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Remember the White House gathering soon after President Trump’s inauguration in which the president called over then-FBI Director James Comey, who was standing at the other end of the room, shook his hand and then pulled him closer for an intimate cheek-to-cheek moment?

Comey never forgot it. And hated it. According to a friend of the fired director, Comey was “disgusted” by the move, and believed Trump was purposely attempting to publicly compromise him. Benjamin Wittes, a Brookings Institution fellow, told PBS News Hour.

Trump invited Comey and a group of other law enforcement agents to come to the White House.


“Comey really did not want to go that meeting,” Wittes said. “There were a lot of Democrats who kind of blame him for Trump so he was particularly sensitive to the idea of a sort of show of intimacy or closeness with Trump. That said, he didn’t feel that he could say no to an invitation from the president, so he went.”

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Democrats viewed Comey with a sort of skepticism because he had renewed the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email scandal less than two weeks before the Nov. 8 election in which Trump won the electoral college, but lost the popular vote.

Wittes explained that at the meeting at the White House, Comey purposefully positioned his 6-foot-8 frame as far from Trump as possible to keep as neutral a posture as possible. Wittes said Comey was trying to act like a “chameleon, standing his blue blazer next to the blue curtains.”

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But when Trump singled out the director, he felt he had to engage the president. He walked over and reached for a handshake. Wittes said Comey regarded being singled out by Trump as “sort of calculated to maximally drive home this sensitivity among Democratic voters — which is to say — I forget the exact quote, ‘Hey look, he’s even more famous than I am.'”

Trump actually said, “He’s become more famous than me.”

“He extends his hand kind of pre-emptively,” Wittes continued, “and Trump grabs the hand and kind of pulls him into a hug, but the hug is entirely one-sided. And Comey was just completely disgusted by the episode.”

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