The fractured relationship between the president and Mr. Sessions â one of Mr. Trumpâs earliest supporters â has prompted speculation about how long he may endure, particularly given that Mr. Sessions offered Mr. Trump his resignation months ago.
Anthony Scaramucci, the White Houseâs new communications director, told CNN on Monday that the president and Mr. Sessions needed to âsit down, face-to-face, and have a reconciliation and a discussion of the future.â
âThey need to speak and determine what the future of the relationship looks like,â Mr. Scaramucci said. Three cabinet members accompanied Mr. Trump to a Boy Scout event on Monday in West Virginia, but Mr. Sessions, who was an Eagle Scout, was not among them.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, denied a report on Monday that he was being considered as a replacement for Mr. Sessions and expressed support for him, telling CNN he âmade the right choiceâ to recuse himself from the Russia inquiry.
Mr. Sessions has been forceful in pressing the Trump administrationâs agenda in its first six months, enacting hard-line policies on immigration and criminal charging and sentencing, and dismantling some significant legacies of the Obama administration.
Addressing federal prosecutors on Friday in Philadelphia, Mr. Sessions signaled that he wanted to charge ahead in enacting policy priorities âunder Trumpâs direction.â
Key constituencies, including many members of law enforcement, said they had no desire to see the Justice Departmentâs leadership upended. âFrom our standpoint, the attorney general is doing a fine job in furtherance of the presidentâs agenda,â said James Pasco, the senior adviser to the president of the Fraternal Order of Police.
He said that Mr. Trump had âmade exactly the right choice for attorney general.â
Mr. Sessions has underscored his subordinacy to Mr. Trump in recent days, standing in contrast to the emphasis he has placed for years on the independence of Justice Department officials.
As a longtime member of the Senate Judiciary Committee during his years as a Republican senator from Alabama, Mr. Sessions repeatedly asked Justice Department nominees to pledge their independence from the president.
In 2015, in questioning Sally Q. Yates before her confirmation as deputy attorney general, Mr. Sessions made clear that he believed the Justice Department should push back if the president ever issued an âimproperâ directive. âYou have to watch out because people will be asking you to do things,â Mr. Sessions said, âand you need to say no.â
At his own confirmation hearing in January, he repeated that belief.
âThe office of attorney general is not a normal political office,â Mr. Sessions said. âHe or she cannot be a mere rubber stamp.â
While the Justice Department is part of the executive branch, longstanding practice has been for it to operate free from interference by the White House.
âThereâs no regulation anywhere that says the president canât tell the attorney general to drop an investigation or start an investigation,â said Matthew Miller, a former spokesman for the department under the Obama administration. âBut independence is so ingrained in the culture of D.O.J. itâs the norm thatâs developed over time.â
Mr. Trump has criticized how the Justice Department defended some of his policies, including his ban on travelers from certain predominantly Muslim countries. In recent weeks, the president trained his attacks not just on Mr. Sessions, who recused himself in March from the Russia inquiry, but also on his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein, who appointed a special counsel to lead that inquiry in May.
If Mr. Sessions were to resign or be fired, Mr. Trump could use a procedural step to name a replacement who would allow the president to assert greater control over the special counsel investigation into his campaignâs contacts with Russia.
With the Senate due to leave for its annual August recess, a possible path exists for Mr. Trump to use a recess appointment clause to name a successor and circumvent the typical confirmation process. Although the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, has decided to cut the break short, should it last at least 10 days, Mr. Trump would have constitutional authority to unilaterally fill any vacant position that normally requires Senate confirmation, which includes the post of attorney general.
That step would allow Mr. Trump to evade congressional demands that his pick make assurances about the Russia investigation as a condition of confirmation, said Stephen Vladeck, a University of Texas at Austin law professor.
Under a recess appointment, an attorney general could stay in that role until January 2019 and would oversee the special counsel.
âThe recess appointments clause would allow Trump, at least constitutionally, to put just about anybody into Sessionsâs job, including someone who would have no qualms about firing the special counsel,â Mr. Vladeck said. âThen the question is not whether there would be any legal response â because that is perfectly within the presidentâs power â but whether that alienates congressional Republicans.â
Congressional Republicans could block such a move by refusing to let the Senate go into a lengthy recess. The Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that a recess must be at least 10 days to prompt the presidentâs recess-appointment powers, and lawmakers of both parties, under the Bush and Obama administrations, have used their control of at least one chamber to block presidents from making such unilateral appointments.
That tactic involves sending a single senator into the otherwise empty chamber to bang the gavel every few days during a lengthy vacation, breaking up the long recess into a series of short ones â each too brief to trigger the presidentâs powers. The courtâs 2014 ruling deemed such âpro formaâ sessions to be real for the purpose of preventing recess appointments.
However, Congress has never done so when both chambers and the White House are controlled by the same party.
Mr. Trump could also simply let Mr. Rosenstein become acting attorney general until a successor was confirmed, or he could seek to temporarily fill the position with any other Senate-confirmed official from elsewhere in the government under the Vacancies Act.
Mr. Sessions vowed last week to serve âas long as that is appropriate.â