WASHINGTON • Shortly after learning in May that a special counsel had been appointed to investigate links between his campaign associates and Russia, United States President Donald Trump berated Attorney-General Jeff Sessions in an Oval Office meeting and said he should resign, according to current and former administration officials and others briefed on the matter.
The President attributed the appointment of the special counsel, Mr Robert Mueller, to Mr Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Justice Department's Russia investigation - a move Mr Trump believes was the moment his administration effectively lost control over the inquiry.
Mr Sessions had stepped aside after it was revealed he had not provided accurate testimony to Congress about his meetings with the Russian ambassador during the presidential campaign.
The President's outburst came in the middle of an Oval Office meeting that Mr Trump had with top advisers on May 17 to discuss candidates to take over the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after the President fired its director, Mr James Comey, earlier that month.
Accusing Mr Sessions of "disloyalty", Mr Trump unleashed a string of insults on his attorney-general. Ashen and emotional, Mr Sessions told the President he would quit and sent a resignation letter to the White House, according to four people who were told details of the meeting.
The meeting, details of which have not previously been reported, shows the intensity of Mr Trump's emotions as the Russia investigation gained steam and how he appeared to immediately see Mr Mueller's appointment as a looming problem for his administration.
Mr Trump ended up rejecting Mr Sessions' May resignation letter 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.
Mr Trump once again, in July, told aides he wanted to remove Mr Sessions, but for a second time did not take action.
Since then, the relationship between the two men has improved marginally, as Mr Sessions has made a public display of hunting for the leakers among the administration's national security officials. His allies said that despite the humiliation, the attorney-general has stayed in the job because he sees a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity as the nation's top law enforcement official to toughen the country's immigration policies.
Press officers for the White House and Justice Department declined to comment.