Benjamn Wittes, who runs a blog called Lawfare and describes himself as a Comey confidant, shared an extensive readout on his site
Thursday of what he says Comey told him about his relationship with Trump. Wittes describes Comey as bothered by Trump’s efforts to chit-chat with the FBI director, who traditionally is supposed to maintain a formal, clearly defined relationship with the president.
Wittes’ allegations, first told to The New York Times
, revolve mostly around what he learned directly from Comey at a lunch with him at the FBI in late March, Wittes says.
Wittes claims that Comey repeatedly tried to “train” the Trump administration to only contact him through proper channels and said the White House was negligent about how involved a president should be in specific investigations.
“Comey was preoccupied throughout this period with the need to protect the FBI from these inquiries on investigative matters from the White House,” he wrote. “Comey understood Trump’s people as having neither knowledge of nor respect for the independence of the law enforcement function. And he saw it as an ongoing task on his part to protect the rest of the bureau from improper contacts and interferences from a group of people he did not regard as honorable.”
Wittes said two specific incidents represented attempts by Trump to “compromise (Comey) or implicate him” by exposing him as too close with the President.
That tactic was unsuccessful; Trump later called him out by name, leading to a greeting captured on camera.
“Comey took the long walk across the room determined, he told me, that there was not going to be a hug. Bad enough that he was there; bad enough that there would be a handshake; he emphatically did not want any show of warmth,” Wittes writes.
Trump embraced him anyway.
“Comey was disgusted. 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.”
Wittes also shared Comey’s side of a phone call the FBI director had with the President, which Comey described “as weird for how substance-less it was” and included “an undercurrent of Trump’s trying to get him to kiss the ring.”
Wittes also exposes some possible tension between Comey and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who recommended to Trump that Comey be fired.
“His reservations were palpable. ‘Rod is a survivor,’ he said,” Wittes recalls. “And you don’t get to survive that long across administrations without making compromises. ‘So I have concerns,'” he quotes Comey as saying.