I said before. One lady said, ‘You haven’t explained it.’ So, I thought I would explain it.”

Additionally, Sessions maintained he wanted the president to be successful and said he understood the frustration Trump felt given the seemingly never-ending saga.

“There was a lot of justification for his frustration throughout the whole process,” he said. “It just seemed to go for an interminable amount of time. Nothing was found, as I expected. But it surely seemed to me it could have been done quicker.”

Sessions insisted his record speaks for itself and emphasized the need for the Republican Party to own what he perceived to be a “right-of-center majority” in the country.

“I had a good record in the Senate,”  he said. “People supported me. I was blessed not to have an opponent last time. People like my service. But it is a new day. They want to know what you’re going to do now. And sometimes, you have to remind them of what you did do in the past, so they’re confident that you’re authentic that you say you’re willing to stand up to the Republican establishment. I’m certainly willing to stand up to Democratic leftists and socialists and defend Alabama’s values. I’ve proven that.”

“I do believe there’s a conservative majority in America — certainly a right-of-center majority in America,” Sessions continued. “Republicans need to occupy that. To do that, you’ve got to appeal to people who go to work every day, who, until Donald Trump came along, had not had a pay raise above inflation in 20 years. That’s not right. The rich were getting richer, and so the socialists abandoned free enterprise, established socialism. We say you’ve got to be sure you’re creating policies that allow the working person to benefit from free markets, too. Trump has been able to do that. We want to keep that up.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

12 hours ago

Bill O’Brien hired as Crimson Tide offensive coordinator

University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban on Thursday evening announced the hire of Bill O’Brien as the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

O’Brien arrives in Tuscaloosa after six-plus years as the head coach of the NFL’s Houston Texans, where he compiled a 52-48 record that included four AFC South titles, four playoff appearances and two appearances in the AFC Divisional Round.

A release from Alabama Athletics noted that O’Brien’s offenses in Houston proved to be balanced and potent with the Texans ranking in the top-10 in the league in rushing yards, while quarterback Deshaun Watson threw for 4,165 yards in 2018 and 3,852 yards in 2019.

“We are pleased and happy to be able to add Bill O’Brien to our coaching staff,” Saban said in a statement. “He has a wealth of experience as both an offensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL and college. Bill is one of the brightest offensive minds in football, an outstanding teacher and excellent recruiter. He will strengthen our coaching staff and give our players the best possible chance to be successful.”

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O’Brien fills the vacancy left by Steve Sarkisian becoming the Texas Longhorns’ head coach.

“I am honored and excited to join Coach Saban’s staff at The University of Alabama,” O’Brien stated. “I have an incredible amount of admiration for the rich football tradition at this University and the success Coach Saban has had during his time in Tuscaloosa. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work with some of the best football players in the country, while helping to continue the success this program has enjoyed for many years.”

Prior to joining the Texans, he took on one of the tallest tasks in college football history when he was named head coach at Penn State on January 6, 2012, succeeding Joe Paterno. O’Brien spent two years leading the Nittany Lions program, posting a 15-9 overall record and a 10-6 mark in the Big Ten. During that time, Penn State was under a four-season postseason ban and a loss of 40 scholarships due to the child sex abuse scandal that occurred during Paterno’s tenure.

O’Brien was named the Bear Bryant, Maxwell Football Club and ESPN National Coach of the Year after winning more games than any other first-year head coach in the program’s previous 125 seasons during the 2012 season.

Before his time at Penn State, O’Brien spent five years on Bill Belichick’s staff in New England, including calling offensive plays for three seasons and serving as the offensive coordinator in 2011. He coached in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI and was Tom Brady’s position coach during his 2010 MVP season.

All together, O’Brien boasts 28 years of collegiate and NFL coaching experience and was last a college offensive coordinator at Duke during the 2005-06 seasons. Prior to his time with the Blue Devils, O’Brien served as the running backs coach at Maryland (2004) after spending eight years at Georgia Tech in a myriad of roles, including graduate assistant, running backs, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks and assistant head coach (1995-2002). O’Brien started his career at Brown, coaching the tight ends in 1993 and the inside linebackers in 1994.

This came after O’Brien played linebacker and defensive end at Brown from 1990-92 and graduated with a double concentration in political science and organizational behavioral management. He and his wife, Colleen, have two sons, Jack and Michael.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 hours ago

Auburn trustee, Mobile native Lloyd Austin granted congressional waiver, paving way for confirmation as defense secretary

U.S. Army General Lloyd J. Austin (Ret.) on Thursday was granted a waiver through votes by both chambers of Congress, allowing him to be confirmed as the next secretary of the Department of Defense.

The waiver for Austin, who retired from active duty in 2016, was required because federal law mandates that the Secretary of Defense either be a civilian or someone who has been retired from the military for seven or more years.

The House of Representatives bipartisanly voted 326-78 to grant the waiver; the Senate shortly thereafter voted 69-27 to do the same. All members of Alabama’s congressional delegation voted in favor of the waiver for Austin, who is a native of Mobile.

He also currently serves on the Auburn University board of trustees.

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U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) on Thursday morning had led a letter joined by fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus urging her colleagues to support the waiver.

“I proudly support granting a waiver for Mobile, Alabama native and retired Four-Star General Lloyd Austin to serve as first Black Secretary of Defense,” Sewell said in a statement. “General Austin has an exemplary 41-year career of service and his battle-proven leadership and independence demonstrate he is the right choice to lead the Pentagon during these difficult times. We face many challenges as a nation, not least among them a historic pandemic that has disproportionately impacted communities of color and an unprecedented rise of white supremacist and far right-wing domestic terrorist groups. I’m confident in General Austin’s commitment and ability to course-correct and secure our nation from threats at home and abroad.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (AL-03), the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, also voiced his support for Austin, while raising process concerns. Rogers made his thoughts clear in remarks on the floor.

“I believe General Austin understands the threats we face,” the East Alabama congressman said, in part. “I believe he respects the principle of civilian control. I believe he will stand up to the efforts of many in the Democrat majority who seek to slash defense funding and rewrite our defense strategy.”

After a nearly 41-year decorated military career, Austin retired as a four-star general. Some of his former posts include service as the commander of U.S. Central Command, commander of the Combined Forces in Iraq and Syria, and as the 33rd vice chief of staff of the Army.

Austin is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and holds master’s degrees from Auburn and Webster University. He has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Auburn, and his wife, Charlene, is also an Auburn graduate.

Additionally, the retired general currently serves on the board of directors for Raytheon Technologies and Nucor, both of which have significant Alabama presences.

He would be the first Black DoD secretary in American history. The Senate is expected to confirm him on Friday morning.

This comes after President Joe Biden last month announced his intent to nominate Austin to the important post.

U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl (AL-01), who represents Austin’s hometown, released a statement in support of the nominee on Thursday.

“Today I voted yes on the waiver for the Secretary of Defense Appointment of General Austin, even though I am frustrated with the House Democrats’ deeply flawed process. I believe General Austin is well-qualified to serve as our nation’s Secretary of Defense, and I am optimistic that he will push back against far-left attempts to cut military funding and weaken our nation’s defenses,” said Carl.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

15 hours ago

We are about to watch Alabama’s 7th U.S. House seat become Mexico’s 1st

“America First,” is dead, and “Americans Last” is the new normal. As a result, Alabama is screwed.

No one expected now-President Joe Biden to follow the agenda of now-former President Donald Trump. He ran on being the exact opposite of him in every way.

But now that Biden is in office, the real consequences of those actions are going to be felt, and we are going to feel it right here in Alabama.

On his first day, Biden decided that “America First” would be put down behind the White House. But who knew the execution would be so swift?

Look at the actions Biden has taken so far:

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He immediately rejoined the World Health Organization. WHO is a notoriously corrupt puppet of China that knowingly made the coronavirus pandemic worse by helping the Chinese government conceal the origins and reality surrounding the global issue. Empowering them solely because Trump rejected them will hardly make America better. It will just force us to keep funding them.

The Paris climate accord sounds like a great idea. Who doesn’t want to make the world a better place? But does this do that? No. It holds America and countries like China, Pakistan and India to different standards. This will only incentivize companies to abandon America to avoid stronger regulations, helping China and other countries. What will this do? Increase pollution and harm America’s economy.

Now, let’s talk illegal immigration. We have a caravan headed to America from south of the border. It will not be the first because Biden and his handlers will let them in.

The Biden administration also decided to pause immigration-related removals from the United States on day one.

Biden has announced the building of the border wall will stop, even though it has cut down on human trafficking, drugs, arrests and illegal immigration.

The wall worked. Biden decided to stop building it — not to help Americans, but to help those who would enter illegally.

So what does this mean for Alabama? Barring some miraculous court order, we will lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) have been fighting for more than three years to prevent illegal immigrants from being counted in for the allocation of U.S. House seats.

It is astonishing that a decision by an American president is made to intentionally take a seat away from states that have not been friendly to an overrun of our border and country by illegal immigrants.

There is no way to argue this puts Americans first in any possible way shape or form. This, by design, empowers foreign citizens and strips power away from Americans.

“America First” is dead; its execution was public and brutal. The media and their Democrats cheered its death.

“Americans Last” is the new normal, and Alabama is screwed.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.

17 hours ago

Manufacture Alabama launches Diversify initiative — ‘Creating a culture of inclusion and diversity from the highest ranks all the way down to the shop floor’

Manufacture Alabama, the trade association dedicated exclusively to the needs of Yellowhammer State manufacturers, on Thursday unveiled Diversify — an initiative to foster diversity and inclusion.

According to a release from the association, Diversify is committed to addressing multiple dimensions of human diversity, especially those that are linked to conditions resulting from prejudice and discrimination.

The initiative was established to provide resources and promote strategies to achieve a culture that values diversity as evidenced by attitudes, policies and practices within Alabama manufacturing facilities and beyond.

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“Diversify addresses one of the most important challenges that the manufacturing industry must address – creating a culture of inclusion and diversity from the highest ranks all the way down to the shop floor,” stated George Clark, president of Manufacture Alabama. “Manufacture Alabama is committed to the progress of diversity and inclusion through this important initiative. Promoting a diverse culture of inclusivity is crucial to the ongoing success of the association and to the success of our manufacturers.”

Diversify will be led by a council consisting of state industry leaders with diverse backgrounds who have a passion for sustaining an inclusive environment within their companies and communities.

The council membership includes the following:

• State Rep. Napoleon Bracy, Jr., Manager, Diversity & Inclusion, AUSTAL USA
• Quentin P. Riggins, Senior Vice President Governmental and Corporate Affairs, Alabama Power Company
• Angela Hunt, Organizational Development Manager, Hunt Refining Company
• Richard Lehr, Shareholder, Lehr Middlebrooks Vreeland & Thompson, P.C.
• LaShaunda Holly, Communications and Workforce Development Manager, BASF
• Ashlen Loban, Administrative Coordinator, Manufacture Alabama

Riggins commented in a statement, “I’m honored to work with partners committed to the hard work of finding solutions which promote unity, fairness and acceptance of all people in the manufacturing industry.”

“No matter what company or industry we represent, we all have a responsibility to foster an inclusive culture and embrace diversity in order to build a better Alabama,” he added.

Manufacture Alabama represents some of Alabama’s largest employers.

“The Diversify council is made up of an impressive and diverse group of leaders who have pledged to put visions into action and are committed to the growth of Diversify,” concluded Clark. “The contributions of this council will benefit manufacturers throughout the state and beyond.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

18 hours ago

Business Council of Alabama announces three promotions following departure of Molly Cagle to Shipt

The Business Council of Alabama (BCA) on Wednesday announced the promotion of three employees: Helena Duncan has been named senior vice president of operations and investor relations; Susan Carothers will serve as the vice president of investor relations; and Drew Harrell has been promoted to vice president of governmental affairs.

The moves follow the departure of Molly Cagle, who recently accepted the position of senior director of government and public affairs at Birmingham-based Shipt.

“Molly has been an instrumental piece to the BCA puzzle and a key player in the success of BCA,” stated Katie Boyd Britt, BCA president and CEO. “While we will certainly miss having her a part of the team, I could not be prouder for Molly. I am excited to see the many ways she continues to excel in her new role at Shipt.”

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Harrell will be directly stepping into the existing role left vacant by Cagle’s move, while Duncan and Carothers were promoted into new positions.

“Helena, Susan, and Drew have played an instrumental role in the success of BCA, bringing a wealth of knowledge in their respective areas of expertise,” Britt remarked. “I am thrilled to promote each of them into a new leadership role, and I look forward to watching them lead and grow their departments, along with our organization. These talented individuals are a part of a highly skilled team who will continue to work each day to ensure that Alabama is a great place to live, work and do business.”

Duncan joined BCA 12 months ago as the director of strategic operations and growth. Since joining the team, she has worked diligently to build and grow relationships with new and current members. Her work has reportedly resulted in numerous wins for BCA and built strong partnerships within the business community. Prior to joining BCA, Helena spent over 30 years working in the financial industry, primarily at the executive management level.

In her new role as senior vice president of operations and investor relations, Duncan will continue to oversee membership, finance and human resources, but will also assume leadership of investor relations, communications, marketing and events.

“Working for BCA has been the most rewarding experience,” said Duncan. “We are consistently laser focused on serving the businesses of Alabama at the highest level. Although we faced unprecedented times in 2020, our commitment never wavered and our focus never changed. I’m extremely proud to work for this organization and serve the businesses of Alabama.”

Carothers has been a part of BCA since 2005, when she joined the organization as manager of events and special projects. During her tenure, she has been a jack of all trades, managing numerous special projects while also planning and executing all major BCA events. In 2012, Carothers transitioned from a full-time BCA team member to launch her company, SC Events Management. She still remained on contract as the leading event planner for BCA, a role she held until December.

As vice president of investor relations, she will continue to oversee events, but will also oversee communications and marketing.

“BCA has been my home for more than 15 years,” commented Carothers. “We have never had a greater opportunity than now to make a positive and lasting impact for Alabama businesses. I’m excited to get to work in this new role.”

Harrell came to BCA in 2011 as executive assistant to the president and later was given expanded duties as executive assistant and strategic operations coordinator. His most recent role has been the director of governmental and regulatory affairs, in which he also serves as executive director of the Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure. Throughout his career with BCA, he has played an instrumental role in crafting and implementing BCA’s legislative agenda at both the state and federal level.

In his new role as vice president of governmental affairs, Harrell will continue his work in the legislative arena, advocating for BCA members in Montgomery and Washington, D.C.

“Being a part of this BCA team and seeing firsthand the value this organization brings to its members, as well as to our state, has been a true blessing,” said Harrell. “I am extremely honored and humbled by this opportunity to serve this great organization in this capacity, and I look forward to building on its successes through collective efforts with our BCA members.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn