U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether President Donald Trump attempted to push Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign last summer as part of a pattern of attempting to obstruct his investigation into alleged Russian election meddling, The Washington Post is reporting.
Citing people familiar with the matter, the newspaper reported late on February 28 that Mueller's team had questioned witnesses about Trump's private comments in late July and early August, around the time he issued a series of tweets belittling Sessions.
The newspaper reported that during that summer period, the president privately discussed firing Sessions or forcing him out.
It said Trump ordered White House staff at one point to get a resignation letter from Sessions. And it quoted a White House adviser as saying that Trump at the time was "stunned" Sessions had not yet quit.
In light of these and other reports, the paper said Mueller was now seeking to determine whether the goal of Trump's tweets was to "publicly shame the attorney general into quitting" in order to pick a replacement who would exercise control over the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.
The New York Times has previously reported that Mueller was examining alleged Trump efforts in the spring of 2017 to fire Sessions.
Trump has denied attempting to obstruct the Russia investigation and he has said there was no collusion with Russia during the campaign. Russia also has denied meddling in the election.
The White House and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment on The Washington Post story.
The report comes as Trump has once again taken to Twitter to criticize Sessions.
On February 28, he said that it was "disgraceful" that Sessions did not order Justice Department prosecutors to investigate allegations that the FBI improperly conducted surveillance on a Trump campaign adviser early in the Russia investigation.
Sessions has said he referred the matter to the Justice Department's independent inspector-general for investigation -- a decision he said on February 28 that he stood by.
"As long as I am the attorney general, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and constitution," Sessions said.
Trump and Sessions have had a rocky relationship since Sessions recused himself a year ago from the Russia probe. The recusal paved the way for the appointment of Mueller, who has indicted several former Trump campaign aides and advisers.