Jeff Sessions bet HUGE on Donald Trump -- and lost

Jeff Sessions speaks after losing an Alabama Senate GOP primary runoff to former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville.

Posted: Jul 16, 2020 12:51 AM
Updated: Jul 16, 2020 12:51 AM

"I leave elective office with my integrity in tact," Jeff Sessions said Tuesday night following his rout at the hands of former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville in a runoff for the Alabama Republican Senate nomination. "This chapter of my life is closed."

Sessions didn't name the chapter that had just closed but, if he had, it would have been titled: "The Trump Years." And it would read like a tragedy.

Let's leaf through it.

In mid 2015, Sessions was just settling in to his fourth term representing Alabama in the Senate, having been unopposed by any Democrat in his 2014 reelection race. In his late 60s at the time, Sessions could comfortably expect to hold his seat for as long as he chose -- given his popularity in the Alabama and the state's overwhelming Republican bent.

But, Sessions, who had been nominated to be a federal judge by Ronald Reagan in 1986 only to see the Senate block his nomination due to allegations of racism, wanted more. He longed to be attorney general of the United States. (He had been attorney general in Alabama prior to winning his Senate seat in 1996.) The problem? Sessions, who has one of the most conservative voting records in the Senate and had emerged as the loudest voice in the chamber on the threats posed to the country by illegal immigration, was not someone all that well regarded by the establishment of the party. Assuming former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination at the time, won the primary, there was a roughly 0% chance Sessions would be the next attorney general. Ditto if Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was the nominee. Or even Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Then Donald Trump announced his run for president on June 16, 2015. And promised to build a "big" and "beautiful" wall along the southern border to keep the "rapists," drug-dealers and other assorted criminals out of America. Trump, unlike all of the rest of the contenders for the Republican nomination, didn't have much of a political inner circle. And he was expressly running against the sort of establishment types that had dismissed Sessions as a serious player.

Sessions didn't endorse Trump right away, however. He didn't get to the Senate -- and stay there -- by being dumb. No point in throwing away an endorsement on a guy who flames out within a few months -- as everyone expected Trump to do. But, as it became more and more clear that Trump's campaign was striking a chord with Republican primary voters sick of status quo politicians, Sessions saw an opportunity. A chance to grab the golden ring that seemed so unobtainable just a few months before.

"At this time in American history we need to make America great again," Sessions told a large and loud crowd on February 28, 2016, in Madison, Alabama. "I am pleased to endorse Donald Trump for president of the United States." It made him the first senator to endorse Trump. And, yes, it was a gamble since the Super Tuesday primaries were two days off -- and it wasn't yet clear whether Trump would be the nominee or, even if he was, if he had a chance at actually being elected to the White House. But it was a bet worth making in Sessions' mind. Because, if Trump did manage to win, then he could give Sessions the one thing he had always dreamed about: Trump could make Sessions the Attorney General of the United States.

And then, unbelievably, it all happened -- just as Sessions had hoped. Trump won the nomination. Then he beat Hillary Clinton. Then, on November 16, 2017, he nominated the Alabama senator to be the next AG. "Jeff has been a highly respected member of the U.S. Senate for 20 years," Trump said in a statement announcing the pick. "He is a world-class legal mind and considered a truly great Attorney General and US Attorney in the state of Alabama. Jeff is greatly admired by legal scholars and virtually everyone who knows him."

Sessions could be forgiven, at that moment, for a bit of self-congratulation. He had bet huge on a massive longshot -- and won. Except that this bet was on Donald Trump. And Donald Trump wasn't done with Sessions. Not by a long shot.

In retrospect, Sessions got, roughly, two months of doing his dream job without much trouble. Then came March 3, 2017, when he announced that he had decided to recuse himself from the ongoing Justice Department probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. That choice came after it was revealed that Sessions, in the course of his confirmations hearings to be AG, had not fully disclosed his contacts with Russians during the 2016 campaign. In Sessions' mind, it was the only way of protecting the sanctity of the investigation -- and to allow Trump to be, ultimately, cleared without people thinking that his attorney general had biased the conclusions.

Trump, uh, didn't see it that way. As the investigation came to further and further engulf his presidency, Trump turned on Sessions -- casting his AG as the sole reason for all of the troubles he was enduring. (That idea -- that the eventual special counsel probe was all Sessions' fault is, of course, ridiculous.) This, from The New York Times in September 2017, captures how quickly Trump soured:

"Shortly after learning in May that a special counsel had been appointed to investigate links between his campaign associates and Russia, President Trump berated Attorney General Jeff Sessions in an Oval Office meeting and said he should resign, according to current and former administration officials and others briefed on the matter.

"The president attributed the appointment of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to Mr. Sessions's decision to recuse himself from the Justice Department's Russia investigation — a move Mr. Trump believes was the moment his administration effectively lost control over the inquiry. Accusing Mr. Sessions of 'disloyalty,' Mr. Trump unleashed a string of insults on his attorney general."

Oomph. And, here's what's worse: Concerned about how it would look if he fired Sessions in the middle of the Mueller probe, Trump went another route: He tried to humiliate Sessions into quitting. For more than a year.

Trump called Sessions "mixed up and confused." He called him "weak." He called him "disgraceful." He called him "scared stiff and missing in action." He called him "beleaguered." He reportedly referred to him as "Mr. Magoo." And then, on the day after the November 2018 election, Trump fired Sessions.

Sessions might have reasonably assumed that the Trump chapter of his life was over. Nope!

When Sessions announced his plan to seek his old seat in the Senate in 2020, Trump made very clear that he wanted anyone but his former AG in the job. He endorsed Tuberville and tweeted a string of attacks on Sessions through the primary and runoff process.

"3 years ago, after Jeff Sessions recused himself, the Fraudulent Mueller Scam began," Trump tweeted on May 22. "Alabama, do not trust Jeff Sessions. He let our Country down. That's why I endorsed Coach Tommy Tuberville (@TTuberville), the true supporter of our #MAGA agenda!" Then, on Sunday, Trump wrote this: "Big Senate Race in Alabama on Tuesday. Vote for @TTuberville, he is a winner who will never let you down. Jeff Sessions is a disaster who has let us all down. We don't want him back in Washington!"

It worked. Tuberville, who had never run for office before and whose campaign platform was essentially that he supported Trump more than Sessions, crushed the former senator 61% to 39% on Tuesday night. Trump, always one to gloat, took to Twitter to celebrate: "Wow, just called! @TTuberville - Tommy Tuberville WON big against Jeff Sessions."

See, that's the thing with making a bet on -- and with -- someone who is fundamentally untrustworthy. He can change the rules in the middle of the game. He can turn what looks like a big win into an absolute nightmare. And that's what Trump did to Sessions. He didn't just embarrass him. He destroyed him, politically.

Don't feel bad for Sessions, though. He knew what he was getting into when he endorsed Trump way back in February 2016. He wanted something so bad that it blinded him to the sort of person he was gambling on. And what happened Tuesday night was that big bet going bust. Totally and completely.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 727764

Reported Deaths: 13397
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion995211738
Lake53461965
Allen40457675
St. Joseph35506550
Hamilton35489408
Elkhart28433441
Tippecanoe22359218
Vanderburgh22284396
Porter18668307
Johnson17905377
Hendricks17180315
Clark12930191
Madison12592339
Vigo12431246
Monroe11858170
LaPorte11821210
Delaware10648185
Howard9865216
Kosciusko9378117
Hancock8251140
Bartholomew8052155
Warrick7771155
Floyd7649177
Grant7027174
Wayne7026199
Boone6679101
Morgan6555139
Dubois6150117
Marshall6005111
Dearborn579277
Cass5788105
Henry5688103
Noble558883
Jackson500872
Shelby490296
Lawrence4505120
Harrison434772
Gibson434692
Clinton427053
DeKalb426484
Montgomery423588
Whitley394739
Huntington389080
Steuben383857
Miami380666
Knox371890
Jasper363847
Putnam358860
Wabash353379
Adams340654
Ripley339170
Jefferson328881
White313254
Daviess295899
Wells291081
Decatur284292
Fayette279262
Greene277385
Posey271033
Scott265453
LaGrange265370
Clay259146
Washington240032
Randolph239781
Spencer232031
Jennings229549
Starke215453
Fountain212046
Sullivan211142
Owen198156
Fulton194740
Jay192530
Carroll188320
Orange182654
Perry182637
Rush172925
Vermillion168543
Franklin167735
Tipton162445
Parke145916
Blackford134632
Pike133234
Pulaski116445
Newton107234
Brown101641
Crawford99314
Benton98414
Martin88315
Warren81715
Switzerland7848
Union70810
Ohio56411
Unassigned0414

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1081518

Reported Deaths: 19428
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1256551400
Cuyahoga1117782115
Hamilton798901205
Montgomery513291014
Summit47080945
Lucas42049788
Butler38301584
Stark32242906
Lorain24958481
Warren24262298
Mahoning21511588
Lake20618369
Clermont19747238
Delaware18503133
Licking16410212
Fairfield16160199
Trumbull16019468
Medina15247264
Greene15043244
Clark13970299
Wood13065189
Portage12825203
Allen11626232
Richland11323199
Miami10661217
Muskingum8799133
Wayne8784211
Columbiana8766229
Pickaway8551121
Marion8514135
Tuscarawas8470244
Erie7871154
Hancock6906127
Ross6842155
Ashtabula6792170
Geauga6677148
Scioto6405101
Belmont5873167
Union570348
Lawrence5546102
Jefferson5521151
Huron5427119
Darke5347123
Sandusky5337120
Seneca5275121
Athens518858
Washington5153109
Auglaize489584
Mercer480385
Shelby468893
Knox4483110
Madison435561
Putnam4278100
Fulton421669
Ashland421489
Defiance419297
Crawford3970107
Brown393857
Logan381576
Preble379398
Clinton371263
Ottawa366679
Highland354662
Williams338575
Champaign331458
Guernsey315653
Jackson312151
Perry294850
Morrow284639
Fayette281550
Hardin270664
Henry268466
Coshocton264557
Holmes2593101
Van Wert243363
Adams237752
Pike237534
Gallia235349
Wyandot230855
Hocking215262
Carroll191247
Paulding172540
Meigs144740
Noble133337
Monroe132042
Morgan108323
Harrison107637
Vinton82815
Unassigned02
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 50°
Angola
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 44°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
49° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 46°
Decatur
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 50°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
49° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 45°
A cold start Saturday with widespread frost expected. We'll see plenty of sunshine for most of the day. Then, clouds build in during the late afternoon and evening.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events