Behind Trump and Sessions Twitter row, a key Senate seat

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump are fighting on social media about a primary battle in Alabama that may be key to Republicans retaining control of the U.S. Senate.

Trump has targeted Sessions for retribution since Sessions recused himself in 2017 from a U.S. probe into Russian election meddling.

In a Twitter message on Saturday evening, Trump told Sessions he should drop out of the race because "You had no courage, & ruined many lives."

"Mr. President, Alabama can and does trust me, as do conservatives across the country," Sessions tweeted on Saturday morning, referring to an earlier Trump attack. "Perhaps you've forgotten. They trusted me when I stepped out and put that trust on the line for you."

In an earlier tweet, Sessions said Trump's "personal feelings don't dictate who Alabama picks as their senator."

The Trump campaign declined to comment on Sessions' tweets.

Sessions spent 20 years as a U.S. senator before joining the Trump administration in 2017. Forced out by Trump in November 2018, he now hopes to return to the Senate.

Sessions faces a primary runoff against former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville. Trump is backing Tuberville in the July 14 showdown.

The winner will face Democratic Senator Doug Jones in November, who in 2017 became the first Democrat to win a Senate seat from Alabama in a quarter century after the Republican candidate was accused of sexually harassing teenage girls as an adult.

Ousting Jones in conservative Alabama could help Republicans compensate for potential losses in four other Senate races viewed as toss-ups.

Republicans control the Senate with 53 out of 100 seats, giving them a slim six-seat margin.

Trump blames Sessions' recusal for U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, which cast a cloud over his presidency but didn't result in any charges against Trump.


(Reporting by David Morgan, Steve Holland and Joel Schectman; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Jonathan Oatis)