Posted at 5:45 p.m. on Feb. 28
MADISON, Ala. — Jeff Sessions on Sunday became the first U.S. senator to endorse Donald Trump for president.
“We need to make America great again,” the Alabama Republican announced here at a Trump rally, citing Trump’s campaign slogan. “I am pleased to endorse Donald Trump for the presidency of the United States.”
Trump pointed out at the rally that Sunday’s announcement was the first time that Sessions has endorsed a candidate in a presidential campaign.
“I told Donald Trump this isn’t a campaign, this is a movement,” Sessions said at the rally. “The American people are not happy with their government.”
Sessions’ endorsement was the second high-profile one Trump has gotten in the past few days — his former GOP presidential rival Chris Christie threw his support behind the business titan on Friday.
Sessions and Trump have common ground on the two policy issues for which the veteran lawmaker has become best known on Capitol Hill.
“You have asked for 30 years, and politicians have promised for 30 years to fix illegal immigration. Have they done it? No. Donald Trump will do it,” Sessions said.
Sessions also highlighted his agreement with Trump on trade policy and that the real estate developer and GOP presidential front-runner would derail current efforts.
“The American people have known for years these trade agreements have not been working for us. We now have, and soon will have a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Obamatrade,” Sessions said. “And it should not pass.”
Sessions raised the same points in an interview with conservative host Laura Ingraham last week. In that interview, the senator said he had no intention of endorsing Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, signaling he could support either Texas Sen. Ted Cruz or Trump for the GOP nomination.
“[Trump] has validated my view that the American people will respond if these issues are properly discussed with them, and nobody really did until Trump, and he surged to the top,” Sessions noted. “I think those issues have more power than he is being given credit for. They all want to say it’s just his personality, or people are angry, they’re thoughtless, they’re not thinking. The American people are thinking, and they are concerned about both of these issues, and Trump has gained support on that.”
Until now, Trump has had no endorsements from the Senate. Rubio has 14 senators in his camp; Ohio Gov. John Kasich has one; and Cruz and Ben Carson have none.
Before Sunday’s event, Trump stirred a controversy when he dodged questions on CNN about an endorsement from Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
When CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Trump to disavow the white supremacist group, Trump responded, “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don’t know. I don’t know — did he endorse me, or what’s going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists.”
Sen. Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican who is African American, blasted Trump for dodging the question three times.
“If there’s ever an easy home run it’s disavowing the KKK. That’s just called common sense. At the end of the day, it’s not a question of history, it’s a question of hate. That’s an easy call that Donald missed,” Scott said in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Scott has endorsed Rubio in his presidential bid.