You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Spicer in the bushes. Now, Comey in the drapes. What is going on?


"All the President's Men," it is not. Perhaps "Bulworth" or "Wag the Dog."  

It's as if the made-for-TV movie about the Trump administration's scandals is being scripted in real time, in real life.  

Surely there will be a scene showing White House press secretary Sean Spicer huddled in - sorry, "among" - the bushes near his office, deflecting questions from reporters about President Trump's sudden decision to fire his FBI director.  

Another scene will no doubt show Trump waking up, turning on "Fox and Friends," and tweeting furiously about the morning's headlines ("Witch hunt!" "McCarthyism!" "Fake news!").  

And now, if a new account of a widely circulated video clip is to be believed, we'll be treated to an absurd rendition of former FBI director James B. Comey, all 6 feet, 8 inches of him, trying to avoid being noticed by the president of the United States by blending in with the drapes in the White House Blue Room.  

Friend of Comey describes encounter

The description comes from Benjamin Wittes, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, editor in chief of the blog Lawfare and a friend of Comey, who said in Lawfare that Comey described the encounter to him over lunch.  

While the public has seen the aftermath many times in an endlessly repeated video clip that shows Trump greeting a smiling Comey at a Jan. 22 White House event for law enforcement officials who provided security during the inauguration, the minor drama leading up to it has not been told and proves the adage that videos alone can be woefully, and perhaps hilariously, misleading.  

You'd never know from the video, for example, that Comey was dreading attending the reception. But he was.  

"Comey was preoccupied throughout this period," Wittes wrote, "with the need to protect the FBI from these inquiries on investigative matters from the White House." He continued:  

‘Didn’t want any shows of closeness’

Comey described really not wanting to go to that meeting, for the same reason he later did not want to go to the private dinner with Trump: the FBI director should be always at arm's length from the President, in his view. There was an additional sensitivity here too, because many Democrats blamed Comey for Trump's election, so he didn't want any shows of closeness between the two that might reinforce a perception that he had put a thumb on the scale in Trump's favor. But he also felt that he could not refuse a presidential invitation, particularly not one that went to a broad array of law enforcement leadership. So he went.  

Hoped drapes would conceal him

The cameras were rolling as White House caterers brought champagne and wine into the Blue Room and the president thanked the group of officials for their hard work.  

According to Wittes, Comey was hoping Trump wouldn't single him out for attention or summon him over for one of his famous handshakes. But that's no easy task when you're Comey's height.  

So Comey did his best to blend into the background.  

"He was wearing a blue blazer and noticed that the drapes were blue," Wittes wrote. "So he stood in the back, right in front of the drapes, hoping Trump wouldn't notice him camouflaged against the wall."  

Wittes added that Comey was standing "about as far from Trump as it is physically possible to be in that room."  

Wittes writes: 

The meeting was nearly over, he said, and he really thought he was going to get away without an individual interaction. But when you're six foot, eight inches tall, it's hard to blend in forever, and Trump ultimately singled him out - and did so with the most damning faint praise possible: "Oh, and there's Jim. He's become more famous than me!"  

Comey took the long walk across the room determined, he told me, that there was not going to be a hug. Bad enough that he was there; bad enough that there would be a handshake; he emphatically did not want any show of warmth.  

Again, look at the video, and you'll see Comey preemptively reaching out to shake hands. Trump grabs his hand and attempts an embrace. The embrace, however, is entirely one sided.  

Comey was disgusted. He regarded the episode as a physical attempt to show closeness and warmth in a fashion calculated to compromise him before Democrats who already mistrusted him.  

Cameras captured the encounter, and in the days surrounding Trump's firing of Comey the footage became video wallpaper on news networks. 

 It doesn't carry quite the intrigue of Bob Woodward sneaking into an dimly lit parking garage to press Deep Throat for Watergate tips. But for anyone paying attention to the news this week, you can't help but feel like you're witnessing the making of the next big political satire - either that, or the next episode of "Veep."


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

Trump budget may slash aid to Austin housing, elderly, flood recovery
Trump budget may slash aid to Austin housing, elderly, flood recovery

Child care help so minimum-wage parents can work and earn a paycheck. Social workers to care for elderly people who need help getting through their daily lives. After-school programs for kids who’d be left to their own devices otherwise. Housing vouchers for people who’d be on the streets. Those are the programs targeted in a 2018 budget...
Joe Straus, Dan Patrick snipe on bathroom bill, special session
Joe Straus, Dan Patrick snipe on bathroom bill, special session

Speaker Joe Straus said the House will budge no further on transgender bathroom legislation and that the Senate can take the measure the House passed Sunday, which Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick did not feel went far enough, or leave it. “The House approved language last Sunday night that required schools to make private accommodations for students who...
Budget, planning woes on the horizon for deteriorating Austin pools
Budget, planning woes on the horizon for deteriorating Austin pools

Three Austin neighborhood swimming pools will sit out the 2017 swim season for repairs, while others remain in “critical” condition and the city grapples with the future of an aquatics system that is rapidly deteriorating. Givens and Govalle pools in East Austin, and Shipe pool north of downtown, all in various stages of repair, will not...
Rough treatment of journalists in the Trump era
Rough treatment of journalists in the Trump era

For those concerned about press freedom, the first months of the Trump administration have been troubling. Journalists have been yelled at, pepper-sprayed, pinned by security and even arrested on the job. Now, one reporter has accused a Republican candidate of assault.   Joel Simon, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists...
Leaks — a uniquely American way of annoying the authorities
Leaks — a uniquely American way of annoying the authorities

  British leaders were infuriated this week when the name of the Manchester concert bomber was disclosed by U.S. officials, and further outraged when The New York Times ran investigators’ photographs of the bomb remnants. After Prime Minister Theresa May complained bitterly to President Donald Trump, he denounced the leaks on Thursday and...
More Stories