According to a friend of the recently fired FBI director, James Comey once tried to camouflage himself among the blue White House drapes in the vain hope of not to being noticed by President Donald Trump.
The story comes via Comey's friend, Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and strong critic of Trump, who provided some details about the ways the former FBI director attempted to maintain proper space between himself and the president because of the ongoing Russia investigation. At one point, Comey's efforts to keep his distance were particularly hilarious.
Two days after Trump was sworn in, Comey was invited to a ceremony at the White House to honor law enforcement officials who had provided security at the new president's inauguration. Though Wittes says Comey did not want to attend because he did not want to give the false impression that he was too close with Trump, he reluctantly made an appearance.
The New York Times reports:
The ceremony occurred in the Blue Room of the White House, where many senior law enforcement officials — including the Secret Service director — had gathered. Mr. Comey — who is 6 feet 8 inches tall and was wearing a dark blue suit that day — told Mr. Wittes that he tried to blend in with the blue curtains in the back of the room, in the hopes that Mr. Trump would not spot him and call him out.
"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," said Wittes. But, alas, Comey's effort to hide in the curtains failed.
"Oh, and there’s Jim," said Trump. "He’s become more famous than me."
Then things got even more awkward/hysterical.
"Comey said that as he was walking across the room he was determined that there wasn’t going to be a hug," said Wittes. "It was bad enough there was going to be a handshake. And Comey has long arms so Comey said he pre-emptively reached out for a handshake and grabbed the president’s hand. But Trump pulled him into an embrace and Comey didn’t reciprocate. If you look at the video, it’s one person shaking hands and another hugging."
WATCH ("Comey in the curtains" at around the 27" mark):
In its write-up of the story, The Huffington Post found a tweet worth re-posting:
The New York Times also notes that Wittes said he did not intend on airing what Comey had told him about his discomfort with Trump, but the reports about the president's alleged "loyalty pledge" request from Comey made him see Trump in a "more menacing light."
However, Wittes also said that after a two months of training the White House in the appropriate way to interact with the FBI, Comey said they had finally established the proper distance, which reinforces what many defenders of Trump have maintained: his potentially inappropriate interractions with Comey were a product of ignorance of the proper etiquette rather than insidious intent. Here's the passage:
... Mr. Comey told him he had spent the first two months of Mr. Trump’s administration trying to preserve distance between the F.B.I. and the White House and educating it on the proper way to interact with the bureau. ...
Mr. Wittes said Mr. Comey told him that despite Mr. Trump’s attempts to build a personal relationship, he did not want to be friendly with the president and thought any conversation with him or personal contact was inappropriate.
Their conversation took place after Mr. Comey’s phone call with the president, Mr. Wittes said, and Mr. Comey told him that his relationship with the president and the White House staff was now in the right place.
“‘I think we’ve kind of got them trained,’” Mr. Wittes said, paraphrasing what Mr. Comey told him.
Thus, Wittes makes clear that Comey did not feel like Trump and his administration was inappropriately trying to influence him; the issue was one of decorum, and after the first two months, Comey felt that issue had been resolved. From his personal conversations with his friend, Wittes did not feel it necessary to speak out. Only an unconfirmed report about Trump asking Comey for a "loyalty pledge" made Wittes retroactively interpret the interactions in a "menacing" light. This aligns with Comey's sworn testimony that the administration had not obstructed the FBI probe.