Donald Trump has spoken to advisers about sacking his attorney general, as he rages against the legal chief's decision to excuse himself from anything to do with the Russia investigation.
The US president's anger again bubbled into public view on Monday as he referred to Jeff Sessions in a tweet as "beleaguered".
Privately, Mr Trump has speculated aloud to allies in recent days about the potential consequences of firing Mr Sessions, according to three people who have recently spoken to the president.
Mr Trump often talks about making staff changes without following through, so those who have spoken with the president warned that a change may not be imminent or happen at all.
But it is clear that Mr Trump remains furious that the attorney general recused himself from the investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 US election and possible links to the Trump campaign.
"So why aren't the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?" Mr Trump tweeted on Monday.
So why aren't the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2017
His tweet came just hours before his son-in-law, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, travelled to Capitol Hill to be interviewed about his meetings with Russians.
Mr Trump's intensifying criticism has fuelled speculation that Mr Sessions may resign even if the president opts not to fire him.
During an event at the White House, Mr Trump ignored a shouted question about whether Mr Sessions should step down.
The attorney general said last week he intended to stay in his post.
If Mr Trump were to sack Mr Sessions, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein would be elevated to the top post on an acting basis.
That would leave the president with another attorney general of whom he has been sharply critical in both public and private for his handling of the Russia probe, according to four White House and outside advisers.
It could also raise the spectre of Mr Trump asking Mr Rosenstein - or whoever he appoints to fill the position - to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the Russia investigation.
The name of one long-time Trump ally, Rudy Giuliani, was floated on Monday as a possible replacement for Mr Sessions, but a person who recently spoke to the former New York City mayor said Mr Giuliani had not been approached about the position.
Mr Giuliani told CNN on Monday that he did not want the post and would have recused himself had he been in Mr Sessions' position.
The president's tweet about former Alabama senator Mr Sessions comes less than a week after Mr Trump, in a New York Times interview, said Mr Sessions should never have taken the job as attorney general if he was going to recuse himself.
Mr Sessions made that decision after it was revealed that he had met a top Russian diplomat last year.
Mr Trump has seethed about Mr Sessions' decision for months, viewing it as disloyal - arguably the most grievous offence in the president's mind - and resenting that the attorney general did not give the White House a proper warning before making the announcement that he would recuse himself.
His fury has been fanned by several close confidants, including his son Donald Trump Jr, who is also ensnared in the Russia probe, who are angry that Mr Sessions made his decision.
Mr Sessions had recently asked senior White House staff how he might patch up relations with the president, but that effort did not go anywhere, according to a person briefed on the conversations.
The attorney general was in the West Wing on Monday but did not meet the president, according to deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
He and Mr Trump used to be close, sharing both a friendship and an ideology.
Mr Sessions risked his reputation when he became the first US senator to endorse the celebrity businessman and his early backing gave Mr Trump legitimacy, especially among the hardline anti-immigration forces that bolstered his candidacy.
After Mr Trump's public rebuke last week, Mr Sessions seemed determined to keep doing the job he said "goes beyond anything that I would have ever imagined for myself".
"I'm totally confident that we can continue to run this office in an effective way," he said.