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AP

The NY Times Michael Schmidt reports President Trump called James Comey "weeks after taking office" to ask when the FBI would state publicly that he was not personally under investigation, and Comey told Trump not to take such questions up with him.

Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a friend of James Comey's, also published an account of his conversations with Comey on Thursday. Wittes writes that Comey told him Trump had "asked for loyalty" soon after taking office and been "perceptibly uncomfortable" when Comey offered only honesty.

  • "Ever since, the President had been trying to be chummy in a fashion that Comey felt was designed to absorb him into Trump's world — to make him part of the team."

A wild anecdote: Per Wittes, Comey was hesitant to attend a White House reception in January. When he did go, he wore a dark blue suit and "tried to blend in with the blue curtains in the back of the room." Trump eventually spotted him, and called him over. "Comey said that as he was walking across the room he was determined that there wasn't going to be a hug," and it ended up as a "one-sided" embrace.

"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."Comey also "expressed wariness" over Rod Rosenstein's nomination as Deputy Attorney General, telling Wittes: "Rod is a survivor. So I have some concerns." Wittes surmises that Comey was thinking Rosenstein, who later wrote the memo justifying Comey's ouster, must have been asked for a loyalty pledge.

Go deeper

50 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Stalemate over filibuster freezes Congress

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell's inability to quickly strike a deal on a power-sharing agreement in the new 50-50 Congress is slowing down everything from the confirmation of President Biden's nominees to Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

Why it matters: Whatever final stance Schumer takes on the stalemate, which largely comes down to Democrats wanting to use the legislative filibuster as leverage over Republicans, will be a signal of the level of hardball we should expect Democrats to play with Republicans in the new Senate.

Dave Lawler, author of World
1 hour ago - World

Biden opts for five-year extension of New START nuclear treaty with Russia

Putin at a military parade. Photo: Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty

President Biden will seek a five-year extension of the New START nuclear arms control pact with Russia before it expires on Feb. 5, senior officials told the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The 2010 treaty is the last remaining constraint on the arsenals of the world's two nuclear superpowers, limiting the number of deployed nuclear warheads and the bombers, missiles and submarines which can deliver them.

Updated 2 hours ago - Technology

Facebook refers Trump ban to independent Oversight Board for review

Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

Facebook's independent Oversight Board has accepted a referral from the platform to review its decision to indefinitely suspend former President Trump.

Why it matters: While Trump critics largely praised the company's decision to remove the then-president's account for potential incitement of violence, many world leaders and free speech advocates pushed back on the decision, arguing it sets a dangerous precedent for free speech moving forward.