Sessions begins closing argument: ‘I have the ability to help in a way a new person does not’
MONTGOMERY — Yellowhammer News on Tuesday sat down for an interview with former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Alabama State House.
Sessions was in Montgomery visiting with some of the state’s most powerful elected officials and discussing many of Alabama’s most pressing issues. He advised that he met individually with Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth, Attorney General Steve Marshall, Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) and House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) during the day.
“It’s important for me to touch base with friends and the leaders of Alabama,” Sessions advised.
The U.S. Senate candidate also had lunch with his longtime friend from Wilcox County, Governor Kay Ivey.
“We were able to talk about high school things and teachers — and matters of importance,” he explained. “And she’s just fabulous.”
“Those were all good, important contacts, and they’re good people,” Sessions added.
The Sessions campaign told Yellowhammer News that none of the meetings were regarding an endorsement.
Asked about how the campaign trail is going with only two weeks until the March 3 primary, Sessions responded, “We’re working very hard. People are so generous and kind traveling around the state. It really makes it a pleasure. We’re asking people for their vote, committing to them that I’ll be faithful to the values that the state of Alabama believes in — that I have been throughout my career.”
He then reiterated that there is an opportunity for Republicans to have a working conservative majority throughout the next decade or so. Sessions stressed that the first two years of a second term for President Donald Trump would be especially key.
“I think he will be [reelected],” Sessions remarked. “And we’ve got to take advantage of that momentum. I know those issues — I know trade, I know immigration, I know taxes, I know judges and crime. Those are issues that we can make some real progress in.”
“Frankly, I also sense that some of our Republicans still don’t get what’s happened,” he continued. “They don’t understand the Trump movement that brought in large numbers of independent voters, more African Americans, more Hispanics than previous Republican candidates have gotten. And even Democrats he’s brought over. So what the Republican leadership in Washington needs to understand is they need to reach out with energy and strength to welcome these new voters in, continue to deliver for them as President Trump has and build a new majority that can govern America and fend off this Socialist movement that threatens the very foundations of American democracy and free enterprise.”
Sessions added, “I just think it’s an incredible opportunity. I’ve given a lot of thought about it. I think I understand it. And I think I have the ability to help in a way a new person does not.”
Sessions punches back
Yellowhammer News asked Sessions about the new ad his campaign released earlier on Tuesday. He framed the ad as a longtime-coming response to attacks (whether through ads or barbs on the campaign trail) from his top two opponents: former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville and Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01).
“I think the ad — I’ve been subject to attacks for months now,” Sessions remarked. “And I’ve always tried to be faithful and true to the people of Alabama, but it’s time to push back and ask, ‘Well, who are you? Where were you when Donald Trump was in a race for the presidency and nobody knew how it was going to come out?'”
“There were days that were good and days that were bad, but I never wavered,” he added of his support for Trump in the 2016 cycle.
“Whereas, in fact, Congressman Byrne did call for him to withdraw in [October], just a few weeks before the election,” Sessions continued. “And then, I’m not even sure Tommy Tuberville even voted for Trump. He certainly should’ve been able to make a modest contribution — he gave no contribution. So I don’t know where this comes from.”
He followed up by calling into question Tuberville’s stated support of Trump during this campaign cycle. Sessions referenced comments made by Tuberville in September about immigration, in which the former coach was talking about documented migrant workers. Tuberville’s opponents contend the comments amount to supporting “amnesty.”
Sessions outlined, “[Tuberville has] indicated to me from what he’s said [publicly] that he’s not passionately committed to the issues that the people care about and that President Trump has pushed for. Like immigration, I mean, his statement on immigration is open borders. It says, ‘They want jobs, we want them to have jobs and we want them to become citizens.’ This is a stunning thing; it is hugely stunning.”
“And then on trade, he has said that he is a free-trader, which is a signal he’s not with the Trump agenda,” Sessions further decried. “And then he said that … he didn’t agree with Trump standing up to China. Which is stunning.”
“We are in a monumental battle with China. I have talked to the president about this in the  campaign more than once, on the airplane, together we talked about it,” he advised. “The president knows that if he can stand firm to China, they need us far more than we need them. They will have to come to the table. We can improve our trading situation with China substantially. And the last thing you need, the very last thing, is members of his own party undercutting his negotiating ability. That’s the only danger that we have in this negotiation. If we stand firm, we will win.”
Sessions then hit Tuberville on his remarks from August about veterans’ healthcare related to Trump.
“I was with [Trump on the campaign trial] in speeches all over this country about veterans. He made it the highest priority,” Sessions commented. “Yes, it’s a hard bureaucracy to move. But nobody’s done better in moving that bureaucracy to help healthcare for veterans than him. I just don’t see why our leader on improving healthcare for veterans ought to be attacked by a person who’s in his own party. That just makes no sense to me.”
He then again underlined his argument about experience being integral to success in the Senate.
“I just think it’s really important the next senator understands how to be helpful on day one,” Sessions stressed.
“There’s not a military base in the state I don’t know about. There’s not a city size we haven’t worked with in the past. The businesses that often need to interface with Washington and need to be supported — Alabama businesses. I don’t have to be brought up to date on them. I know that already,” he advised. “And I think somebody starting with virtually no knowledge of the Congress is a problem.”
“And finally, I’ll say it this way: I have proven that I understand Alabama values. And that I fight for them every day. I have stood up to Republican colleagues on many key issues, sometimes alone, to advance trade and immigration issues that are important to Alabama. And why would we want to take a chance on somebody — may have been a good coach but’d be totally unproven. We don’t know what his philosophy is, except that it doesn’t look like he shares the Trumpian philosophy. I would say this is a critical election, and I believe I can provide valuable leadership,” Sessions emphasized.
To conclude the interview, Yellowhammer similarly asked Sessions to react to two pro-Tuberville ads released on Tuesday comparing Sessions to Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), who recently voted to remove Trump from office on one impeachment article.
“This was very irritating to me,” Sessions responded. “Mitt Romney has indeed waffled. He’s a part of the crew that’s shown weakness and a lack of passion to advance the conservative agenda.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn