US President Donald Trump degraded Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a White House meeting in May and said he should resign, shortly after learning that a special counsel had been appointed to investigate links between his campaign associates and Russia.
The president unleashed a string of insults on his attorney general on May 17 at the Oval office meeting, calling Sessions an “idiot” and accusing him of “disloyalty,” The New York Times reported on Thursday, citing current and former White House officials and others briefed on the matter.
Trump attributed the appointment of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, to Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s Russia investigation.
Sessions announced in March that he was recusing himself from matters related to the Justice Department’s investigation of alleged Russian connections with Trump presidential campaign.
Sessions announced the decision after it was revealed that he failed to disclose his contacts with former Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak during his Senate confirmation hearing last year.
Emotional and embarrassed, the embattled Sessions told the president he would resign and left the Oval Office, according to four people who were told details of the meeting.
Trump decided to reject Sessions’s resignation after senior members of his administration argued that dismissing the attorney general would only create more problems for a president who had already fired an FBI director and a national security adviser.
Sessions would later tell associates that the demeaning way the president addressed him was the most humiliating experience in decades of public life.
The Oval Office meeting, details of which have not previously been reported, underscored the depth of antipathy Trump has had for Sessions, one of his earliest campaign supporters.
It also shows the intensity of Trump’s emotions as the Russia investigation grew wider and how he appeared to immediately see Mueller’s appointment as a looming problem for his administration.
The president was furious for months about the recusal. Trump said in July that he never would have appointed Sessions to be attorney general if he knew he was going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Trump called the decision “very unfair to the president.”
Trump continued his public attacks in the days that followed, including taking to Twitter to call him “weak.”
Trump’s public denunciations of Sessions were unprecedented, historians and former Justice Department officials have said.
Sessions said that he did not leave because he had a chance to curtail legal and illegal immigration.
In recent weeks, he has led efforts to undo what he believed to be former President Barack Obama’s dangerously lenient immigration policies, including the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
On Thursday, however, the president tweeted about the need for protections for people brought here “through no fault of their own.” On Wednesday evening, Democrats announced they had reached a deal with the president to quickly extend protections for young undocumented immigrants.