Ignoring objections from the FBI and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, President Donald Trump is by all accounts preparing to release the controversial “FISA memo”, which was assembled by House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes.
Top Democrats – who once echoed criticisms from inside the DOJ – now admit that the memo’s contents – once said to be “fabrications” – could prompt the firings of Rosenstein and even possibly Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
And as it so happens, with the Russia collusion narrative danging by a thread and the threatening to take what remains of the Democrats credibility with it, CNN is back with – what else? – another report fueling the tired narrative that Trump has asked those around him to take “loyalty oaths” and otherwise prove their fealty.
This time, CNN is claiming that President Trump wanted to know whether Rosenstein was “on my team” when the deputy attorney general – who appointed Mueller to run the Russia investigation in May – approached him in December about quashing Intel Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ document demands.
Which is interesting, because the documents that were eventually turned over following months of resistance to those demands became the inspiration for the FISA memo.
But CNN doesn’t dwell on that. Instead, it moves next to Rosenstein’s incredulous response: “Of course, we’re all on your team, Mr. President,” he reportedly said.
CNN quickly reminds us that this isn’t the first time Trump’s prediliction with loyalty has been raised by the press:
The episode is the latest to come to light portraying a President whose inquiries sometimes cross a line that presidents traditionally have tried to avoid when dealing with the Justice Department, for which a measure of independence is key. The exchange could raise further questions about whether Trump was seeking to interfere in the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is looking into potential collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia and obstruction of justice by the White House.
At the December meeting, the deputy attorney general appeared surprised by the President’s questions, the sources said. He demurred on the direction of the Russia investigation, which Rosenstein has ultimate authority over now that his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has recused himself. And he responded awkwardly to the President’s “team” request, the sources said.
“Of course, we’re all on your team, Mr. President,” Rosenstein told Trump, the sources said. It is not clear what Trump meant or how Rosenstein interpreted the comment.
Rosenstein’s meeting with the President came as Rosenstein prepared to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. Trump appeared focused on Rosenstein’s testimony, and even reportedly fed questions to members of Congress, demanding that they ask them during Rosenstein’s testimony. Rosenstein originally incurred the president’s anger when he appointed Mueller, and the president has reportedly even considered firing him in recent weeks.
On Monday, Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe surprised his colleagues and the media by announcing his early exit as deputy director, saying he would instead use the remainder of his vacation time to allow him to still collect his full pension. Reports later confirmed that he was pushed out, and also that he is under an active DOJ investigation.
And if Adam Schiff’s claim during in an interview with Reuters published earlier this evening holds any weight, Rosenstein could very well be next.