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.”
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.”
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.”