Politics

James Comey Confidant Says Testimony Should Scare Trump

| by Michael Doherty

A man who described himself as a confidant of former FBI Director James Comey said President Donald Trump should be worried about Comey's upcoming testimony.

Benjamin Wittes, a fellow at Brookings Institution who runs a blog called Lawfare, told CNN's Anderson Cooper that he had discussions with Comey about his interactions with the president, KTLA reports.

"This is a guy with a story to tell," Wittes said on "Anderson Cooper 360." "If I were Donald Trump, that would scare me a lot."

"I found it very interesting and telling that [Comey] declined any opportunity to tell his story in private," said Wittes.

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Comey is set to testify publicly before the Senate Intelligence Committee after Memorial Day. Panel Vice Chairman Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia said he hoped the testimony could "answer some of the questions that have arisen since Director Comey was so suddenly dismissed by the president," according to CNN.

Wittes says he made the decision to speak about his conversations with Comey after hearing about how the president reportedly asked Comey to pledge his loyalty to him over dinner after his inauguration.

"I was very shocked and it certainly crystallized in my mind what a whole lot of these interactions that I have had with him meant and why he had reacted to them the way he had reacted," said Wittes, according to the Washington Examiner. "I suddenly understood them in a different and frankly, a more menacing and upsetting light than I had at the time of the conversation."

Wittes recalled a moment after the inauguration when Trump had invited law enforcement officials to a gathering to thank them for their work during the event. The former FBI director, he said, did not want to attend, and tried to avoid interacting with the president. Wittes said he stood in a spot to try to blend in with the blue curtains in the room so that Trump wouldn't notice him.

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"He was trying to camouflage himself a bit," Wittes said.

"I have no doubt that he regarded the group of people around the president as dishonorable," Wittes added. He said that Comey "felt that the independence of the agency and the ability to do its job in an apolitical fashion were not being respected."

Wittes added that Trump was "seeing whether [he] could make a loyalist out of [Comey]."

"People have said he's a more transactional person," suggested Cooper of the president during the interview. "In business he's schmoozing, back slapping -- that it's just an attempt to kind of make the relationship personal of friendly."

"I think it's perfectly possible to read it that way," replied Wittes. "I'm not going to even say that's the wrong way to read it."

"It's not the way Comey read it," he said.

Sources: KTLA, CNN, Washington Examiner / Photo credit: Federal Bureau of Investigation/Flickr

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