Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus says he helped persuade President Trump not to accept the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions in May 2017.
In an interview published Wednesday in Vanity Fair, Mr. Priebus recalled that White House counsel Don McGahn brought him the news that Mr. Sessions intended to quit.
“Don McGahn came in my office pretty hot, red, out of breath,” Mr. Priebus told the magazine. “[He] said, ‘We’ve got a problem.’ I responded, ‘What?’ And he said, ‘Well, we just got a special counsel, and Sessions just resigned.’ I said, ‘What!? What the hell are you talking about? That can’t happen.'”
The discussion took place after Mr. Trump fired then-FBI Director James B. Comey and the Justice Department appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mr. Trump has blamed Mr. Sessions for the Mueller probe, because the attorney general recused himself from the Russia investigation in early 2017.
After his conversation with Mr. McGahn, Mr. Priebus said he dashed outside the White House and found Mr. Sessions in the backseat of a black sedan, with the engine running.
“I knocked on the door of the car, and Jeff was sitting there,” Mr. Priebus said, “and I just jumped in and shut the door, and I said, ‘Jeff, what’s going on?’ And then he told me that he was going to resign. I said, ‘You cannot resign. It’s not possible. We are going to talk about this right now.’ So I dragged him back up to my office from the car. [Vice President Mike] Pence and Bannon came in, and we started talking to him to the point where he decided that he would not resign right then and he would instead think about it.”
Instead, Mr. Priebus said, the attorney general gave a letter of resignation to Mr. Trump later that night. In the interim, Mr. Priebus said, he was able to talk Mr. Trump out of accepting the resignation.
Mr. Trump has said that it was “very unfair” to him that Mr. Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, and that he would not have nominated Mr. Sessions for attorney general if he’d known he planned to take that step.
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