Former FBI Director James Comey spent his Thursday delivering almost three hours of devastating testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, detailing his direct communications with Donald Trump prior to his firing.
The most damaging parts of Comey's testimony began during his opening statement, in which he told the committee he was fired “because of the Russia investigation,” a point he would go on to make over and over again.
In his opening, Comey also told the committee that he composed his now-famous memos because he thought Trump “might lie” about their private meetings.
Comey also left little doubt as to the meaning of Trump's attempt to get him to drop the Michael Flynn investigation, saying early on that Trump's comments constituted “direction” from the president.
In a later response to Sen. Angus King (I-ME), Comey delivered a very memorable metaphor, referencing a remark that history suggests resulted in the assassination of Thomas Becket:
KING: “When a president of the United States in the Oval Office says something like 'I hope' or 'I suggest' or 'would you,' do you take that as a directive?”
COMEY: “Yes. Yes. It rings in my ear as kind of, 'Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?'”
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) offered her own rather forceful metaphor as well:
“I just want to make a statement that, in my experience of prosecuting cases, when a robber held a gun to somebody's head and said, 'I hope you will give me your wallet,' the word 'hope' was not the most operative word at that moment, but you don't have to respond to that point.”
There were many finer points to Comey's testimony, including some bones for conservatives to chew on, but the loudest bell that Trump will not be able to unring is Comey's devastating assessment of Trump's “direction” to ease up on Flynn and that he was fired because of the Russia investigation.
As expected, Comey would not offer an opinion on whether Trump's conduct met the legal bar for obstruction, stating that the special counsel would determine that, but he otherwise let his assessments and characterizations of Trump's conduct flow freely.
The fallout from this testimony will be strictly political for the time being, but special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation will have access to everything Comey had to make these assessments and then some.
Meanwhile, Republicans must decide whether they will continue to stand with Trump on the firing line, or at least get out of the way.