Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions officially announced Thursday that he is running for Senate in Alabama. If he prevails in the crowded Republican primary, Sessions would challenge Senator Doug Jones, who is considered the most vulnerable Democrat in the Senate.

 

"When President Trump took on Washington, only one senator out of a hundred had the courage to stand with him: me," Sessions said in a statement. "I was the first to support President Trump. I was his strongest advocate. I still am. We can make America great again."

In his statement, Sessions acknowledged he and Mr. Trump "have had our ups and downs." He said it would have been "dishonorable" to "go on CNN and attack the president" after he was forced out by Mr. Trump. 

Appearing on Fox News' "Tucker Carlson Tonight" minutes after making his campaign website live, Sessions touted his support of the Trump administration's hardline immigration policies. Sessions told Carlson he did not regret recusing himself from the investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 election.

"I did the thing I had to do under the rules of the Department of Justice," Sessions explained. "But I know how painful it was for the president."

Sessions resigned from his Senate seat, which he had held since 1997, at the start of the Trump administration. Wednesday marked the two-year anniversary of Sessions' resignation from his role as attorney general. Mr. Trump forced out Sessions in retaliation over Sessions' recusal.

Jones, a former U.S. attorney, is the the only Democrat to hold statewide office in deep-red Alabama, a state Mr. Trump won by 28 points in 2016. His election followed an unusual series of events for the office, including the Republican primary victory of Roy Moore, a divisive figure in Alabama politics who was later accused of pursing teenage girls while he was in his 30s.

As attorney general, Sessions was a strong backer of the Trump administration's immigration crackdown and defended the travel ban during several court challenges. He faced protesters at college appearances earlier this year in Massachusetts and Minnesota. 

Sessions, who was consistently ranked as one of the most conservative senators, has a long history in Washington. In 1986, President Reagan nominated Sessions to be a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. He was not confirmed, and the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 against recommending Sessions to the whole Senate.

Four lawyers who worked with Sessions said during that hearing he had made racist comments, including calling the NAACP "un-American." He apologized for once joking that he thought the Klu Klux Klan was "OK until they found out I smoked pot."