Moments after he learned a special counsel had been appointed to investigate Russian interference in the election, an angry President Donald Trump told Attorney General Jeff Sessions he was an “idiot” for recusing himself — a humiliation Sessions later told associates was the most demeaning experience in his political career.
That’s according to a New York Times article based on interviews with unnamed past and present administration officials.
The president blamed Sessions’ recusal for the Justice Department’s selection of Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel, accusing Sessions of “disloyalty” and demanding his resignation, the newspaper reported.
The outburst reportedly came during a May 17 meeting in the Oval Office, also attended by Vice President Mike Pence, White House counsel Donald F. McGahn III and other top aides. The meeting was called to discuss possible replacements for fired FBI director James Comey.
Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein called McGahn during the meeting to tell him he had decided to appoint Mueller. When McGahn relayed the news to Trump, the president unleashed his broadside at Sessions, calling his appointment one of the worst decisions Trump had ever made, the newspaper reported.
“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 newspaper reported. “Mr. Sessions would later tell associates that the demeaning way the president addressed him was the most humiliating experience in decades of public life.”
Senior White House officials talked Trump out of accepting the resignation, the Times reported.