CULLMAN, Ala. – Former U.S. Attorney General and current U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Sessions visited Cullman on Wednesday and Thursday during a tour through north Alabama. The Tribune got to sit down with Sessions for a conversation before he headed out to his next stop Thursday morning.
Sessions told The Tribune, “Cullman is just a great city for Alabama, and it’s doing so well. A lot of places are doing well in Alabama, but I would say you’ve got to be one of the very best at growth and prosperity and improvement, so we want to be here. The county has about 100,000 people, and anybody who wants to be a United States senator needs to come by and visit!”
The candidate has visited Albertville, Guntersville, Hamilton, Houston and, of course, Huntsville. After his morning stops in downtown Cullman, he headed out for visits to the Warrior and Hayden areas.
Draining the swamp, geographically as well as politically
As part of his tour, Sessions visited the new FBI facility at Redstone Arsenal that will house many of the agency’s cyber security operations.
The candidate shared: “One thing I do believe very strongly, and have for a number of years-I’ve mentioned it to President (Donald) Trump during the campaign and others-and that is we’re putting far too much money and hiring far too many people in the Washington Beltway, and not enough money is going out of the city and into the country, because that’s where the money’s sent from. It’s sent from all over America to Washington. As a matter of fact, 11 of the top 20 counties in America, economically, are in the Washington Beltway, so a stunning number.
“The FBI’s been consolidating their main FBI headquarters. Senator (Richard) Shelby has been a great leader on this. We already had a base of operations in Huntsville, and just an opportunity that when they build that building, they build a smaller building and not put everybody that’s in four or five other buildings around Washington in it. You put you core headquarters-OK-at the FBI (Washington office), but we need to look for ways to ‘drain the swamp,’” he said, using the phrase Trump made famous during his 2016 campaign.
“This is a real draining of the swamp. We’re taking up to 4,000 FBI officials and employees, and putting them in Huntsville, Alabama instead of Washington D.C. A lot of those agencies-Agriculture, Commerce, and Treasury and others-can begin to move some of their people out, too. I do think that this is a huge benefit for Alabama, economically,” said Sessions. “And also, a lot of these jobs are high-paying FBI jobs; they deal with cyber security- PhD. people, contractors that may well come with them over the years. It’s good for us, economically, but it’s also a symbol, a policy that I’d like to see continue and be expanded. Alabama may not get all of it. Maybe Dubuque will, maybe a place in Missouri or Arkansas will benefit, instead of it all going to Washington. We’re very excited about it.”
Increasing cyber security
“The last budget I approved for the FBI, we got them to increase substantially the cyber budget,” said Sessions. “We recommended close to doubling the cyber budget, because so much crime now is cyber crime. So much of it is international, and only the FBI can handle, really, international cases. A lot of it deals with, frankly, China and some other powers that seek advantage, (to) steal our secrets. I can see a great future for the FBI in Huntsville. I actually was pleased that Associate Deputy Director of the FBI, Mr. (Paul) Abbate, he called (the Huntsville facility) ‘HQ Two,’ headquarters two for the FBI. I think it’s a significant statement that affirms the importance of this development here.”
Drugs and border security
On Wednesday, Sessions met with Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry, Cullman Police Chief Kenny Culpepper and others to talk about crime in the local region. Early on Thursday morning, he met with county court officials.
Said Sessions, “I met with a judge this morning. He mentioned that there’s been a fentanyl overdose death in the area. Fentanyl is a deadly, dangerous drug, and I made it a top priority that we do use the federal law enforcement to focus on fentanyl cases, because it’s such a deadly killer.
“Also, we targeted the cartels: MS-13 and Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels-made those national priorities. And almost all of it is coming across the Mexican border. Even fentanyl that comes from China- much of it is transported into Mexico and then across the border. Securing the border will help us a good bit with illegal drugs, too.”
Call to support President Trump
Concluding his conversation with The Tribune, Sessions said, “I feel strongly that the Republican Party needs to be more passionately supportive of the Trump agenda. It was my agenda before he ran. It’s his agenda. He didn’t get it from me. I mean that’s what he believes, and it’s right. It’s right as a matter of policy. It’s right as what the American people want. It’s good politics. We don’t need to drop the ball. We need to get behind him when he is reelected-and I think he will be-we need to get behind him and get these things done quickly.
“We need to hit the ground running. We need to be able to advance that agenda, to stand up for American manufacturing and resist unfair trade, to end the lawlessness at the border. (We) just won a lawsuit at the border, allowing us to use defense money for the wall. We need to help him sort through our foreign policy so that we’re more realistic, and not so likely to get involved in prolonged nation-building exercises that haven’t worked very well.
“So, I think all of those are great, important issues, historically, for the country. We’re at a critical time. And I believe I know them; I care deeply about them. I’ve been working on them for quite a number of years, and I want to help get this done. I think if we don’t do it now, we may regret it, and we may have missed an opportunity that might not come again.”
Sessions will be on the March 3, 2020 Alabama Republican Primary ballot, running for his former U.S. Senate seat, which is now held by Democrat Doug Jones. Sessions held his former Senate seat from 1996 to 2016, when Trump announced his intention to nominate Sessions for U.S. Attorney General. Sessions served as U.S. Attorney General from February 2017 to November 2018.
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