At 6’8”, 2.03m, James Comey towers over other mortals. Slender and clean cut, Comey cuts quite a figure. He carries himself and conducts himself like a patrician. But he’s also a snob who looks down at others, and certainly at the president.
A friend says James Comey “felt it was his job to protect the FBI from Trump,” and that Comey was “‘disgusted’ by the Trump hug.”
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You described Comey’s concerns as — quote — “improper contacts and interferences from a group of people he, Comey, didn’t regard as honorable.”
What gave you that sense that he didn’t view these people as honorable people?
BENJAMIN WITTES: It was written on every line in his face. It was evident in the disapproving tone that he took when he described them.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Including the president?
BENJAMIN WITTES: Oh, very much so. The color of wallpaper was that these were not honorable people, and that protecting the FBI from them was his day job.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You write about the famous hug, when Comey was asked to come with a bunch of different law enforcement agents to the White House soon after the inauguration.
BENJAMIN WITTES: Yes. So, Comey really didn’t want to go that meeting. And 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, particularly one that went generally to law enforcement senior officials. He really wanted to kind of blend in and not be singled out. And he’s 6’8”. So, when you’re…
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Kind of tough to do that.
BENJAMIN WITTES: And when you’re 6’8”, it’s really hard to blend in. And he stands in the part of the room that is as far from Trump as is physically possible to be, and also against blue drapes.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: He chose that spot?
BENJAMIN WITTES: He chose that spot because it was — almost like a chameleon. And then, at the end, right at the end, Trump singles him out in a fashion that he regarded as sort of calculated to maximally drive home this sensitivity of Democratic voters.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He’s become more famous than me.
BENJAMIN WITTES: And he extends his hand kind of preemptively, 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. He thought it was an intentional attempt to compromise him in public, in a way that would sow and emphasize concerns that half of the electorate had about him and the bureau.