MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Donald Trump on Wednesday rescinded his endorsement of Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks in his state’s Republican Senate primary, dealing a major blow to the congressman’s campaign.
In a statement, Trump cited Brooks’ performance in the race and what Trump perceived as Brooks’ attempt to move Republicans beyond Trump’s false 2020 election fraud claims. The former president said he will make another endorsement announcement in the “near future.”
“Very sad but, since he decided to go in another direction, so have I, and I am hereby withdrawing my Endorsement of Mo Brooks for the Senate,” Trump said. “I don’t think the great people of Alabama will disagree with me.”
Brooks, in a statement afterward, defended his conduct. “I have not changed. I am the only proven America First candidate in this Senate race,” he said as the GOP seeks to retain the seat held by retiring Sen. Richard Shelby.
Trump has been frustrated for months as Brooks has failed to gain traction in the May 24 primary and has trailed in polling. By withdrawing the endorsement, Trump is trying to stave off the embarrassment of backing a losing candidate in a high-profile race. Trump, who often brags about his endorsement record, takes his tally seriously, seeing it as a reflection of his power in the Republican Party as he mulls another presidential run in 2024.
Alabama’s is not the only race in which Trump’s pick has struggled.
The Senate candidate he originally endorsed in Pennsylvania, Sean Parnell, dropped out amid allegations of abuse from his ex-wife. In North Carolina, Trump’s Senate pick, Rep. Ted Budd, has failed to make a splash. In Georgia, former Sen. David Perdue is trailing Gov. Brian Kemp, one of Trump’s top 2022 targets, in the primary campaign.
Trump has since become more cautious and held back endorsements in several high-profile races, including contests in Ohio, Missouri, Arizona and Pennsylvania.
Trump had backed Brooks last April, more than a year before the Alabama primary, rewarding the conservative firebrand who whipped up a crowd of Trump supporters at the Jan. 6, 2021, rally that preceded the U.S. Capitol insurrection.
Brooks has since found himself in a tough race with two formidable opponents: Katie Britt, the former head of a state business group, and Mike Durant, a businessman best known as the helicopter pilot shot down and held prisoner in the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” incident.
The Senate race in the strongly Republican state will likely decide who succeeds Shelby. Britt previously served as Shelby’s chief of staff.
Brooks, his statement, said he understood that Trump might pull his endorsement because Brooks had repeated what he said had prompted Trump’s ire: Brooks’ assertion that the 2020 election could not be overturned.
“President Trump asked me to rescind the 2020 elections, immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House, immediately put President Trump back in the White House, and hold a new special election for the presidency. As a lawyer, I’ve repeatedly advised President Trump that January 6 was the final election contest verdict and neither the U.S. Constitution nor the U.S. Code permit what President Trump asks. Period,” Brooks wrote.
“I’ve told President Trump the truth knowing full well that it might cause President Trump to rescind his endorsement. But I took a sworn oath to defend and protect the U.S. Constitution. I honor my oath. That is the way I am. I break my sworn oath for no man.”
“There’s only one conservative option in this race,” he added, “and I am confident that the people of Alabama will see that on Election Day.”
At the “Stop the Steal” rally before the storming of the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, Brooks had spoken in incendiary language, telling the crowd that, “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” But their relationship has deteriorated.
Trump, in his Wednesday statement, accused Brooks, one of the most conservative members of Congress, of having gone “woke” because of comments he made during an August rally with Trump in Alabama that briefly resulted in jeers from the crowd.
Brooks told the crowd it was time to move on from the 2020 presidential race and focus on upcoming elections.
“When I heard his statement, I said, ‘Mo, you just blew the Election, and there’s nothing you can do about it,’” Trump said Wednesday, repeating his election lies.
Numerous state and federal election officials, a succession of judges, Trump’s own attorney general and an arm of his administration’s Department of Homeland Security all said there was no evidence to support his claims of mass election fraud.
Trump had told the Washington Examiner last week that he was disappointed in Brooks’ performance and was mulling backing another candidate because, he claimed, Brooks had “changed.”
“It’s a very tight race between the three of them right now, and I’m not particularly happy,” he told the newspaper.
Brooks had tried to salvage the endorsement by taking a swipe at Trump rival Sen. Mitch McConnell, pledging not to back McConnell as Senate Republican leader if Brooks won the Senate seat. Trump has fumed at McConnell and repeatedly called for his replacement since the Kentucky senator criticized the then-president’s conduct on Jan. 6.
Trump invited Britt and her husband, Wesley Britt, a former lineman for the New England Patriots, to meet with him at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate last month, according to a person who was familiar with the visit but not authorized to speak about it publicly. Trump also met with Durant this week, according to another person who spoke on the condition of anonymity to confirm the private meeting.
Both Britt and Durant have a cash advantage over Brooks. Britt has raised nearly $5 million. Durant has loaned his campaign $4 million, while Brooks has reported $2.1 million in contributions.
Brooks has leaned heavily on his Trump connection throughout the race. His campaign signs refer to him as “MAGA Mo” in reference to the former president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. He appeared with a life-size poster of Trump at one recent campaign stop.
While Trump’s endorsement withdrawal is a major loss to the Brooks campaign, the former president’s backing hasn’t always guaranteed success even in Alabama, where he has logged successive failures.
In 2017, Trump endorsed Luther Strange in the GOP primary for Jeff Sessions’ former Senate seat, but Strange lost to Roy Moore. Trump then backed Moore, who was contesting sexual misconduct allegations and lost to Democrat Doug Jones.
Colvin reported from New York.