Longtime Clinton Aide Shares Video Of Debate Prep For ‘Unwanted Trump Hug’

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump shake hands during the presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (Joe Raedle/Pool via AP)
Joe Raedle/Getty Pool

Longtime Hillary Clinton aide Philippe Reines on Friday shared a video of himself almost violently hugging his boss, showing how Clinton’s campaign had prepared the then-presidential candidate for Donald Trump’s notoriously forceful handshakes.

Reines, who stood in for Trump in the Clinton campaign’s debate prep sessions, seemingly shared the video of prep for what he dubbed “the unwanted Trump hug” in response to a story from Benjamin Wittes, the editor of the blog Lawfare and a self-described “friend” of ousted FBI Director James Comey.

In a post on the blog Thursday night, Wittes wrote about what Comey had told him were his mostly unsuccessful attempts to “train” the White House not to get involved in the bureau’s investigations, or to make it appear as if the President were trying to earn or force Comey’s allegiance. Wittes related two instances he said Comey described to him when Trump attempted “personally to compromise him or implicate him with either shows of closeness or actual chumminess with the President.”

One of those incidents was when Trump beckoned to Comey from across the room during a January meeting of law enforcement officials at the White House, calling him over while saying “Oh, and there’s Jim. He’s become more famous than me!”

Comey, who Wittes said “stood in the back, right in front of the drapes, hoping Trump wouldn’t notice him camouflaged against the wall,” went to shake Trump’s hand. Trump then tried to pull him in for a hug.

It’s one of Trump’s well-known maneuvers, seemingly meant to turn a handshake into a judo-inspired show of dominance.

“Comey was disgusted,” Wittes wrote. “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.”

Trump abruptly fired Comey on May 9.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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