While Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., calls it a “Resolution Reinstating Jeff Sessions as United States Senator,” his opponents are more likely to describe it as a political suicide pact with a special opt-out.
Here’s how it would work, per a contract cobbled together by the Alabama conservative. First, the entire Republican field would “simultaneously withdraw from this race.” Second, Sessions would run for his old seat. And third, Trump would appoint “whomever he wants as attorney general.”
Presumably, and though not enumerated, Brooks would remain in the House of Representatives.
After reviewing the terms of the resolution and recent polling though, the other nine competitors don’t seem likely to sign up. According to an Alabama poll conducted by Cygnal, Sen. Luther Strange leads with 33 percent of the vote, followed by former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore with 26 percent and Brooks with 16 percent.
But regardless of whether anyone signs that dotted line, Brooks is doing something very clever. Without consulting Sessions, he has pitted the president against Alabama’s favorite son, essentially playing Trump off of Sessions.
Throughout the race, Trump’s popularity has been a stumbling block for Brooks, who openly criticized him as “a serial philanderer” during the 2016 Republican primary. Pointing to those statements, Strange has run ahead as the pro-Trump candidate.
Rather than defend against attacks that he’s not sufficiently pro-Trump, Brooks can now point to his support for Sessions. In other words, every dispersion on the attorney general supposedly boosts Brooks.
That explains Brooks’ heavy-handed criticism of Trump’s “waterboarding of one of the greatest people Alabama has ever produced.” He certainly has enough evidence. Trump has griped on Twitter, in print, and on television about how Sessions recused himself from investigating matters relating to Russian electoral meddling.
“If the President has reservations about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, that is okay. No two people agree all the time,” Brooks responded in a 500-plus word press release. “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.”
A source familiar with Brooks’ thinking stresses that this isn’t a cynical political calculation though. “He is personally very close to Sessions,” the source told the Washington Examiner, “he believes that what is happening to Sessions is deeply unjust, and he wants to offer him a lifeline.”
And there’s something to that. Brooks counts Sessions as a friend and boasts that the former senator endorsed him during his first run for Congress in 2010.
Nevertheless, with less than three weeks before the Aug. 15 primary, the Draft Sessions effort bolsters the Brooks campaign.
“This is what a candidate does when he learns he’s plummeted to a distant third and is desperate to get attention,” Strange said in a rapid and sharp statement. “Shame on Congressman Brooks for his lack of faith in President Trump and Attorney General Session’s committment to work together to make America great again.”
This story has been updated to include a response from Sen. Strange
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.