A friend and longtime confidant of ousted FBI Director James Comey has gone on the record saying that Comey spoke to him after multiple run-ins with President Donald Trump that left Comey “unsettled” and concerned that the president was attempting to do an end run around the law.
In a Thursday New York Times interview, senior Brookings Institution fellow — and Lawfare blog editor — Benjamin Wittes described Comey as a meticulous record-keeper who was uncomfortable with the Trump administration’s repeated violations of longstanding policies designed to keep a firewall between the FBI and the executive branch.
Comey, said Wittes, repeatedly “throw some brushback pitches to the administration” in an attempt to establish proper boundaries with the White House, but Pres. Trump continued to make overtures —
and then veiled threats — attempting to sway Comey’s thinking with regards to investigations of Trump and his 2016 campaign.
The Times article detailed a few of the interactions that Comey described to Wittes and presumably — as is his longstanding habit — wrote up memos about:
Weeks after being elected, Trump called Comey personally and asked the then-director to release a statement saying that Trump was not personally under investigation by the FBI. Comey reportedly demurred and explained to Trump that he must direct any inquiries to the Department of Justice through the White House Counsel.
At a dinner at the White House, the president reportedly tried to get Comey to pledge his loyalty to Trump and his administration. Comey pledged to be honest with Trump, but that didn’t satisfy the former reality TV game show host.
At a separate meeting in the Oval Office, Trump pressed Comey to drop his investigation of disgraced national security adviser retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Comey refused.
The day after the meeting in the Oval Office, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus called Comey personally to enlist his aid in pushing back against media reports that members of Trump’s campaign and transition staff had illegal and unreported contacts with Russian officials — reports we now know to be true.
“It is not clear whether in all their interactions Mr. Comey answered Mr. Trump’s question or if he ever told him whether he was under investigation,” wrote the Times‘ Michael S. Schmidt. “In the letter Mr. Trump sent to Mr. Comey last week in which he informed him that he had been fired, Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, ‘I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation.’”
Comey’s associates have dismissed this claim by Trump as “farcical.”
“Who cares, nothing matters, no one knows anything, everything sucks,” said one FBI agent in response to Trump’s obfuscation.