More and more, it seems James Comey had a stalker while he was director of the FBI. It just so happens to have been the President of the United States. An unsettling report from The New York Times last night traced all the ways that President Trump tried to Make Friends and Influence the Bureau chief. Trump and his aides repeatedly reached out to Comey, inviting him to dinners and meetings that breached protocol so that Trump could ask Comey to "pledge his loyalty" to the president. On another occasion, the president asked Comey to scrap an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
This courting ritual got so pronounced and forward that Comey began trying to avoid the president, not unlike others he's courted. In one case, according to an account from Benjamin Wittes, a friend, in the Times, Comey reluctantly attended a gathering of law enforcement officers two days after the inauguration—and tried to hide in the curtains to avoid being called out personally by the president:
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.
Wittes' account of the subsequent interaction, when Trump indeed spot Comey, is also bizarre:
"Comey said that as he was walking across the room he was determined that there wasn't going to be a hug," Mr. Wittes said. "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."
Does that stack up to the video?
It just might. The hug seemed to be a part of Trump's larger strategy of trying to befriend the FBI director and "get him on the team" after he stiffed the loyalty pledge. At times, according to Wittes, that included phone calls from Trump just to "chit-chat." Apparently, though, it was all in vain. Perhaps the fate of our country is tied to the fact that even after all those galas and dinner parties, the president isn't all that good a schmoozer.