Comey's Friend: Trump's Hug Spoke Volumes

Benjamin Wittes says president's strategy was to make FBI chief his pal
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2017 6:25 AM CDT
Updated May 19, 2017 6:34 AM CDT
Comey's Friend: Trump's Hug Spoke Volumes
James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill on May 3, when he was still the FBI chief.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The New York Times has a front-page story Friday detailing how former FBI chief James Comey tried to instruct President Trump about the proper boundaries that should exist between them. The story, for example, says that Trump called Comey soon after taking office and wondered when word would go out that he was not personally under investigation. Comey then explained that all such questions must go through the proper lawyerly channels. One of the sources for the story, Comey friend Benjamin Wittes, writes in a post at the Lawfare blog, where he's editor in chief, that he wasn't aware of that particular phone call but isn't at all surprised. Wittes suggests that Trump had a clear strategy: He tried to make Comey a pal, keeping him "on board only as long as it took him to figure out that there was no way to make Comey part of the team." Then he fired him.

Wittes relays one incident in which Comey was told he had an incoming call from the president and delayed a flight to take it, only to be stunned to learn that Trump merely wanted to "chit-chat." It made the FBI chief extremely uncomfortable. And he details their public greeting, seen in this video, saying that Comey was "disgusted" that Trump turned a perfunctory handshake into a "one sided" hug. "He regarded the episode as a physical attempt to show closeness and warmth in a fashion calculated to compromise him before Democrats who already mistrusted him." Their fateful private dinner, in which Trump allegedly asked Comey for his loyalty, occurred less than a week later. The Washington Post has more details about that, saying that Comey prepped aggressively with aides in advance to figure out the best way to fend off Trump's expected questions. (More James Comey stories.)

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