Asked on Friday if he would be willing to go under oath to give his version of his interactions with Comey, Trump replied, "100 percent". The veteran lawman expressed confidence that could be a matter ripe for investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, though he declined to offer an opinion on whether it met such a threshold. Comey delivered his answer clearly. Comey didn't tell his own investigators about the conversation, he said, to protect them from undue influence.
If the president had hoped that in firing Comey he would lower the temperature on his administration, Thursday brought the opposite. "If to be Trump-ian is to fight back, never to take it - as Trump says, 'I hit back ten times as hard as I've been hit - this is what Comey did", Krauthammer said on Fox News. Putting aside the fact that Trump's approval rating among Republicans would have to erode considerably before Republicans would even dream of the I-word, what exactly did Trump obstruct here?
Rozell said we have a classic case of two people in a room together with no independent voice to corroborate either side. James Risch, R-Idaho, praised it effusively as a skilled piece of legal writing. "It's my judgment that I was sacked because of the Russian Federation investigation", Comey testified.
Sen. John Cornyn, who was questioning the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director, asked, "If a special counsel had been appointed, they could have made that determination there was nothing there and declined to pursue it, right?" "I have doubts about whether the tapes really exist, or whether that was just an attempt by the president to put some pressure on Mr. Comey, or raise some doubts".
But the goal wasn't just to tell his story.
The Democrats' questions tended to be somewhat more accusatory toward the president, the Republicans' questions somewhat more exculpatory, but there was a welcome air of sobriety about the whole thing. The president has not yet publicly denied the specifics of Comey's accounts but has broadly challenged his credibility, tweeting last month Comey "better hope there are no 'tapes"' of the conversations. "But I think impeachment [talk] is absolutely premature", he said. Sessions failed to disclose those contacts during questioning at his Senate confirmation hearing, when he told senators he hadn't had any contacts with Russian Federation.
Sessions has been dogged by questions about possible additional encounters with the ambassador.
In the FBI's judgment, Trump was none of those. "He is the deep state in Washington that is everything is wrong", he said Friday.
Comey said he had three in-person meetings with Trump.
He'd had moments of discomfort during the Obama administration as well. He conceded that he had perhaps been cowardly in not standing up to the president when, alone in the Oval Office, Trump had said he hoped Comey would let go of the Flynn investigation.
Mark Rozell, dean of George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government, said he didn't hear anything that would point to "smoking gun evidence".