The relationship between the two men has improved marginally since midsummer, 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.
But he may be losing that battle as well. Mr. Sessions played a prominent role announcing the end of the Obama-era program that provided protection to the children of undocumented immigrants, only to see his boss backtrack on the policy. On Thursday morning, Mr. Trump confirmed he had reached a deal with Democrats to provide protections for the so-called Dreamers.
This account is based on interviews with seven administration officials and others familiar with the interactions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions in recent months who requested anonymity because they are not permitted to speak publicly about confidential conversations between the president and his aides. Politico first reported in July that Mr. Sessions had once offered his resignation letter, but the circumstances that prompted the letter — and Mr. Trump’s dressing down of the attorney general — have not previously been reported.
Press officers for the White House and Justice Department declined to comment.
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 F.B.I. after the president fired its director, James B. Comey, earlier that month. In addition to Mr. Sessions, Vice President Mike Pence; Donald F. McGahn II; the White House counsel; and several other aides attended the meeting.
In the middle of the meeting, Mr. McGahn received a phone call from Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who had been overseeing the Russia investigation since Mr. Sessions recused himself from the inquiry months earlier. 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.
In the telephone call to Mr. McGahn, Mr. Rosenstein said he had decided to appoint Mr. Mueller to be a special counsel for the investigation. Congress had been putting pressure on Mr. Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel to put distance between the…