Benjamin Wittes
Friend of Comey: Trump should be scared
01:21 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

"This is a guy with a story to tell," says Wittes.

Comey has agreed to meet with the Senate intelligence committee after Memorial Day.

CNN  — 

A friend of James Comey said Tuesday that if he were President Donald Trump he would be scared of the former FBI director’s pending testimony.

“I found it interesting and very telling that (Comey) declined any opportunity to tell his story in private,” Benjamin Wittes, who describes himself as a Comey confidant, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on “AC360.”

“This is a guy with a story to tell,” says Wittes, who also runs a blog called Lawfare and is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Chaffetz’s hearing with Comey postponed

Comey has agreed to meet with the Senate intelligence committee after Memorial Day.

Wittes says he decided to speak out about discussions he had with Comey about his contact with Trump because of one recent report of Trump’s request for a pledge of loyalty at a dinner shortly after he took office.

Comey was taken aback by Trump request for loyalty pledge

Benjamin Wittes
Benjamin Wittes discusses Comey (Full interview)
06:41 - Source: CNN

“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.” Wittes added, “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 detailed a few incidents that he said made Comey feel the agency’s independence and ability to do its job in an apolitical fashion were not being respected.

One incident was when Trump invited law enforcement officials to the Blue Room to express his thanks for their work at the inauguration just days before. Wittes says Comey was reluctant to attend and tried his best to not have any personal conversation with Trump. At one point, Wittes recalls, Comey stood in a position so that his blue blazer would blend in with the room’s blue drapes in an effort for Trump to not notice him.

That tactic was unsuccessful; Trump later called him out by name, leading to a greeting captured on camera.

“He did not regard the people in the Trump White House as honorable? Cooper asked, to which Wittes replies, “That’s correct.” “I have no doubt that he regarded the group of people around the President as dishonorable.”

Cooper pointed out that defenders of the President could look at Trump’s interactions with Comey as just a businessman trying to win people over to his side.

“People have said he’s a more transactional person,” Cooper said. “In business he’s schmoozing, back slapping – that it’s just an attempt to kind of make the relationship personal or friendly.”

“I think it’s perfectly possible to read it that way,” Wittes says. “I’m not going to even say that’s the wrong way to read it. It’s not the way Comey read it.”

Theodore Schleifer contributed to this report.