As Attorney General Jeff Sessions ramps up efforts against leakers, it appears that they are striking back with a story aimed to humiliate him.
Unnamed “current and former administration officials” told the New York Times supposed details from an Oval Office meeting months ago where the president allegedly dressed Sessions down after getting word that Robert Mueller was to be appointed special counsel.
The report claimed that during a meeting on May 17 between Trump and his top advisers on who would replace fired FBI Director James Comey, White House Counsel Don McGahn received a call from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who said he decided to appoint Mueller as special counsel to lead the Russia investigation.
After the call ended, according to the Times:
“Mr. Trump lobbed a volley of insults at Mr. Sessions, telling the attorney general it was his fault they were in the current situation. Mr. Trump told Mr. Sessions that choosing him to be attorney general was one of the worst decisions he had made, called him an ‘idiot,’ and said that he should resign. An emotional Mr. Sessions told the president he would resign and left the Oval Office.”
Sessions had recused himself from overseeing the FBI’s Russia investigation in March, a decision that gave control to Rosenstein and angered Trump.
The Times attributes that story to “four people who were told details of the meeting” — suggesting that they were not in the meeting, but had heard about it from others later.
The Times mentions that attendees in the meeting were: “Mr. Sessions, Vice President Mike Pence; Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel; and several other aides.”
The story also said that Sessions had later told “associates” about that the demeaning way the president addressed him.
Notably, the story comes as Sessions is ramping up his search for leakers.
On September 10, Axios published a story — not attributed to anyone — claiming that Sessions had been telling associates as recently as August that he wanted to put the entire National Security Council through a lie detector test to root out leakers.
It appears to be part of efforts to find out who leaked the transcripts of the president’s phone calls with the Mexican president and Australian prime minister last month, since there is a “small enough universe of people” who would have had access to those transcripts.
According to Axios, interrogators would sit down with every NSC staffer and ask them individually what they know about the leaks of those transcripts, since Sessions suspects the leaks came within the NSC.
On September 13, Buzzfeed reported on a leaked September 8 memo from National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster that directed agencies to warn their employees against leaking.
The story notes that McMaster’s request included Sessions’ press conference last month about leaks, where he announced the Justice Department was pursuing a number of leak investigations and that the FBI had created a unit to deal with leaks of classified information.
“We will not allow rogue anonymous sources with security clearances to sell out our country any longer,” Sessions said.
On September 14, the Times published the story on Sessions.