Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, editor-in-chief of the Lawfare blog, a vocal critic of President Trump and a friend, he says, of James Comey, spoke with the PBS NewsHour Wednesday about a series of conversations he had with Comey about the president. On Thursday, Wittes published an essay on his conversations with Comey on Lawfare. His also spoke with the New York Times.
Wittes believes the conversations provide insight into the presidents relationship with the former FBI director, who he fired on May 9.
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. Comeys loyalty.
Trump fired Jim Comey because the most dangerous thing in the world, if youre Donald Trump, is a person who tells the truth, is dogged, you cant control, and who is as committed as Comey is to the institutional independence of an organization that has the power to investigate you, Wittes said.
Comey also shared concerns about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, before Rosensteins 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 Trumps demands for loyalty.
Wittes cautioned throughout the interview that his insights into Comeys state of mind were only based on these conversations, and that in some cases he was drawing his own conclusions about Comeys meanings.
PBS NewsHours William Brangham sat down with Wittes Wednesday to discuss the essay. Watch the conversation in the video above.
In this excerpt: Comey was disgusted by Trumps attempts to show closeness, Wittes says
In this excerpt: Comey expressed concerns over deputy AG Rosenstein, Wittes says
In this excerpt: Wittes offers his opinion on why Donald Trump fired James Comey?
In this excerpt: Wittes explains why he thinks Comey felt he was dealing with people who were not honorable in the Trump administration.