Jeff Sessions Endorses Donald Trump, While Other Republicans Begin To Panic

Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions became the latest prominent Republican to endorse Donald Trump, but there are a lot more Republicans who are starting to panic over what Trump could do to their party.

Jeff Sessions Donald Trump

Yesterday at a rally in Alabama, Donald Trump unveiled his latest endorsement, this time from a Senator so popular in his home state that he ran unopposed in 2014:

MADISON, Ala. — Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), whose hard-line conservative stances on immigration and trade have made him a favorite of the party’s base, endorsed Donald Trump’s White House bid during a joint appearance here in his home state Sunday.

“Politicians have promised for 30 years to fix illegal immigration. Have they done it? Donald Trump will do it,” Sessions said at the Madison City Schools Stadium, where thousands gathered to hear Trump speak. “I’ve told Donald Trump this isn’t a campaign, this is a movement.”

The endorsement represents a major blow to Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), one of Trump’s two chief rivals for the Republican nomination. Cruz has touted his strict positions on border security and deportation, leaning on his strident commitment to conservative ideology as a key rationale for his candidacy. In the run-up to the March 1 Super Tuesday primary elections, Cruz has tried to undermine Trump’s conservative bona fides on immigration reform, characterizing his plan as “amnesty.”

The announcement is the latest in a series of high-profile endorsements by prominent GOP voices including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arizona governor Jan Brewer. Sessions’s appearance came as a surprise for those in attendance, who cheered when he took the stage.

“When I talk about immigration and when I talk about illegal immigration and all the problems with crime and everything else, I think of a great man,” Trump said in introducing Sessions. “Sweet Home Alabama” finished playing as Trump took the stage.

“That is so great. You know, he’s an incredible guy,” Trump said after Sessions spoke.

Trump has made immigration reform and border security a linchpin of his presidential run, calling for the mass deportation of 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States and promising to build a massive wall alongside the U.S.-Mexico border. Many of Trump’s critics have accused him of xenophobia; others have argued that his plan to build the wall — and to force Mexico to pay for it through aggressive diplomacy — is unrealistic.

The Sessions endorsement also comes as Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) — who has been locked in a bitter fight with Cruz for second place — have made an aggressive push to characterize Trump as a false conservative who has made promises he does not intend to keep.

Cruz and Sessions, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, have forged a close relationship in recent years. Cruz has regularly made reference to Sessions on the trail, emphasizing the mutual respect between the two.

Sessions appeared with Cruz in Daphne, Ala., in December and has defended the senator from Texas against accusations that he once supported a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants. Sessions has supported Cruz’s claim that an amendment he offered, which stripped the bill of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants but granted legal status, was intended as a “poison pill” that would kill the legislation.

But the relationship between Trump and Sessions has slowly warmed over the past year. Starting early last year, Sessions and his advisers privately consulted with Trump on immigration policy and helped to shape the candidate’s position paper. They had one extensive call in July that was confirmed by both sides and is considered the moment that Sessions began to consider backing Trump.

“I like him,” Trump said of Sessions when asked about that call. “Tough guy. I like that. We have a similar thought process.”

Given their similarities on immigration on international trade, as well as the relationship they’ve developed over the past year, it’s not entirely surprising that Sessions would endorse Trump at this point in the race. As noted, Sessions has long been among the most adamant opponents of nearly any form of immigration reform that goes beyond stricter border controls, and has stood adamantly against any form of amnesty or deportation relief for the estimated 11 million people who are in the country illegally. He has also resisted efforts to change the law to make certain forms of legal immigration, such as H1-B work visas that are favored by the high tech industry, easier. On international trade, Sessions has been among the strongest opponents of the Trans Pacific Partnership and others trade deals. Given all of that, the Senator from Alabama and the real estate developer from New York are an unlikely, but natural, fit.

As with all endorsements, it’s unclear exactly how this endorsement will help Trump except to aid to the air of his inevitability as the Republican nominee in the wake of his successes during the February primaries and anticipated successes over the next two weeks. As it stands, polling indicates that Trump is likely to win big in Alabama’s primary tomorrow, so adding Sessions into the mix there isn’t necessarily going to have a major impact. Where it could help Trump is in convincing people not currently backing Trump who share Sessions’ views on immigration and trade to perhaps reconsider their position and get behind Trump. This would primarily consist of Cruz supporters, of course, since Cruz is the only other candidate in the race who can fairly be said to be close to Sessions on these issues and, as noted, the fact that Sessions chose to endorse Trump over Cruz is arguably more of a blow to Cruz than it is a boost for Trump.

In any event, the Sessions endorsement is the latest in a chain of endorsements that have come Trump’s way in the past week. It all started with Trump’s first two Congressional endorsements, which were notable but quickly overshadowed by the surprise announcement in Texas on Friday of the endorsement from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. This was followed by endorsements from Maine Governor Paul LePage and former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, as well as the suggestion that there may be more high profile judgments coming this week, especially after Trump’s expected Super Tuesday victories.

At the same time these endorsements are occurring, though, there are signs that what seems likely to turn into Trump winning the nomination could tear the GOP apart. For example, The Hill reported yesterday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is advising Senators who are in vulnerable re-election bids this year to split from Trump as well as preparing to run the Senate in the 2016 as a bullwark against an anticipated Hillary Clinton Presidency rather than running with Trump. Additionally, freshman Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse announced over the weekend that he would not support Trump in November and that Republicans may need a ‘third option’ if Trump indeed turns out to be the nominee. This comes amid reports about an effort to stop Trump by top Republicans to stop Trump that seems to be becoming increasingly desperate, other reports characterizing the party as being in a state of ‘implosion’ over the Trump candidacy, and the increasing realization of the danger that Donald Trump poses to the Republican Party. Since Trump’s march to the nomination seems like it’s going to continue unabated unless something dramatic happens tomorrow or in the subsequent two weeks, we can expect to see more of this split between those Republicans who will make their peace with Trump for the sake of trying to save the election, and those who insist that the only way to save the GOP is to disavow Trump completely. In the short term, all of this is likely to inure to the benefit the Democratic Party and the Democratic nominee. In the long term, it has potentially exposed a fault in one of America’s major political parties that is unlikely to be easily repaired.

 

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Congress, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. An Interested Party says:

    Trump continues to get endorsements from repulsive people…birds of a feather…

  2. Mark Ivey says:

    I bet Sen. Jeff Sessions knows who David Duke and the KKK are..

  3. Mu says:

    My twitter feed exploded with cheer yesterday when Rubio started to make “Trump fingers” a campaign item. The desperate side is now celebrating that their star is joining the poo-flinging monkeys – makes you wonder how they’re going to get rid of the smell by the time for the general elections.

  4. Hal_10000 says:

    @Mu:

    The coverage of Rubio’s jokes against Trump is beginning to annoy me:

    1) When Rubio wasn’t making doing rap battles against Trump, the media were covering Trump all the time. This sort of thing is literally the only way he can get them to pay attention.

    2) The Trump fingers remark was part of a 45-minute speech which was almost entirely about policy.

    3) The Republicans tried to deal with Trump by being above his level. It didn’t work. Maybe this will. They’ve got to try something.

  5. SenyorDave says:

    I’m one of those liberal Democrats who think Trump as the nominee is terrible for this country. I have no idea how this plays out under “normal” conditions, which assumes no major economic or international cataclysmic events in the next 8 months. I think Clinton would win, but its scary to think she might not. I do know we are one severe economic downturn or a major terror incident away from a Trump presidency.

    This being said, if Trump has to be the nominee, I hope he will continue to ramp up the overt bigotry. I hope Mitch McConnell spends the next 8 months sleeping fitfully, waking up screaming in terror every night. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

    And for God’s sakes, once Trump is the nominee, the Democrats have to make the Republicans own his bigotry. Every overt racist comment that Trump makes needs to be catalogued, and people need to determine how to use it against the GOP. Because they created Trump, and they should own him.

  6. C. Clavin says:

    Sessions, Brewer, LaPage…these are some of the most noxious bigots and xenophobes in Government today.
    According to exit polling 70% of the people who voted for the Orange-Faced Comb-Over in South Carolina think the Confederate battle flag, a symbol of treason committed against the US in order to protect slavery, should still be flying over the Statehouse.
    The question is; is this Trump support a last gasp of racism? Or the beginning of renewed overt racism?
    Whichever…Trump is going into a really dark place.
    And this was the party of Lincoln.
    Truly amazing.

  7. grumpy realist says:

    Eh. By the time the general election rolls around, I predict that 99% of Republicans will find a rationale to vote for Trump because, well, Hillary.

    The Chinese don’t have to do anything. They can just sit back and watch the US tear itself into pieces, egged on by the media and talk radio. As long as they can get eyeballs/ears, they couldn’t care less what mobs they’re cheering on or the final result. And the further down the pipeline we go, the happier they are. I suspect drones flying over rampaging mobs are in our future.

  8. sam says:

    @C. Clavin:

    And this was the party of Lincoln.

    That party died at the hands of Lee Atwater (Atwater on the Southern Strategy)

    Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry S. Dent, Sr. and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now [the new Southern Strategy of Ronald Reagan] doesn’t have to do that. All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he’s campaigned on since 1964 and that’s fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster.

    Questioner: But the fact is, isn’t it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?

    Atwater: You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”[10][11]

  9. JKB says:

    @Mark Ivey:

    No doubt as a Republican in Alabama, Sessions knows of the remnants of the Democratic Party’s paramilitary arm that was broken to enable Civil Rights and overthrow the Democratic Party controlled Jim Crow apartheid system in the South.

  10. grumpy realist says:

    @JKB: Dude, the CSA was passed 50 years ago. You might want to keep up with modern history.

    How many KKK members do you think are Democrats right now? And how many Republicans?

  11. Rafer Janders says:

    @grumpy realist:

    How many KKK members do you think are Democrats right now? And how many Republicans?

    Or, put another way, how many KKK members voted for Obama?

  12. Guarneri says:

    “Dude, the CSA was passed 50 years ago. You might want to keep up with modern history.”

    When does it start helping black America?

  13. Guarneri says:

    At least Obama has given us a great economy.

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-02-29/chicago-pmi-collapses-mysterious-january-bounce-employment-crashes-7-year-lows

    Probably need more immigrants to vote, er, I mean fill all the jobs.

  14. Guarneri says:

    Presented for the self righteous without comment.

    “So, at some point you get to take a picture with the president, and, you know as they’re setting up the picture you get a little moment with the president.

    I’m like, “Mr. President, you see all these writers and producers and actors? They don’t hire black people, and they’re the nicest, white people on earth! They’re liberals! Cheese!” “

  15. al-Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    No doubt as a Republican in Alabama, Sessions knows of the remnants of the Democratic Party’s paramilitary arm that was broken to enable Civil Rights and overthrow the Democratic Party controlled Jim Crow apartheid system in the South.

    Congratulations on completely and willfully ignoring the political and electoral history of our country since 1968.

    You might want to (or not) read Kevin Phillips “The Emerging Republican Majority” to understand that pandering to resentful, often racist, working class whites, particularly in the South, was a Republican strategy that proved to be very successful – from 1968 forward Republicans won 7 of 10 presidential elections. And, oh yeah, Phillips was a strategist for the 1968 Nixon campaign. It’s a fascinating book, a poli-sci classic.

  16. grumpy realist says:

    @Guarneri: Better than what we had under George “Dubya” Bush, m’dear.

    But aren’t you the one who is claiming to be a Great Financier? So you should be making out like a bandit, no? Snapping up distressed companies and doing great turnarounds with them?

  17. Slugger says:

    @Guarneri: Thank you for this comment. I also think that the evils of racism are insidious and pervasive in our society. We try to avoid looking into the mirror to look for wrongdoing and consequently try to identify this guy or that group as being in the wrong, but the truth is that most of us are somewhat tainted and need to be conscious of the extent of racism and its past and present. Certainly there are very few that are immune from righteous accusations.
    It is beneficial in my view to try to identify steps in the right direction even if they are only small steps. The Democrats took a step in the right direction with the nomination of Obama. Hollywood took some appropriate steps last night which they did mar with their usual puffery and fulsome self-congratulations, but on the whole they did good in my estimation. I think that Ronald Reagan sent a very wrong message when he started his reelection campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the site of the heinous murder of civil rights activists.
    Racism is a great evil. All of us need to be alert to it. No one can rest in this struggle. Let us voters be aware of all who seek to appeal to these evil sentiments.

  18. Scott says:

    @Guarneri: I don’t know about you personally but the Republican mantra was that we needed immigrants “to do the jobs Americans don’t want to do”. Which is also a passive slap at the lazy poor.

    Now immigrant bashing is the politics of the day which, objectively, won’t do anything for our economy or taxes or balance budgets, but they make great scapegoats don’t they?

  19. grumpy realist says:

    @Scott: Maybe it’s just because I’m older, but if we had been as nasty about immigrants back in the 1930s as people are yelling we should be now, the course of U.S. history would have been much different.

    Of course, if you think the people like Einstein, Bethe, Ting, etc. didn’t contribute anything….

  20. Scott says:

    @grumpy realist: Yeah, I probably wouldn’t even be here since my Dad arrived at a 2 year old in 1925.

  21. SKI says:

    @grumpy realist:

    @Scott: Maybe it’s just because I’m older, but if we had been as nasty about immigrants back in the 1930s as people are yelling we should be now, the course of U.S. history would have been much different.

    Maybe its because I studied that period (and had family that died in the Shoah because they weren’t allowed to join family already here) but we were as nasty about immigrants back then as we are now. Check out the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 – and that was BEFORE the Great Depression.

    It only got worse with bureaucratic obstacles everywhere. There was a lovely catch-22 in place at times; you needed a visa to book passage on a boat but needed proof of passage to get a visa. See here for the hurdles in escaping Germany in the 1930s.

    I trust you have heard of the MS St. Louis, also known as the Voyage of the Damned, the ship filled with Jews fleeing Germany in 1939 that was turned away by the US?

    No, we have always had a huge strain of xenophobia and tribalism and bigotry running through our political discourse. The names and labels change but the stain remains.

  22. SKI says:

    @grumpy realist:

    @Scott: Maybe it’s just because I’m older, but if we had been as nasty about immigrants back in the 1930s as people are yelling we should be now, the course of U.S. history would have been much different.

    Maybe its because I studied that period (and had family that died in the Shoah because they weren’t allowed to join family already here) but we were as nasty about immigrants back then as we are now. Check out the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 – and that was BEFORE the Great Depression.

    It only got worse with bureaucratic obstacles everywhere. There was a lovely catch-22 in place at times; you needed a visa to book passage on a boat but needed proof of passage to get a visa. See here for the hurdles in escaping Germany in the 1930s.

    I trust you have heard of the MS St. Louis, also known as the Voyage of the Damned, the ship filled with Jews fleeing Germany in 1939 that was turned away by the US?

    No, we have always had a huge strain of xenophobia and tribalism and bigotry running through our political discourse. The names and labels change but the stain remains.

  23. An Interested Party says:

    No doubt as a Republican in Alabama, Sessions knows of the remnants of the Democratic Party’s paramilitary arm that was broken to enable Civil Rights and overthrow the Democratic Party controlled Jim Crow apartheid system in the South.

    BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! You have often attempted to push this fantasy but the fact remains that racist rump of Democrats back in the 50s and 60s are now Republicans–like Jeff Sessions…and to prove the point, it isn’t Democrats who are trying to make it harder for minorities to vote…

    “So, at some point you get to take a picture with the president, and, you know as they’re setting up the picture you get a little moment with the president.

    I’m like, “Mr. President, you see all these writers and producers and actors? They don’t hire black people, and they’re the nicest, white people on earth! They’re liberals! Cheese!” “

    Before you’re tempted to get even more self-righteous than those you accuse I’m sure what Chris Rock would have to say about conservatives would be even worse…

  24. CSK says:

    I wonder what Trump offered/promised Sessions?

    I understand the endorsements by Trump and LePage. The chances of either one being re-elected governor of his respective state are remote, so both may be hoping for an appointment in a Trump administration. Neither one has anything to lose by taking the gamble. If Trump loses, they’re no worse off than they would have been otherwise.

  25. common sense says:

    @C. Clavin: you should learn your history…..the Confederate Flag has nothing to do with slavery. More uneducated comments coming from those who support a president who has taken racism back 60 years. Our country is so racist that we have a black president and black attorney general??? It is NOT about racism…..it is all about policies that hurt the American citizens and that means black, white, latino, democrats, republicans, independents, poor, middle class, Protestants, Catholics, and Muslims. Our government is for themselves…..not little Jon Q. Public. Just look how we are living vs.the elite politicians inside the beltway. The elites, both democrat and republican, count on folks like you to remain asleep and let them continue their life of royalty at the taxpayers expense.

  26. SKI says:

    @common sense:

    ..the Confederate Flag has nothing to do with slavery.

    Complete revisionist bullshit.

    1. the Confederacy was founded explicitly to maintain slavery. Read their actual statements.

    2. It re-emeregd in the last century as a political symbol opposed to integration and civil rights

    ut as a political symbol, the flag was revived when northern Democrats began to press for an end to the South’s system of racial oppression. In 1948, the Dixiecrats revolted against President Harry Truman—who had desegregated the armed forces and supported anti-lynching bills. The movement began in Mississippi in February of 1948, with thousands of activists “shouting rebel yells and waving the Confederate flag,” as the Associated Press reported at the time. Some actually removed old, mothballed flags from the trunks where they had until then been gathering dust.

    Any claims to the contrary are unsustainable in the face of actual reality.

    At the Democratic convention that July, nine southern states backed Georgia’s Senator Richard Russell over Truman, parading around the floor behind a waving Confederate flag to the strains of Dixie. The Dixiecrats reconvened in Birmingham, nominating South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond for the presidency. Sales of Confederate flags, long moribund, exploded. Stores could not keep them in stock. The battle flag became the symbol of segregation.

  27. PJ says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Or, put another way, how many KKK members voted for Obama?

    I would assume that most of the remaining ones left in 2008. And yet, Obama won by 9.5 million votes in 2008 and 5 million votes in 2012.

    There’s a party that needs to have racists, KKK members, etc to vote for them. That party isn’t the Democratic Party.

  28. Lenoxus says:

    @JKB: I’m just curious: do you believe that defense of slavery was the primary cause of secession, and that the Confederacy was fundamentally about white supremacy? Or were the KKK and Jim Crow instead some kind of Democrat perversion of noble Confederate ideals?

    If the former (which is the correct answer by the way)… then what’s the deal with today’s GOP and the Confederacy? What exactly is going on there?

  29. al-Ameda says:

    @common sense:

    the Confederate Flag has nothing to do with slavery.

    So, in the absence of slavery we would have had a Civil War anyway?

    We’re still not over the Civil War.

  30. gVOR08 says:

    @common sense:

    you should learn your history

    Someone should. Perhaps you’d consider reading sources outside the CEC, SCV bubble?

  31. DrDaveT says:

    @common sense:

    you should learn your history…..the Confederate Flag has nothing to do with slavery.

    This is an easily-debunked lie. Either you have been lied to, or you are yourself a liar. (Or both.)

    See SKI’s comment above for some original sources that make very clear the link between the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, modern American racism, and slavery.

  32. Tyrell says:

    @SKI: More talk about the Confederate Flag ? That flag was fairly much a done deal, fading into the mist until last summer when some big shot politicians and opportunists stirred up a bunch of trouble and now I see more of those flags than I have since the 1960’s. They are on pickup trucks, yard flag poles, and in windows. Some of the shops around here can’t keep enough of them.
    I guess next some misguided group will want the US flag removed. It is already happening !
    http://www.thepoliticalinsider.com/hardware-store-owner-asked-remove-american-flags/

  33. SKI says:

    @Tyrell:
    First, I didn’t bring it up. Your fellow traveler did.
    Second, I seem to remember the impetus for last year’s changes a bit different than you. Perhaps you recognize the name Dylan Roof?
    Third, are you referring bto Nikki Haley as a “big shot politician”?
    Finally, that attitude is completely drenched in privilege and callousness to those who aren’t ok. It is the same bullshit that blames the victims of prejudice for “inciting” it by pointing out the bigotry that is in existence.

    Let those idiots fly their precious battle flag. It lets the rest of us know exactly who they are.