When he learned Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had appointed a special counsel to probe possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, President Trump lambasted then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russian investigation, telling him the move could precipitate "the end" of his presidency.
"Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm f**ked," Mr. Trump told Sessions during an Oval Office meeting.
The tense exchange is detailed in the redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report, which was . Citing interviews with Sessions and his chief of staff at the time, Jody Hunt, Mueller wrote the president asked Sessions to resign for failing to "protect" him.
"Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency," Mr. Trump told Sessions, according to Mueller. "It takes years and years and I won't be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me."
The next day, according to the report, Sessions tendered his resignation, but Mr. Trump placed the letter in his pocket and repeatedly pressed the attorney general on whether he wanted to remain at the helm of the Justice Department. After Sessions said he wanted to continue in his post, Mr. Trump told him he could stay and shook his hand — but kept the resignation letter.
According to Mueller, Mr. Trump's decision to keep Sessions' letter concerned top White House staff, including then-chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon, who believed the move could be seen as an attempt by the president to exert improper influence over the Justice Department. Citing interviews conducted by his team, Mueller said Priebus once asserted Mr. Trump had the Justice Department "by the throat."
"Priebus told Sessions it was not good for the president to have the letter because it would function as a kind of 'shock collar' that the President could use any time he wanted," the report read.
According to Mueller, on May 30, 12 days after Sessions handed his resignation, Mr. Trump finally returned the letter with a notification saying he did not accept the resignation.
This conversation is not the only one described in the Mueller report in which Mr. Trump berated Sessions for recusing from the Russia investigation. On May 3, incensed that former FBI Director James Comey did not tell a Congressional panel that the president was not under investigation, Mr. Trump told Sessions he felt powerless because of his attorney general's recusal.
"I appointed you and you recused yourself. You left me on an island. I can't do anything," Mr. Trump said, according to the report.