President Donald Trump repeatedly tried to woo former FBI Director James Comey through phone calls, private sit-downs and even a hug, according to a published account of their relationship by a Comey friend.
Benjamn Wittes, who runs a blog called Lawfare and describes himself as a Comey confidant, shared an extensive readout on his site Thursday of what he says Comey told him about his relationship with Trump. Wittes describes Comey as bothered by Trump's efforts to chit-chat with the FBI director, who traditionally is supposed to maintain a formal, clearly defined relationship with the president.
Wittes' allegations, first told to The New York Times, revolve mostly around what he learned directly from Comey at a lunch with him at the FBI in late March, Wittes says.
While I am not in the habit of discussing with reporters my confidential communications with friends, I decided that the things Comey had told me needed to be made public," he wrote, adding that he was not speaking at "Comey's request."
Wittes claims that Comey repeatedly tried to "train" the Trump administration to only contact him through proper channels and said the White House was negligent about how involved a president should be in specific investigations.
"Comey was preoccupied throughout this period with the need to protect the FBI from these inquiries on investigative matters from the White House," he wrote. "Comey understood Trump's people as having neither knowledge of nor respect for the independence of the law enforcement function. And he saw it as an ongoing task on his part to protect the rest of the bureau from improper contacts and interferences from a group of people he did not regard as honorable."
Stories have emerged at a near daily rate about the Comey-Trump relationship ever since Trump fired him from the agency last week, leading to some of the public pressure for a special prosecutor to be named. Asked Thursday at a press conference if he had ever asked Comey to not investigate his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, Trump issued a blanket denial: "No, no, next question."
Wittes said two specific incidents represented attempts by Trump to "compromise (Comey) or implicate him" by exposing him as too close with the President.