WASHINGTON (AP) — Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks offered to withdraw from a Republican Senate primary Wednesday if all other GOP candidates also drop out — an effort Brooks said would pave the way for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to be the party's Senate nominee this fall.
Brooks, a Sessions ally, said he cannot remain silent about the treatment Sessions is receiving from President Donald Trump, who has scorned Sessions as "very weak" and dangled the possibility that he will fire the former Alabama senator as the nation's top law enforcement officer.
While he supports Trump's polices, the president's "public waterboarding of one of the greatest people Alabama has ever produced is inappropriate and insulting to the people of Alabama, who know Jeff Sessions so well and elected him so often by overwhelming margins," Brooks said.
"I stand with Jeff Sessions," Brooks added.
Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., said Brooks' offer "is what a candidate does when he learns he's plummeted to a distant third (in the polls) and is desperate to get attention. Shame on Congressman Brooks for his lack of faith" in Trump and Sessions.
Brooks, a four-term lawmaker and member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, is running in a crowded GOP primary to fill Sessions' former Senate seat. Contenders in the Aug. 15 primary include Strange, the appointee who replaced Sessions, and former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.
Brooks said in a statement Wednesday that Trump has the right to appoint a new attorney general — and called his offer to withdraw a "win-win" promise for Trump and Sessions.
Sessions "can return to the Senate where he has served us so well," while Trump "can appoint whomever he wants as attorney general," Brooks said.
Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan said state law does not allow a candidate to be replaced by the party for a general election unless the nominee withdraws. If so, then the party could select a new nominee.
The Aug. 15 primary is expected to result in a runoff in September.
The offer to withdraw comes days after Brooks began airing a campaign ad that draws on dramatic audio from the shooting attack that badly wounded House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. A member of the House GOP baseball team, Brooks was on the field the morning a gunman opened fire on Republican lawmakers as they practiced in a Virginia suburb.
The ad shows Brooks, while still at the baseball field, answering a reporter's question whether the violence changed his mind about his support for gun rights.
"The Second Amendment right to bear arms is to help ensure we always have a republic, so no, I'm not changing my position on any of the rights that we enjoy as Americans," Brooks responds.
A spokesman for Scalise said "some people have different ideas about what's appropriate" when asked about the use of the gunshot audio in a political ad.