Former FBI Director James Comey told a friend he tried to hide among the curtains at a White House ceremony earlier this year to avoid an awkward interaction with President Trump.
Comey’s friend Benjamin Wittes, editor of the Lawfare blog, told the New York Times that during an event to honor law enforcement officials on Jan. 22, Comey, then the FBI director, attempted to blend into the drapes in the White House’s Blue Room to avoid Trump’s gaze. According to Wittes, Comey was uncomfortable with the president’s attempt to build a personal relationship, but he attended the event to represent the FBI.
“He thought he had gotten through and not been noticed or singled out, and that he was going to get away without an individual interaction,” said Wittes.
Comey, who is 6’8”, failed in his attempt at camouflage.
As seen in video coverage of the event, Trump spotted Comey in the back of the room, in front of dark-blue curtains that were similar to the shade of his suit, and said, “Oh, there’s Jim. He’s become more famous than me.” Comey then approached for a handshake before being pulled into an awkward half-hug by the president.
Trump fired Comey on May 9, calling him a “showboat” and saying that the FBI was in turmoil. White House officials initially said that Comey was fired due to the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, but Trump contradicted that version, sending his staff into a scramble.
Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, said Comey relayed the story to him over a lunch in March. According to Wittes’ account and those published in multiple other outlets, Comey kept detailed notes of his conversations with Trump out of concern the president would not honor proper channels of communication between the Oval Office and head of the FBI.
“Comey prepared extensively for his discussions with President Trump,” reported the Washington Post on Thursday, “out of concern that the president was unlikely to respect the legal and ethical boundaries governing their respective roles.”
Multiple outlets have reported that Trump had requested a “loyalty pledge” from Comey shortly after the inauguration, and news broke earlier this week that Trump had asked Comey in February to drop the FBI’s investigation into then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn because he was a “good guy.”
The White House has denied that the loyalty pledge request and the suggestion to end the Flynn investigation happened. Trump has refused to elaborate on whether or not he not he has recordings of his conversations with Comey, which he implied he had in a tweet last week.
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