How Trump’s Courtship Of Comey Could Be His Undoing

There have been many instances of desperately droll comedy during

Donald Trump’s tenure. Among the more farcical is this: the image of the soon-to-be fired

James Comey, bedecked in a blue suit, attempting, surreptitiously, to blend in with the blue curtains in the White House’s Blue Room. Six foot eight in stature, and attending a party thrown for law enforcement officials, the then-director of the F.B.I. apparently shuffled nervously against swathes of fabric in order to avoid greeting the president.

But, according to

Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and longtime friend of Comey’s, Trump spotted Comey, and called him out.

“Oh and there’s Jim,” he allegedly said, as reported by >The New York Times.“He’s become more famous than me.”

Uncoiling himself from the curtains, the altitudinous F.B.I. director loped up to Trump and, per Wittes’s account, the interaction became increasingly absurd. “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.”

The ungainly combination of Trump’s physical familiarity twisted with Comey’s frigid demeanor sounds like a torturous

Larry David sketch. But it also stands as a symbol of the wider dynamic between the pair. According to multiple reports, before being dismissed, Comey attempted to distance himself from a president who, insistent on stepping over the normally toed lines between the Oval Office and the F.B.I., tried to forge an intimate relationship to meet his own ends, repeatedly pressuring Comey to limit the fallout from the ongoing investigation into suspected collusion between Trump's team and Russia, which, notably, he was overseeing before being sacked.

Apparently, the half-hug-handshake blunder was not the first time that Trump had acted in such a pointedly casual manner. According to the Times, Trump called Comey to his office just weeks into his presidency and asked when federal authorities were going to announce he was not personally under investigation. Comey responded that such requests should be channeled through the proper procedure, via the channels of the Justice Department. Skidding over the finer details of this point, Trump then engaged Comey is a series of similar encounters, allegedly asking him to pledge loyalty at one dinner, and, as has recently emerged, requesting he drop his inquiry into former national security advisor

Michael Flynn, whose ties to Russia remain under investigation.

Reince Priebus, White House chief of staff, also asked Comey to help push back on media reports that Trump’s associates had been in contact with Russian intelligence officials during the election campaign. Comey is said to have written detailed notes on his exchanges with Trump, which this week were requested by congressional investigators.

It is alleged that Comey, engaged in the artful balance of maintaining the necessary distance whilst not inflaming the puissantly volatile Trump, would studiously prepare for meetings with the president by gathering groups around him to practice possible questions. According to the Washington Post, one associate referred to Comey’s method as a “murder board”—referring to a panel of questioners who quiz candidates preparing for oral exams.

Reports of the pair's fraught rapport—and Trump’s sustained attempts to curb and control the Russia investigation—have emerged just as the said investigation accelerates. As the White House simultaneously attempts to stem a series of scandalous, outgoing leaks, and field an incoming barrage of criticism and cries for impeachment, Deputy Attorney General

Rod Rosenstein appointed former F.B.I. chief

Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Colombian President

Juan Manuel Santos yesterday, Trump took matters into his own hands. Following a bitter speech the previous day, in which the president announced “with great surety” that no politician has “been treated worse or more unfairly,” Trump claimed he was the target of the “greatest witch hunt” in U.S. political history, happily evading the fact that those on the hunt are following a trail he has largely laid down.

“There is no collusion–certainly between myself and my campaign—but I can always speak for myself and the Russians—zero,” he said, notably referring to himself rather than his wider administration.

As parallels between his presidency and Watergate become bolder, Trump was asked whether he thought anything he had done anything that “might be worthy of criminal charges in these investigations or impeachment.”

“I think its totally ridiculous,” he shot back. “Everybody thinks so.”

Leaning back on his preferred crutch of popular opinion, the president (who, incidentally, is enjoying dismally low approval ratings) moved on to Comey, whose sudden axing is widely suspected to have been sparked by his failure to acquiesce to Trump’s Russian-focused demands. The former F.B.I. director, the president said, has been “very unpopular with most people” and had also given a “poor, poor performance in Congress.”

Trump’s verbal blustering and reliance on rhetoric sounds increasingly tinny, and tired, as reality sets in: the myriad, interlinked stories that keep emerging, day after day, smack with the sound of crookedness. Swinging between denial and dismay, Trump’s attempts to distance himself from the shadow of Russian influence, whilst neglecting to clear his own team, might have come too late—it's unlikely his spin doctors have successfully stemmed the active outpouring of damning stories. If you need to find Donald Trump, you might find him in the White House’s Blue Room, cocooned in the curtains, concocting his next move.

Source : http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/05/trump-comey-relationship-undoing

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