President Donald Trump in December asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein whether he was on Trump’s “team,” CNN reported Wednesday.
The reported comments are the latest example in a troubling pattern of Trump appearing to request loyalty from Justice Department or FBI officials, who have traditionally operated independently of the White House’s political agenda.
Citing unnamed sources familiar with a meeting between Trump and Rosenstein, the network reported that Trump wanted to know the direction of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
According to CNN, Trump also asked Rosenstein whether he was “on my team.”
“Of course, we’re all on your team, Mr. President,” Rosenstein responded, according to the report. On the subject of Mueller’s investigation, CNN reported, Rosenstein demurred.
Trump also brought up Rosenstein’s upcoming testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, CNN reported, citing an unnamed source briefed on the matter.
Another source told CNN that Trump made suggestions to members of Congress regarding what they should ask Rosenstein during the hearing.
News outlets have previously reported that Trump has pressed members of his administration about whether they are loyal supporters of his. He reportedly asked former FBI director James Comey in January 2017 whether he would pledge loyalty. In June 2017, Comey said he “got the sense” from Trump during a private dinner that his “job would be contingent” on whether he “demonstrated loyalty.”
The Washington Post and New York Times reported last week that in May 2016, after he abruptly terminated Comey, Trump asked the new acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, now also ousted, who he voted for in the 2016 election.
Trump has turned his frustration with Mueller’s ongoing investigation toward Rosenstein in recent weeks, CNN reported last week. Trump has even floated the idea of firing him as well, though advisers have so far convinced him otherwise.
Legal experts told TPM on Monday that if during his investigation Mueller finds that Trump broke the law, he would need Rosenstein’s approval to act on that finding.