Apr 13, 2018

Exclusive excerpt: Comey felt Trump was sitting "on a throne"

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

James Comey has an eye and memory for detail — color, curtains, wood — that infuses "A Higher Loyalty" (out Tuesday) with take-you-there accounts like this vivid take on President Trump and his FBI director in the Oval Office:

"Though this was not the first time I’d seen the new president, it was the first time I had seen him in his new office. He didn’t look comfortable. He was sitting, suit jacket on, close against the famous Reso­lute desk, both forearms on the desk."
  • "As a result, he was separated from everyone who spoke to him by a large block of wood."
  • "In dozens of meetings in that space with Presidents Bush and Obama, I cannot recall ever seeing them stationed at their desk. They instead sat in an armchair by the fireplace and held meetings in a more open, casual arrangement."
  • "That made sense to me. As hard as it is to get people to relax and open up with a president, the chances are much better in the sitting area, where we can pretend we are friends gathered around a coffee table. There, the president can try to be one of a group, and draw the others out to tell him the truth."
  • "But when the president sits on a throne, protected by a large wooden obstacle, as Trump routinely did in my interactions with him, the formality of the Oval Office is magnified and the chances of getting the full truth plummet."
  • "[S]itting at the desk once used by Presidents Kennedy and Reagan, he launched into one of his rapid-fire, stream-of-consciousness monologues."
  • "I had often wondered why, when given numerous opportunities to condemn the Russian government’s invasions of its neighbors and repression — even murder — of its own citizens, Trump refused to just state the plain facts."
  • "Maybe it was a contrarian streak or maybe it was something more complicated that explained his constant equivocation and apologies for Vladimir Putin."

Go deeper: Inside the "loyalty dinner"

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Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

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