the drama continues
Several weeks after his inauguration, President Trump contacted James Comey, then the FBI director, and asked him when federal authorities planned on spreading the word that he was not personally under investigation, two people with knowledge of the call told The New York Times.
This was one of several interactions that Comey believed jeopardized the FBI's independence, the Times reports, and he instructed the president on the proper way to receive details about investigations: Have the White House counsel send inquiries to the Department of Justice. At the time, Comey was overseeing the investigation into ties between Trump associates and Russia, and two incidents concerned him, friends said: During a dinner, Trump asked Comey to pledge his loyalty, and in a meeting at the Oval Office, Trump said he hoped the Russia-linked investigation into Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, would be canceled; Trump denies this happened. The Times also reports that the day after Trump talked to Comey about Flynn, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asked Comey to assist with pushing back against reports that during the campaign, Trump associates had been in contact with Russian intelligence officials.
Benjamin Wittes, a friend of Comey's and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, spoke with the Times, and said during a lunch in March, Comey told him he had spent the previous two months trying to teach the White House how to properly interact with the bureau. Comey was afraid people would think he was becoming friendly with the new president, Wittes said, and even went so far as trying to blend into the curtains in the White House's Blue Room during an event so Trump wouldn't spot him and call him out (he did). Comey also told Wittes that on March 1, the White House called him and said Trump needed to speak with him "urgently." It turned out Trump "just wanted to chitchat," Wittes said, and Comey took the call to mean Trump was still "trying to get him on the team and he saw it in light of his refusal to give him his loyalty."