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Benjamin Wittes is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, editor-in-chief of the Lawfare blog and a vocal critic of President Trump. He is also, he says, a friend of James Comey, and he spoke with the PBS NewsHour Wednesday about a series of conversations he had with the former FBI director regarding Comey’s interactions with the president.
Wittes believes the conversations provide insight into the president’s relationship with Comey, who was fired by Mr. Trump on May 9.
On Thursday, Wittes published an essay on these conversations with Comey on Lawfare. He also spoke with the New York Times.
In these talks, Wittes said, Comey described several interactions he had with the president, including the infamous hug that “disgusted him” and his feelings about the loyalty oath that the president allegedly requested and Comey refused to give. The White House has denied that President Trump asked for Mr. Comey’s loyalty.
“Trump fired Jim Comey because the most dangerous thing in the world, if you’re Donald Trump, is a person who tells the truth, is dogged, you can’t control, and who is as committed as Comey is to the institutional independence of an organization that has the power to investigate you,” Wittes told the NewsHour’s William Brangham.
Comey also shared concerns about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, before Rosenstein’s confirmation, calling him a “survivor.” Wittes interpreted that characterization as a sign that Rosenstein, who has served under Republican and Democratic administrations, could be susceptible to Trump’s demands for loyalty.
Wittes cautioned throughout the interview that his insights into Comey’s state of mind were only based on these conversations, and that in some cases he was drawing his own conclusions about Comey’s meanings.
PBS NewsHour’s William Brangham sat down with Wittes Wednesday to discuss the essay. Watch the conversation in the video above.
In this excerpt, Wittes says Comey was disgusted by President Trump’s attempt to show closeness:
In this excerpt, Wittes describes what he viewed as concerns by Comey over Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein:
And in this excerpt, Wittes explains why he thinks Donald Trump fired James Comey.
Video edited by Justin Scuiletti
Beth Summers is the senior politics producer for the PBS NewsHour where she oversees coverage of Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court. She joined the NewsHour in 2001 as an editorial assistant in the newsroom, and has worked as a reporter for the national desk and as well as the politics desk before becoming the NewsHour’s political director.
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