President Donald Trump asked his former chief of staff John Kelly to serve as FBI director if he would provide a loyalty pledge, but Kelly refused, according to a new book.
Axios reported that in "Donald Trump v. The United States," journalist Michael Schmidt wrote that Kelly turned down the offer because of Trump's request for loyalty.
According to Schmidt's forthcoming book, Trump asked Kelly the day after he fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017 if he would serve in the role. At the time, Kelly — a retired Marine general — was the secretary of homeland security.
"But the president added something else — if he became FBI director, Trump told him, Kelly needed to be loyal to him, and only him," Schmidt wrote.
"Kelly immediately realized the problem with Trump's request for loyalty, and he pushed back on the president's demand.
"Kelly said that he would be loyal to the Constitution and the rule of law, but he refused to pledge his loyalty to Trump."
Schmidt is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and his new book will be released Tuesday. He added that during Kelly's time in the Trump administration — he was secretary of homeland security from January to July 2017 and chief of staff from July 2017 to January 2019 — Kelly observed Trump not understanding why people who worked in his administration could not be most loyal to him, rather than the Constitution.
"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," Schmidt wrote.
"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."
Since leaving the Trump administration, Kelly has been critical of his former boss.
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