MOBILE, Ala. – Jeff Sessions took the stage with the same sense of conviction he had displayed in giddier times at a Mobile stadium almost five years ago, declaring once more that Donald Trump’s vision was right for America.
Yet the political circumstances were far different Tuesday night for the longtime Alabama senator who was the president's first attorney general.
The boisterous throngs that had greeted Trump and Sessions at an August 2015 rally were a distant memory as Sessions conceded defeat in Alabama’s Republican Senate runoff. That vote ended Sessions’ hopes of reclaiming the Senate seat he abandoned to join Trump’s administration.
Now, he was left to defend his honor for perhaps the final time against the unconventional president he helped elect but then enraged.
Trump tweeted his joy about the victory by former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville and Sessions' stinging defeat. The president has long chastised Sessions since he recused himself in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
“I leave elected office with my integrity intact,” Sessions said, initially standing alone before his grandchildren joined him in front of reporters. “I hold my head high.”
For Trump, the outcome mixed vengeance and vindication as his preferred candidate won handily. Tuberville will take on vulnerable Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in November.
“I’m very happy that Tommy Tuberville won the race,” Trump said Wednesday as he departed the White House for a trip to Atlanta. “I think he’s going to be a great senator.”