Administration

Trump asked Rosenstein about Russia probe, if he was on Trump’s ‘team’: report

President Trump in December asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein if he was “on my team,” CNN reported Wednesday.

The president also pressed Rosenstein about the direction of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible links to the Trump campaign.

Rosenstein oversees the Russia probe and appointed Mueller to lead it last year.

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CNN reported that the No. 2 Justice Department official visited the White House to ask Trump for help in fighting off document requests from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)

Rosenstein was reportedly surprised by Trump’s question and replied, “of course, we’re all on your team, Mr. President.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The exchange is the latest instance of Trump demanding loyalty from senior officials at the Justice Department who are directly involved in the Russia investigation, a practice many say violates longstanding norms surrounding the independence of federal law enforcement.

Former FBI Director James Comey testified to Congress that Trump said to him during a January 2017 White House meeting, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.”

Comey also told lawmakers that the president asked him to go easy on former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was fired for lying to senior administration officials about his contacts with Russia.

Flynn was later charged by Mueller for lying to the FBI about his talks with Russians during the campaign and transition period.

Trump fired Comey in May, a move he later said was linked to the Russia probe, which he has repeatedly dismissed as a politically motivated “hoax.”

The president also reportedly asked Comey’s interim replacement, Andrew McCabe, who he voted for in the 2016 election. Trump has denied asking McCabe the question.

McCabe left his post as FBI deputy director last week under pressure from Trump and GOP lawmakers, who accused him of promoting anti-Trump bias at the top levels of the bureau.

Mueller is reportedly looking into Trump’s interactions with Comey and others to determine if Trump may have obstructed the investigation.

There is growing speculation in Washington that Rosenstein will be the next Justice Department official to find himself in Trump’s crosshairs.

A controversial secret memo from Nunes reportedly shows that Rosenstein approved an application for a surveillance warrant for former Trump campaign official Carter Page early last year. 

Republicans say the memo, which the Intelligence panel voted to release, shows the FBI and Justice Department improperly sought the warrant because it was based on allegations contained in an unverified dossier funded by Trump’s political opponents.

Some Trump critics fear he might use the memo to fire Rosenstein or pressure him to resign.

Democrats say the memo contains cherry-picked information and paints a misleading picture of the Russia probe to undermine it.

The FBI expressed similar worries Wednesday in a rare public statement.

“The FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it,” the bureau said. “As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”

Updated at 5:07 p.m.

Tags Deputy Attorney general Devin Nunes Donald Trump James Comey Robert Mueller Rod Rosenstein Russia Investigation Special counsel

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