Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman report:
“WASHINGTON — Shortly after learning in May that a special counsel had been appointed to investigate links between his campaign associates and Russia, President 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 blamed the appointment of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, on Mr. Sessions’s 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. 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. Mr. 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, 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. It also illustrates the depth of antipathy Mr. Trump has had for Mr. Sessions — one of his earliest campaign supporters — and how the president interprets “disloyalty” within his circle of advisers.
Mr. Trump ended up rejecting Mr. Sessions’s 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 F.B.I. 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 didn’t take action.
. . . .
The president relented, and eventually returned the resignation letter to Mr. Sessions — with a handwritten response on it.
For Mr. Sessions, the aggressiveness with which Mr. Trump has sought his removal was a blow. The son of a general store owner in a small town in Alabama, Mr. Sessions had long wanted to be the nation’s top federal law enforcement official or to serve in another top law enforcement or judicial post. He earned a reputation in the Senate as someone tough on immigration, and was the first senator to back Mr. Trump in the presidential campaign.
But their relationship began to deteriorate little more than a month after Mr. Trump was sworn in as president, after Mr. Sessions’s announcement that he was recusing himself from the Russia inquiry caught Mr. Trump by surprise.
The president spent months stewing about the recusal. In a July 19 interview with The Times, Mr. Trump said he never would have appointed Mr. Sessions to be attorney general if he knew he was going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Mr. Trump called the decision “very unfair to the president.”
Days after the Times interview, Mr. Trump told aides he wanted to replace Mr. Sessions. Some of the president’s aides, not sure if Mr. Trump really wanted the attorney general gone or was just working through his anger, were able to delay the firing until the president’s anger passed.
But Mr. Trump continued his public attacks in the days that followed, including taking to Twitter to call him “weak” — a word that is among the harshest criticisms in Mr. Trump’s arsenal.
Administration officials and some of Mr. Trump’s outside advisers have puzzled at Mr. Sessions’s decision to stay on. But people close to Mr. Sessions said that he did not leave because he had a chance to have an impact on what he sees as a defining issue of his career: curtailing legal and illegal immigration.
In recent weeks, he has spearheaded the effort to undo what he believed to be the Obama administration’s dangerously lenient immigration policies, including the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program.
Mr. Sessions had no illusions about converting Mr. Trump to his side of the argument — Mr. Trump remains deeply ambivalent — and he had no illusions about repairing a damaged relationship he had once regarded as a friendship. But he told people he felt he had successfully pushed the president toward ending the Obama immigration policy, and thought it had given him increased leverage in the West Wing.
The president agreed to terminate the program, and on Sept. 5 Mr. Sessions stood alone at a lectern — a moment that seemed to be a significant victory for the attorney general.
But his satisfaction was fleeting. Mr. Trump quickly undercut Mr. Sessions in a tweet by saying he would reconsider whether or not to end the program, leading the attorney general to tell allies that he was frustrated that the president had muddled months of work leading to the announcement of the new policy.
On Wednesday evening, Democrats announced they had reached a deal with the president to quickly extend protections for young undocumented immigrants.
On Thursday morning, taking a vastly different position from the one Mr. Sessions had announced, the president tweeted about the need for protections for people brought here “through no fault of their own.”
I’m not in favor of publicly humiliating any human being, even Jeff Sessions. But, my sympathy is tempered by Sessions’s willingness to lie and humiliate migrants, Hispanics, African Americans, and members of the LGBTQ community, among others, in pursuit of his obscene White Nationalist agenda. In other words, to pick on the most vulnerable members of our society, rather than using the laws to protect them and advance the cause of justice, including social justice (a concept that Sessions has never grasped).
Trump’s reasons for firing Sessions were unethical and wrong. But, Sessions is already the worst and least qualified Attorney General in modern history. When he finally departs the Department of Justice, of his own volition or otherwise, it will be a relief to all Americans who believe in the Constitution and a diverse, humane, inclusive society. The only question is whether the damage that Sessions is doing at Justice and to the Department’s credibility can ever be repaired after the debacle of his tenure finally ends.