There is another disturbing report alleging that, despite all of the damage caused by President Donald Trump allegedly asking former FBI Director for a pledge of loyalty, he asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein whether he was “on my team” before Rosenstein testified before Congress. Notably, in the hearing, Rosenstein was asked “Is it ever appropriate for a president of the United States to demand a Department of Justice official or FBI director to take a loyalty pledge?” He replied “I don’t have any opinion about that. Nobody has asked me to take a loyalty pledge other than the oath of office.”
If true (and we have not heard from the White House), it was particularly concerning because the alleged encounter occurred during a January 2017 meeting. After all of the controversy over inappropriate comments and queries, it would be incredible to ask someone like Rosenstein if he would be a loyal team member when he is investigating allegations of obstruction and inappropriate pressure by the President (including alleged demands for express loyalty statements). Rosenstein is widely viewed as an apolitical civil servant.
Rosenstein’s denial before the Committee would not be facially false since since this reported statement was not a direct demand for a “loyalty pledge.” However, if it was said, it clearly was meant to elicit a statement of loyalty. According to news reports, Rosenstein responded obliquely along the lines that everyone is on the same team.
Again the most concerning element is the date. With the Mueller investigation and congressional investigation focusing on improper contacts and pressures, it would be unthinkable to ask such a question of someone like Rosenstein — who after all appointed Mueller. This follows an account of Trump asking the acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe how he voted for in the presidential election.
As someone who has continued to question the evidence of obstruction, such accounts are personally quite baffling. It is not simply that a question like this to Rosenstein would never have elicited the desired response. It was a question to the man who is supervising Mueller in looking at any effort to obstruct or interfere with the investigation.
Once again, I would be relieved if this story is false, but it likely to be a new line of inquiry in the continuing investigation.