Jim Comey’s testimony was about the most widely anticipated hearing since Oliver North sat before Congress in 1987 during the Iran-Contra scandal. That was six years into Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Comey sat before the microphone less than five months into Donald Trump’s first term. He was poised, calm, collected and extremely candid in his answers before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. He provided a master class to young politicos in how to succeed, thrive and survive the upper echelons of Washington’s power brokers.

Before today’s theatrics, his prepared testimony will go down as Classic Comey. It had something for everyone: Anyone anti-Trump jumped up and down about the president’s ignorance or apathy about the proper way to communicate with the FBI in the midst of a federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign. The President himself, and those Trump-supporting organs like the Republican National Committee, were “vindicated” that Comey publicly admitted the president himself was not (then) under investigation.

While there wasn’t the proverbial smoking gun, there were plenty of fascinating moments during Comey’s testimony.

Trump: The Anti-Copurnican

President Trump only cares about President Trump. Per Comey’s testimony, in conversations with the president, Trump didn’t appear to care whether anyone in his charge a) did anything wrong b) might be under investigation or c) could be in legal jeopardy except through the frame that it’s making his life harder. So long as Trump is personally in the clear, the rest isn’t worthy of attention. What President Trump fails to, or refuses to understand, is that the president and the presidency are inextricably intertwined. The White House begins and ends with the person who sits at the Resolute Desk. This president, though he’s not the first chief executive to believe so, cannot understand that a scandal, even one in which he is in no legal jeopardy (for now) can lead to his diminution or downfall.

Comey as Diarist

Members of the Intelligence Committee asked whether or not Director Comey had taken pen to paper when in conversations with former Presidents Bush and Obama. No, he said. Then why did he compile copious notes after meetings or calls with President Trump? In Comey’s own words: “I was concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting.” Historians will have to dig deep to find any comment from a long-time, respected public official making such a statement about a sitting president in an open forum. The notes also show the duality of Jim Comey. On one hand, he’s smart enough to know that President Trump could say anything about anyone at any time and was therefore protecting himself. On the other, Jim Comey as top-cop was ensuring that, as the Russian investigation proceeded, he’d kept near-contemporaneous notes should the president ever become a person of interest.

Cops and Robbers

Several times, committee members pressed Comey on why he didn’t report the nature of his conversations with President Trump up the chain. This too shows the president’s misunderstanding of the FBI Director’s role. Comey was a law enforcement officer leading an investigation, not dissimilar to that of an Internal Affairs detective. Why not tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions? The same reason why the IA officer wouldn’t tell the precinct captain what’s going on: Comey could fully expect that anything he told Sessions (pre-recusal) or Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein would be communicated back to the President and the White Hose as fast as Sessions’ little fingers could dance over his telephone. In an-ongoing investigation, it’s unwise to tell the potential perpetrators what you’re up to.

Why Didn’t You…?

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) asked Director Comey about the 2004 incident in which, when serving as Acting Attorney General (while AG John Ashcroft was very ill) Comey had drafted a letter of resignation he was prepared to deliver in the event President George W. Bush went forward with a surveillance program the Justice Department had not sanctioned for re-authorization. Cotton pressed Comey on whether he had drafted a similar letter following his interactions with President Trump. No, said Comey. Why not? The circumstances are extremely different. In 2004, Comey was Acting Attorney General refusing to do what the White House wanted, and they ultimately relented. In 2017, Comey was the head of an active investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign, and potential involvement by associates of the president. Why would he quit when he was potentially hot on the trial of colluders?

Next, several members asked why Comey continued to meet and speak with President Trump. For those who haven’t met the President of the United States, pick one, when they ask you to do something, the answer is nearly always yes. There is literally an aura of authority around the President; it fills whatever room they’re in. When the phone rings and your assistant says, “Sir, the President is on the phone.” You don’t say, “Ya know, I don’t feel like talking to him right now.” When the president invites you to dinner, it’s extremely difficult to say no. In the context of a sitting FBI Director, declining such an invitation would likely be career suicide. The President is his boss.

Running Circles Around the Beltway’s Best

As noted above, James Comey is a masterful political operator. Over his time in various high offices, he has always been acutely aware of what was best for the country, the best for the office he occupied and the best for himself personally. Few in DC can achieve that trifecta, Comey appears to do so with ease. When confronted President Trump’s tweet about “tapes” in the White House, Comey woke up in the middle of the night, wrote a memo in defense of himself, sent it to a friend and had it dutifully leaked to the nation’s top political reporters. He admitted it was in self-defense. “Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” he said today. He was shrewd enough to see the president’s tweet as a personal attack and/or threat and he responded in-kind, as a private citizen. He should write a book on this stuff.

The Long and Winding Road

James Comey’s testimony today will keep reporters busy through the weekend and add to the saga of MAGA. President Donald Trump will be unable to contain himself and soon erupt in anger at Comey’s attacks, blame the Main Stream Media and extol his innocence. His tweets will not solve problems but only create more for him and his staff while alienating the FBI and members of the GOP he’ll need to use as both body shields and to pass any sort of legislation to give him a record before next November. If President Trump and his allies hoped that firing Jim Comey, and his testimony today would part the “clouds” over the presidency, they won’t get their wish. This president is incapable of self-control and this White House is incapable of dealing with it. Today was a big corner piece in the puzzle of the Trump presidency, but the full picture has yet to come into focus.

Copyright, 2017. Jedburghs, LLC.