A possible trademark for the Trump presidency emerged on Thursday — administration members attempting to hide behind or within things in full view of the press — when a friend of James Comey revealed that the former FBI director once tried to blend into White House drapes to avoid being noticed by Trump.
The setting was a January ceremony to thank law enforcement for their security efforts at the inauguration, said Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a Comey friend. The six-foot-eight-inch Comey, who was wearing a blue suit that day, told Wittes that he tried to blend into the blue curtains in the back of the room so that Trump would not call on him.
It's not clear from Wittes's report whether Comey was joking. The former FBI head has been reported to be vigilant about his independence and was made uncomfortable by Trump's attempt to cozy up to him.
That day, Comey's attempt to make like a leaf mantis or Hamlet failed, and probably turned out worse than he expected: Trump spotted him, blew him a kiss and beckoned him over for a handshake.
"He's more famous than me," said Trump, before attempting to hug Comey.
The then-FBI director was "determined" not to do so, said Wittes. “It was bad enough there was going to be a handshake. And Comey has long arms, so Comey said he preemptively reached out for a handshake and grabbed the president’s hand,” Wittes told the "Times." “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."
It's unclear whether Comey's attempt at camouflage was a one-time incident or a regular tactic — nor whether knowledge of this would have affected Trump's claim that Comey was a "showboat," one of the factors Trump cited in his termination.
The revelation by Wittes injected some rare levity amid the leaked contents of Comey's memos, portions of which have been leaked to the "Times" by sources close to Comey in recent days.
This is the second Comey-related incident to involve physical hiding on the White House grounds. The night Comey was fired by Trump, White House press secretary Sean Spicer prepared for a widely derided press briefing that began with Spicer standing "within" or "amid" bushes outside the White House, depending on whether you believe the initial report from the "Los Angeles Times" or the White House-forced correction.