In light of Lawfare editor Benjamin Wittes’s recollection that former FBI director James Comey—after trying to blend into the curtains—had been “disgusted” by Trump’s attempt to hug him at a White House event in January, former Clinton staffer Philippe Reines released a video of Hillary Clinton practicing dodging his advances during debate prep. Pope Francis, take note.
Reines, a controversial Clinton insider, is known for, among other things, instructing a journalist at The Atlantic to describe a Clinton speech as “muscular” (which he then did), and a colorful email exchange with then-Gawker reporter J.K. Trotter about Clinton staffers’ use of private email accounts. After Trump’s win, it was revealed that Reines had the honor of playing him in debate prep, a duty that he took so seriously he stopped taking his meds. From Politico:
Reines purchased four podiums on Amazon, two for his home and two for the secret office the Clinton campaign lent him at the PerkinsCoie law firm in Washington, D.C. He searched eBay for a 2005 Donald J. Trump signature collection watch, which he purchased for $175. He experimented with a self-tanning lotion on his face. Before prep sessions, Reines began suiting up with velcro knee pads (to keep his legs straight), a posture enhancer (to keep his arms back), and dress shoes with three-inch lifts (to match Trump’s 6-foot-1-inch frame). His longtime tailor fit him for a loose-fitting suit with large cuffs. His goal was not a “Saturday Night Live”-style caricature of Trump, so he didn’t try to replicate Trump’s famous mane. But he wanted to approximate his physicality so that Clinton would grow accustomed to Trump’s looming presence when she saw Reines in her peripheral vision.
Reines seems to have done a good job in this role, as Clinton is generally understood to have won all three debates (not that it kept her opponent from the Oval Office, of course!) And as we’ve learned from Comey’s experience, effectively dodging one of the president’s menacing Tony Soprano hugs doesn’t win you points with the president—although it may keep you out from underneath his stubby, grasping fingers, which is certainly something.