New York Times
By Ashley Parker and Matt Felgenheimer
February 28, 2016
Donald J. Trump unveiled his first Senate endorsement at a rally here Sunday night, bringing Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama up onstage with him and praising him as “really the expert as far as I’m concerned on borders.”
Mr. Sessions is known for his virulent opposition to the immigration bill that passed the Senate in 2013, which included a path to citizenship for the undocumented immigrants already in the country, and Mr. Trump has made a tough stance on immigration a pillar of his campaign.
“I told Donald Trump, this isn’t a campaign, this is a movement,” Mr. Sessions said, looking out over the crowd of thousands. “Look at what’s happened.”
In a statement, Mr. Trump said he was honored to have Mr. Sessions’s support.
“He led the fight against the Gang of Eight, against Obama’s trade deal, against Obama’s judges, and for American sovereignty,” Mr. Trump said in his statement. “He has stood up to special interests as few have. There is no more respected man in Congress and we are closely aligned on many issues, including trade and illegal immigration, and I am proud to consider Jeff Sessions an adviser, friend and ally.”
Alabama is one of the states that heads to the polls on Tuesday, and Mr. Sessions’s endorsement comes as Mr. Trump has begun to consolidate more establishment support behind his bid. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, previously one of Mr. Trump’s rivals for the nomination, endorsed him on Friday, and last week the real estate billionaire picked up the support of two House Republicans.
The endorsement was a major blow to Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who has long counted Mr. Sessions among his few allies in the Senate. On the campaign trail, he has invoked Mr. Sessions repeatedly as a partner in stifling immigration legislation in 2013 — an episode that is central to Mr. Cruz’s argument against Mr. Trump’s signature issue.
On Sunday, as news of the endorsement trickled out, Mr. Cruz, who had publicly wooed Mr. Sessions, declined to weigh in.
“I’ll wait to comment on endorsements until they actually happen rather than to comment on speculation of endorsements,” he told reporters in Oklahoma City.
Both Mr. Rubio and Mr. Sessions discussed securing the nation’s borders and immigration in their remarks, and the endorsement also highlights the weakness of Senator Marco Rubio, who was a co-author of the controversial Senate bill, with the Republican base just two days before voters head to the polls in a string of conservative Southern states.
The news also serves as a boost to Mr. Trump as he is coming under the most sustained paid media assault of his candidacy, and as he has made a series of stumbles, including declining to denounce support from David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, and to disavow a quote from Benito Mussolini that he promoted on his Twitter account.
There were signs that Mr. Sessions was impressed with Mr. Trump, especially on the issue of immigration. The Alabama Senator appeared with Mr. Trump at one of his early rallies, and in January, Stephen Miller, a top aide to Mr. Sessions in the Senate, left to join Mr. Trump’s campaign as a senior policy advisor.
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