As Yellowhammer has previously reported, a critical component of Alabama’s Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate is who’s with Donald Trump and who’s not. Trump’s recent criticisms of Attorney General Jeff Sessions have perhaps clouded those waters, but allegiance to the President is still no small matter to the 1.3 million Alabama voters who supported him last November.
Luther Strange’s campaign has particularly focused on Congressman Mo Brooks’ view of Donald Trump. A PAC supporting Strange has run ads of audio clips where Brooks criticized Trump during the presidential primary saying, “I don’t think you can trust Donald Trump with anything he says…”
In our article two weeks ago, Brooks said the context of his Trump criticisms was his primary campaign support for Ted Cruz, and since Cruz dropped out last fall, he’s been in the President’s corner. Today, Brooks was on 93.1 in Montgomery being interviewed by Baron Coleman, when Coleman invited Brooks to shore up that support for Trump, and it seems that Brooks took a different tack.
Coleman started by citing the Brooks’ quote about not trusting Trump, and asked him, “Do you still believe that?” Brooks’ answer cited his career as a litigator and elected official, saying he lives in a “trust but verify atmosphere…” noting “there are some things that President Trump has said that has not turned out to be in fact what he does…” In other words, Brooks did not recant.
Coleman also said, “What I heard this morning in the first ten minutes of the interview, were you sort of regret making comments about Donald Trump, but you sort of feel justified…he’s hurt your feelings about a friend of yours (Sessions). To this Brooks replied,
I have never taken back any of the words or comments I made during the 2016 election. Let’s be real clear about that. You’ll never find any place where I said; I take that back. What I have said is people need to understand it’s in the context of me as chairman for Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign in the State of Alabama, where I was also one of his chief spokesman around the country….my comments were made in that context.
Brooks further characterized Trump in the interview, stating “The reservations I expressed in the Republican primary, I think a good number of them are coming to fruition,” citing the border wall, but focusing on Trump’s criticism of Sessions. As Brooks said, “I really find disconcerting President Trump’s public and personal attacks on a man I know to be of highest character—Jeff Sessions.”
Some listeners called the show with angry reactions to Brooks for his criticism of Trump.
Not long after the interview, Brooks’ campaign issued a news release further stating his support of Sessions and making it clear that if forced to choose between the two, that he stands with Sessions over Trump. In that release, he doubles down on Trump for the publically criticizing the Attorney General from Alabama:
I cannot remain silent about the treatment Jeff Sessions is receiving from President Trump. If the President has reservations about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, that is okay. No two people agree all the time. But President Trump should raise his reservations with Attorney General Sessions privately, man to man, one on one, not publicly scorn a great man like this.
I support President Trump’s policies, but this public waterboarding of one of the greatest people Alabama has ever produced is inappropriate and insulting to the people of Alabama who know Jeff Sessions so well and elected him so often by overwhelming margins.
Perhaps even more noteworthy, Brooks said he would withdraw from the Senate race if all his opponents agree to do the same, allowing Sessions to return to his old seat, in the event Sessions steps down as Attorney General.
I offer to withdraw completely from the race for Senate if my other GOP opponents in this race will concur on the terms and conditions set forth in the accompanying “Resolution Reinstating Jeff Sessions as United States Senator”.
If all Republican candidates collectively agree to simultaneously withdraw from this race, then we clear the way for the Republican Party of Alabama to nominate Jeff Sessions to be the Republican nominee for the December 12, 2017 general election. He can return to the Senate where he has served us so well. President can then appoint whomever he wants as Attorney General.
Brooks concludes saying,
I have signed this resolution, and I call on my opponents, Luther Strange, Roy Moore, and the rest of the field to join me.
I recognize that President Trump is popular in Alabama. My closest friends and political advisers have told me to not side with Jeff Sessions, that it will cost me politically to do so. My response is simple: I don’t care. If this costs me politically, that’s fine but I am going to do the right thing for Alabama and America.
I stand with Jeff Sessions.
Brooks’ proposal for everyone to drop out to make way for Sessions drew sharp responses.
Alabama’s senior U.S. Senator Richard Shelby told Roll Call, “Jeff Sessions is the attorney general right now,” adding, “The primary is in two weeks. I talked to Sessions yesterday. He likes the job he’s got. Maybe the polls aren’t doing well for Brooks.”
Luther Strange said, “This is what a candidate does when he learns he’s plummeted to a distant third and is desperate to get attention. Shame on Congressman Brooks for his lack of faith in President Trump’s and Attorney General Sessions’ commitment to work together to make America great again.” Candidate Trip Pittman also criticized Brooks’ proposal, saying, “I’ve always completed everything I started. If Congressman Brooks wants out, he still has a good job he can go back to.”
Below are excerpts from Brooks’ interview with Baron Coleman: