Trump offered FBI director job to John Kelly, asked for loyalty

Source: Axios | August 30, 2020 | Jonathan Swan

The day after President Trump fired FBI boss James Comey, the president phoned John Kelly, who was then secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, and offered him Comey’s job, the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Michael Schmidt reports in his forthcoming book, “Donald Trump v. The United States.”

Driving the news: “But the president added something else — if he became FBI director, Trump told him, Kelly needed to be loyal to him, and only him.”

– “Kelly immediately realized the problem with Trump’s request for loyalty, and he pushed back on the president’s demand,” Schmidt writes.

– “Kelly said that he would be loyal to the Constitution and the rule of law, but he refused to pledge his loyalty to Trump.”

Why it matters: This previously unreported conversation sheds additional light on the president’s mindset when he fired Comey. Special counsel Robert Mueller never learned of this information because the president’s lawyers limited the scope of his team’s two-hour interview with Kelly.

In addition to illustrating how Trump viewed the role and independence of senior officials who work for him, the president’s demand for loyalty tracked with Comey’s experience with Trump,” Schmidt writes.

Behind the scenes: Schmidt reports that “throughout Kelly’s time working directly with Trump, Kelly was repeatedly struck by how Trump failed to understand how those who worked for him — like Kelly and other top former generals — had interest in being loyal not to him, but to the institutions of American democracy.”

– “Kelly has told others that Trump wanted to behave like an authoritarian and repeatedly had to be restrained and told what he could and could not legally do.”

– “Aside from questions of the law, Kelly has told others that one of the most difficult tasks he faced with Trump was trying to stop him from pulling out of NATO — a move that Trump has repeatedly threatened but never made good on, which would have been a seismic breach of American alliances and an extraordinary gift to Putin.”

Quote of the book: “Kelly has said that having to say no to Trump was like ‘French kissing a chainsaw.'”

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  •  Consistent #42393

     EVERYDAY #42398

    “asked for loyalty?” Most likely, Trump DEMANDED loyalty. He does that with everyone he employs. But these employees are not required to be loyal to him. Those whose offices require an oath — the oath requires allegiance to country and the Constitution. It does not say they must be loyal to the president.

    I too wonder why Kelly and so many others did not come forward with what they knew or know about Trump. I suppose some like Bolton wanted to save the good stuff for their books. Maybe they were afraid. People like Col. Vindman have been all but ruined for speaking out. But I wonder how many of them just didn’t care. That’s too bad if they didn’t care because in my view, if they took an oath for their jobs, they violated that oath by not speaking up. They were traitors to their country.

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