"Mo Brooks of Alabama made a horrible mistake recently when he went 'woke' and stated, referring to the 2020 Presidential Election Scam, 'Put that behind you, put that behind you,'" Trump said in a statement Wednesday. "I am hereby withdrawing my Endorsement of Mo Brooks for the Senate."
But the former president had a pile of qualms that had been mounting for months, according to people familiar with the dynamic.
“It’s not just the voter fraud stuff that pissed off Trump," one Trump adviser said. "Mo was lazy. He wasn’t raising money. And to Trump, that’s a sign you’re not working hard. Mo fell behind in the polls as a result. And he fired his Alabama staff and hired some Never Trump advisers. And then there’s [Jeff] Sessions. Mo called him one of the best senators we ever had.”
Trump called Brooks “disappointing” in an interview with the Washington Examiner last week.
Brooks fired back in a statement Wednesday that portrayed Trump as a dupe of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and reiterated the fact that the 2020 election is over.
"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," Brooks said. "As a lawyer, I 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."
In an interview with NBC News, Brooks said Trump made the request after Sept. 1, 2021 — when Biden had been president for more than seven months. After asking a reporter to read Trump's statement over the phone, Brooks took exception to Trump's assertion that he "went woke."
"There’s no one in Alabama with the brain size of a pea or larger who would believe that I’m a woke liberal," said Brooks, who is among the most conservative members of the House.
The Alabama race is one of a handful across the country in which Trump's vaunted endorsement has not proved to be a fast train to victory in Republican primaries.
In neighboring Georgia, for example, Trump-backed former Sen. David Perdue is trailing in his bid to deny Gov. Brian Kemp re-nomination. In Pennsylvania, Trump-endorsed candidate Sean Parnell dropped out of the Senate race amid domestic-abuse allegations. And in South Carolina, where Trump is desperate to unseat GOP Rep. Nancy Mace, the former president's endorsement of Katie Arrington has not given the challenger as much traction as he had hoped.
By pulling his endorsement of Brooks, Trump is at least temporarily giving a boost to both of the other two GOP candidates in the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, Katie Britt and Mike Durant, before the May 24 primary. He said he will make a new endorsement "in the near future," but did not specify whether he would do so before the primary. If no Republican wins at least 50 percent May 24, the top two vote-getters move on to a runoff for the nomination.
The former president met with Durant in Mar-a-Lago on Monday, two days before rescinding his endorsement of Brooks, two sources familiar with the meeting tell NBC News.
The sitdown followed Trump’s February Mar-a-Lago meeting with Britt, the former chief of staff to Sen. Shelby, a source adds.
One source cautions that Trump has not yet made any decisions on endorsing either Durant or Britt ahead of the primary.
Shelby has pledged to route millions of dollars from his campaign and super PAC coffers into electing Britt, who is his former chief of staff. Durant, an Army veteran, is a newcomer to politics. Trump has met with both of them.
In his Wednesday statement, Brooks suggested that McConnell had fooled Trump into withdrawing his endorsement.
"It is disappointing that, just like in 2017, President Trump lets Mitch McConnell manipulate him again," Brooks said, referring to Trump's endorsement of then-Sen. Luther Strange over Brooks and Roy Moore in a Senate campaign. "I wish President Trump wouldn't fall for McConnell's ploys, but, once again, he has."
Alabama has proved one of the most vexing states for Trump. While he is wildly popular there, this is the third time one of his Senate endorsements in the state has backfired.
After tapping Sessions to be his attorney general in 2017, Trump supported the appointed replacement, Strange, in a failed bid for the GOP nomination to finish the term. Then, Trump backed Roy Moore, the Republican who won that nomination, when he lost to Democrat Doug Jones. When Trump endorsed Brooks, it looked like the third time might be his charm in Alabama.
But soon after, Trump began having reservations, and people close to Britt’s campaign predicted he would rescind the endorsement. In February, Brooks lashed out at Britt, saying it was false that Trump had cold feet. Brooks, whose Twitter handle still boasts of being endorsed by Trump, also noted that Donald Trump Jr. supported him.
“That’s a smart campaign tactic on the Britt campaign’s part that has no substance,” Brooks told Alabama.com in February, noting the former president’s son and namesake supports him as well. “You still look at the scoreboard — it’s Donald Trump Jr. and Donald Trump Sr. with two endorsements (for Brooks). Katie Britt, zero. I understand she wishes Donald Trump Sr. and Jr. liked her and will endorse, but they won’t.”
Trump said Brooks' lead in polling "totally evaporated all based on his '2020' statement made at our massive rally in Cullman, Alabama."
At the August rally, Brooks was booed by the crowd when he said from the podium: “There are some people who are despondent about the voter fraud and election theft of 2020. Folks, put that behind you. Put that behind you. Yes, look forward! Look forward! Look forward! Beat them in 2022! Beat them in 2024!”
Brooks, a staunch Trump ally, was at the forefront of calls to challenge the 2020 presidential election. In remarks at the Jan. 6 rally in Washington that preceded the riot at the Capitol, he said, “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.”