Jeff Sessions addresses the crowd at his watch party Tuesday following Alabama's state primary in Mobile, Alabama. Credit: Vasha Hunt | AP

President Donald Trump publicly criticized Jeff Sessions, his former attorney general, after Sessions fell short of the votes needed to avoid a runoff in his bid to return to the U.S. Senate.

“This is what happens to someone who loyally gets appointed Attorney General of the United States & then doesn’t have the wisdom or courage to stare down & end the phony Russia Witch Hunt,” Trump said in a Wednesday morning tweet. “Recuses himself on FIRST DAY in office, and the Mueller Scam begins!”

Trump fired Sessions from the attorney general post after Sessions recused himself from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election meddling.

Sessions, 73, will face Tommy Tuberville, a 65-year-old former Auburn football coach, in a March 31 runoff as he tries to reclaim the Alabama Senate seat that the GOP lost to Democrat Doug Jones in 2017, according to an AP projection.

Each candidate racked up about a third of the votes in the primary late Tuesday night, short of the majority needed to preclude a runoff.

Tuberville has used Trump’s firing of Sessions in ads and has supported Trump’s plans to “investigate the investigators,” while Sessions has ripped Tuberville on immigration and for previous criticisms of Trump.

Sessions has repeatedly touted his early support for Trump, who is very popular in Alabama, in television ads, but he could still be wounded by his former boss’s attacks on him.

The president has blamed the action by Sessions for the years-long inquiry that he has labeled a “witch hunt.”