There is widespread speculation that President Donald Trump leaked a story about U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to push him into resigning.
The Washington Post published a story on July 21 about intercepts that purportedly show Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak telling his superiors in Moscow that he and Sessions talked about campaign-related matters during two conversations in 2016.
The conversations are called "intercepts" because they were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies when Sessions was active in the Trump campaign.
The intercepts could present a serious problem for Sessions who has repeatedly denied talking about campaign-related topics with Russian government officials.
One unidentified U.S. official told The Washington Post said that Sessions provided "misleading" statements that are "contradicted by other evidence," while a former official said Kislyak and Sessions engaged in "substantive" conversations about Trump's positions on Russian-related topics.
A possible point is Sessions' favor is that Kislyak could have lied or mischaracterized their conversations when he spoke to the Kremlin.
Trump told The New York Times on July 19: "Sessions should have never recused himself [from the Russia-Trump campaign investigation], and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else."
It was speculated on July 20 that Sessions would resign because of Trump's comments, but he did not.
"I have the honor of serving as Attorney General," Sessions stated at a press conference. "It goes beyond any I thought I would have had for myself," notes TIME.
In response to the intercepts story about Sessions on July 21, journalist Garrett M. Graff tweeted: "Every GOP figure I've spoken to at #AspenSecurity assumes Trump leaked this to force Sessions out. 'Certainly not a Mueller leak,' one said."
Maggie Haberman of The New York Times tweeted: "So Trump intentionally planted a story that suggests collusion?"
Former MSNBC and ESPN host Keith Olbermann tweeted: "Well, here's Trump's excuse to fire Sessions and get a stooge successor who'll fire Mueller."
Norm Eisen of the Brookings Institute (a political think tank) tweeted: "To paraphrase Marion Barry, 'Trump set me up!' Leak conveniently allows Sessions to quit/be fired, Trump can sub in unconflicted stooge."
Jay Caruso, who writes for the conservative RedState.com, tweeted: "I am on the verge of publishing something that says it makes sense it was TRUMP people who leaked info on Sessions, not the DEEP STATE."
Conservative MSNBC host Hugh Hewitt shared his view on "Hardball":
If it’s true, I think the attorney general will have to resign. If it's true is a big if... But if there were a series of conversations between the ambassador and the attorney general, and they are recorded in a foreign intelligence surveillance act, and it lawfully intercepted tape, that is the end for Attorney General Sessions.