Former FBI Director James Comey once tried to hide from President Donald Trump, camouflaging himself with White House curtains the same color of his suit to avoid interacting with the president.
The New York Times reported Comey attempted to avoid Trump’s gaze at a ceremony following the inauguration, held for law enforcement officials who had provided security during the event, by trying to blend into curtains in the White House’s blue room.
Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a friend of Comey’s, said the former FBI director initially did not want to go to the ceremony two days after Trump was sworn in.
Comey, like most modern FBI heads, had looked to keep the White House at arm’s length but his involvement in investigating Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during the campaign made him wary of appearing to be too close to the new administration.
Comey told Wittes at a lunch in March that he went to the event to represent the bureau. The compromise seemed to be that he would hide his 6 feet, 8 inch frame in the curtains.
“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,” Wittes said.
Those efforts, however, were in vain. “Oh here’s Jim,” Trump said as he spotted Comey. “He’s more famous than me.” What followed, Witte told PBS NewsHour, was a hug that made Comey feel “disgusted.”
“Right at the end, Trump singles him out in a fashion that he regarded as sort of calculated,” Wittes said. “Trump grabs the hand and kind of pulls him into the hug, but the hug is entirely one-sided. Comey was just completely disgusted by the episode.”
In the past ten days, the Trump administration has struggled to overcome controversy following the president’s firing of the former FBI director.
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Trump had attempted to persuade Comey to drop a federal investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who resigned for misleading Vice President Mike Pence, and his possible ties to Russia.
The White House denied Comey’s version of events, saying in a statement that the president had never asked Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including that of Flynn.
Wittes said that in a series of interactions with Trump, Comey felt the president was trying to befriend him. He said the attempts took on a more sinister turn when Trump asked Comey to give him his loyalty. The White House denies the president ever made such a request.
“Trump fired Jim Comey because the most dangerous thing in the world, if you’re Donald Trump, is a person who tells the truth, is dogged, you can’t control, and who is as committed as Comey is to the institutional independence of an organization that has the power to investigate you,” Wittes told PBS.