Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will announce his bid to reclaim his old U.S. Senate seat ahead of this Friday's filing deadline, two sources familiar with Sessions tell NBC News.
It has been made clear to Sessions that President Donald Trump intends to campaign against him in what is currently a crowded Alabama Senate Republican primary field.
Sessions, who resigned as Attorney General in 2018 after recusing himself from the federal probe into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election, would likely face the scorn of Trump, who called his decision to nominate Sessions as attorney general the "biggest mistake" of his presidency.
There have been questions about whether Sessions would be able to construct the campaign infrastructure to compete in a crowded GOP field ahead of the party’s March 3 primary. He has not run in a competitive race since his first campaign for the U.S. Senate in 1996, and the four-term senator lost a network of allies since Trump’s election— some to jobs within the Department of Justice and others, like former White House aides Rick Dearborn and Cliff Sims, who fell out of Trump’s favor. His former campaign manager and state director, Chuck Spurlock, died of cancer in 2013.
Sessions would enter the race with $2.5 million stowed away in his campaign war chest from previous fundraising.
There is a litany of other Republican candidates who have already announced their bids, including former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville and former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, who lost to Doug Jones in 2017's special election.
"He has not made any personal overtures to me about his potential candidacy," Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, who announced his own Senate bid this summer, said last week. "I’ve been with him a couple of times recently, and he has not indicated to me that he intends to offer himself as a candidate."
Merrill, however, in that interview last week left the door open to re-evaluating his own candidacy.
Sessions is "someone who I have admired, supported and considered a friend. He’s been a mentor to me and an encourager to me. But if he chooses to get in the race, we’ll have to make a decision about our intentions based on our feelings, our supporters, and based on the viability of our candidacy after that takes place," he said.
Seth Marrow, campaign manager for Congressman Bradley Byrne’s Senate bid, said Byrne would "absolutely stay in the race" if Sessions chooses to answer.
"It’s not clear that it benefits X and hurts Y,” Marrow said. “I think it’s more complicated to that. There’s so many dynamics to it."
But the wait and see on whether Sessions would run has left the Alabama Republican Party in a daze as it aimed to have a less contentious primary process than the one it underwent in 2017 when their nominee, Roy Moore, was accused of sexual misconduct.
Despite expectations that he would face the president’s wrath during a primary campaign, Sessions would likely remain a formidable challenger to Doug Jones. Sessions won his first statewide race— for state attorney general— in 1994.
"A lot of these people are Trump supporters, but they can like Trump and Sessions," said Carns, the Trump campaign’s state chair. "He’s done too much for this state and this country. He’s done too much. I hope he decides to [run]."